Hong Kong’s current political reform controversy is often depicted herehere as to suggest that Beijing reneges on its promise of universal suffrage, tramples on Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, turns a deaf ear to 800,000 people's voices of democracy, and has the Hong Kong police cramping down on peaceful civil protest.
The truth, however, can be sought from the following realities.
First, as expounded by HK Chief Secretary Carrie Lam's article in the Wall Street Journal, universal suffrage is not spelt out in the Joint Declaration. It was Beijing’s idea to introduce it in the Basic Law, which is a national law of the PRC. Beijing specified in 2007 that universal suffrage to elect the Chief Executive should be introduced in 2017. There is no reason why Beijing should risk international credibility by eating its word. Indeed, recent authoritative pronouncements by Beijing have made this clear beyond doubt.
Second, under the One Country Two Systems formula, Beijing has never allowed, let alone promised, that Hong Kong people can have a completely free hand in choosing whom they want. In accordance with the Basic Law, the selection of the Chief Executive must be “by universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures." (Article 45). No alternative is contemplated, nor is there any provision to allow the nominating committee to delegate or dilute its collective power of nomination. Legally, this rules out direct nomination by other means including “public nomination”.
Third, the reason behind Article 45 of the Basic Law is to minimize the chance of someone being elected in the rough and tumble of universal suffrage who may be potentially subversive of the Communist Party in Beijing. This doesn’t mean that the CE must be a Communist Party member, nor does it mean that he or she is debarred from standing up to Beijing. If it were so, the Two Systems would collapse in the eyes of the world. But this does mean that the CE can’t allow Hong Kong to become a base for subversion of the regime on the Mainland. This is the One Country side of the bargain.
Fourth, does this mean that Article 45 does not measure up to so-called “international standards for suffrage or democracy”? Perhaps not. But this is infinitely better than any system Hong Kong has enjoyed so far. Why, then, should Beijing worry, provided it wields the final substantive power of appointing the CE? The answer is that this nuclear option cannot be over-simplified. If Beijing should refuse appointing someone duly elected, there will be huge international outcry of electoral charade. The whole credibility of One Country Two Systems would be in tatters. The people of Hong Kong would be disgruntled, sowing the seeds of political unrest.
Fifth, does it mean that Beijing wants to know the outcome before an election is held? The unspoken answer is Yes, to make sure that no one is allowed to run for election who is suspected to be a potential subverter of Communist Party rule in China. Indeed, this is what the requirement of “patriotism” actually means, a natural and essential credential expected of a Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region accountable to the central government.
Sixth, does it mean that the Hong Kong people would not have a genuine free choice? Not necessarily, because the nominating committee can be made as broadly representative as possible, which also means that the different sectors underpinning Hong Kong’s economic and social viability, including the business, professional, grassroots, and political sectors, must be evenly maintained.
Seventh, is Hong Kong turning into a police state? Not by a long chalk. The description of alleged police violence is really over the top, considering how restrained the police was in maintaining order. The city’s tolerance in becoming the world’s “capital of protests” is well earned. Hong Kong has retained, for 20 years in a row, the top rank as the world’s freest economy, according to stringent yardsticks of the Heritage Foundation. This accolade would not have been kept for so long if Hong Kong’s civil society fails to make the cut. But Hong Kong also prides itself on its rule of law. Hence unprecedented attempts to force through the gates of the Legislative Council building, or gate-crashing the local garrison premises of the People’s Liberation Army, cannot be condoned under the law. Advanced democracies would have acted likewise in similar circumstances.
Eighth, is Beijing’s worry about foreign instigation paranoiac? Not quite. The Hong Kong media is awash with revelations of secret donations of millions of dollars to “democratic” politicians, activists and civic leaders, all from one single source, the founder of the Apple Daily, who is reported to have close ties with U.S. top aides like former US Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. These donations allegedly include some $20 million to ex-Catholic Bishop Zen, who became a vocal Beijing critic, during the tenure of his bishopric. What comes to mind is Pope John Paul II’s famous involvement in Poland's Orange Revolution leading to the former Soviet bloc's eventual collapse. It’s small wonder that Beijing remains suspicious of possible plots to ferment a Jasmin revolution in Hong Kong agitating for the Communist Party's downfall. Reference to risks of Hong Kong becoming a future Casablanca is quite apt.
In sum, One Country Two Systems means that Two Systems cannot exist independently of One Country. A high degree of autonomy under the Two Systems, yes, but not to the extent of threatening the stability of the One Country.
The recent publication by Beijing of a White Paper on Hong Kong, unusually translated into seven languages, is meant to tell the world where Beijing's redlines are.
Against Occupy Central, whose organizers also allegedly received secret donations from the same source, there is now a surging movement for Hong Kong’s silent majority to speak out. The Anti-Occupy Central movement has now gathered over one million personal signatures and counting. This clears some of the smoke and mirrors that what Occupy Central stands for represents mainstream public opinions.
Yes, the fissures between Hong Kong and Beijng are widening. Click here Hong Kong deserves more democracy and should see open, fair, and accountable universal suffrage to elect a new Chief Executive in 2017. But the election must be conducted in accordance with the Basic Law. Using coercion, however “peaceful”, to force Beijing's hand to break the Basic Law does not accord with Hong Kong’s law-binding core value. If anything, it is likely to wreck the very foundation of the One Country Two Systems formula which these coercive actions purport to uphold.
A McKinsey report of July 2014 shows that China's internet economy at 4.4% % of 2013 GDP ranks fifth in the world, ahead of the United States (4.3%), France (4.2%) and Germany (4.2%) but behind the United Kingdom (6.7%), Korea (5.9%), Japan (5.6%), and Sweden (5.0%).
China has 632 million internet users, compared with 277 million in the United States. However, China's smart phone penetration is 54% (US 69%), social netwodrking penetration 60% (US 73%), enterprise cloud adotpion 21% (US up to 63%), and SME adoption only at 20-25% (US up to 85%).
So far, China's internet has been largely consumer rather than enterprise driven. The Report shows that internet adoption will have huge potential in six sectors -
Consumer electronics - connected devices, digital media
Chemicals - demand forecasting and production planning, customized systems, Internet of Things, precision farming
Financial Services- non-performing loans, marketing and customer services
Real Estate- material sourcing and sales marketing
Healthcare- remote diagnosis and e-commerce of across-the-counter treatment and pharmaceuticals
In particular, there is much room for adoption by SMEs.
When fully utilized, enterprise-driven internet adoption is forecast to contribute up to 22% of GDP and productivity growth by 2025, according to the McKinsey Report. It is expected to generate 46 million new jobs, more than enough to offset any job losses due to enhanced efficiency, and will be a key driver for the country's trajectory towards greater innovation, productivity and consumption.
TV interview with Between the Lines on Channel NewAsia, Singapore's leading English-language TV channel, broadcast on 2 July, the day following a massive public demonstration in the streets of Hong Kong on the 17th anniversary of the return of Hong Kong to China as a Special Adminstrative Region.
To view, press "View my playlist". My appearance is in the second part of the show.
For reference, please visit an article in the Financial Times dated 8 July 2014 by Liu Xiaoming, China's Ambassador to Britain, explaining why Hong Kong's political reform must conform with the Basic Law, Hong Kong's mini-constitution.
While the two sides of One Country Two Systems have become more and more intertwined economically, the hearts and minds of Hong Kong's younger generation remain more estranged from, than returned to, the motherland. That was my take at an interview on CCTV English based in Beijing aired on 2 July, 2014.
My TV interview on Talk Show with TDM (Teledifusão de Macau), a Macao goverment-sponsored TV station. Broadcast on 26 June, 2014, this half-hour one-on-one show explored the foreign relations implications of a Rising China and the potential conflicts over the East and South China Seas.
A detailed Reuters Special Report dated 23 May 2014 alleges that according to its sources, China’s leadership believes Zhou Yongkang, China’s former domestic security chief, was making a move to grab power during the 2012 leadership transition.
Considering the amount of detail, Reuters sources must have deliberately leaked the maze of Zhou's corrupt network and political intrique to the Western media possibly in preparation for a formal trial of tbe biggest tiger in modern times threatening the very stability or even survival of the Communist Party of China (CPC).
By most accounts, the corruption investigations of Zhou Yongkang seem to be nearing the finale, widely expected to be unveiled in coming months.
For background to the Zhou Yongkang case and its intricate links to the Bo Xilai affair, please visit my earlier analysis "The curious case of Bo Xilai (Part II)" dated 12 April, 2012 here It now seems that my prognosis more than two years ago is now finally being substantiated.