The universal suffrage controversy highlights the serious inherent contradictions of One Country Two Systems. Hong Kong with its distinctly diffferent identity, core values, and aspirations has to come to grips with the imperatives of its sovereign authority. While we treasure all the privileges of the Two Systems, let's not forget that we are part of the One Country which is a One-Party State. There are no precedents anywhere any time in history.
There are of course huge social, economic and indeed political inequalities in Hong Kong. All these are now coming to the fore. But the majority of the Hong Kong people are pragmatic. While most would want more democracy, they do not support using coercive tactics for an All-or-Nothing revolution against Beijing, especially when 2017 may not necessarily be the endgame.
At least a new Chief Executive elected by universal suffrage however restricted would have to face the entire electorate. Electors don't have to vote at all or cast a Blank Vote if any or all of the candidates are not supported.
Coming back to Article 45 of The Basic Law, which defines the One Country Two Sytems formula, it mandates nomination by a Committee, not individual Members of the Committee. "In accordance with democratic procedures" in the context of the Committee means a majority decision of the whole Committee, not just some of its Members.
For election of Hong Kong's future Chief Executive, nomination of candidates through a committee has widely been condemned as undemocratic and "fake universal suffrage". The Pan Democrats, student and other political activists refuse to accept anything less than "public nomination". However, let's not forget that even in the United States, the President is elected through a narrow "electoral college" of 538 Electors. Nomination of a Presidential candidate has to go through Party nomination conventions. There is no such thing as direct "public nomination".
While principles of democracy may justify "public nomination", Article 45 is designed precisely to prevent someone being elected who may pose a threat to Beijing not so much by starting a revolution on the Mainland but by fermenting a greater and greater degree of separatism. That would be anathema to Beijing in the light of rising problems of "separatist regions".
Such worries are not totally unfounded as two thirds of Hong Kong people do not identify themselves as Chinese first and foremost. Neither are Beijing's worries of possible foreign influence. The massive behind-the-scene donations to various activists behind the Occupy Central movement from one single source, the founder of the anti-Beijing Apple Daily, whose close friends include Paul Wolfowitz, former US Deputy Defense Secretary, have yet to be investigated and accounted for. Click here
I am not saying these realities are necessarily ominous for Hong Kong, being a free society. But this is no comfort for Beijing.
It is a question of trust. For the One Country Two Systems to work, how can we have a Chief Executive Beijing doesn't trust?
There is now a serious lack of trust between Hong Kong and the Beijing/Hong Kong governments. This cannot be bridged by coercive tactics. Trust can only be built through working together in a partnership that BOTH can accept, not just a method demanded by one side.
Hong Kong may not like all these constraints. But realities dictate that Hong Kong's fight for greater democracy may need to take one step at a time. Indeed, Beijing and the Hong Kong government have said as much.
Hong Kong's deep social divide must be addressed. But this cannot happen if we do not take a first step forward.
In any case, a sea change is likely to follow if for the first time, Hong Kong's people can cast their votes for their Chief Executive, one way or the other, provided that the nominating process is reasonably open, transparent, inclusive, and competitive, within the confines of the Basic Law and the decisons of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, as mandated by Beijing.
This would pave the way for Hong Kong under universal suffrage to build a trustful working relationship with Beijng and to heal wounds in its social and political fabric in the years ahead. I have floated a few ideas how future better governance may be achieved in my recent piece in the South China Morning Post.
The debate about Hong Kong's political reform is far from over. To advance Hong Kong's struggle for greater democracy, it is extremely important to secure One Man One Vote in 2017 first, however constrained to start with. Idealism, wishful thinking, or endless confrontation is no substitute.
This line is also taken In a think-piece published in the South China Morning Post dated 14 January, by Professor Kerry Kennedy, director of the Centre for Governance and Citizenship at the Hong Kong Institute of Education. He urges that it's time for the pan-democrats to realize that wishing thinking is no strategy. They must adopt a new vision for democratic development - and that means working with the political realities, and not simply ignoring them.
Giving the power to the voting public to reject all of the nominated candidates through a NOTA (None of the Above) vote may be an effective check and balance to enhance the legitimacy of the election process. This may be an idea to break the current impasse between Beijing and the pan democrats. Click here