Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Weren't you listening in social studies class?

The message from Beijing to Hong Kong could well be: "Look back in your textbook. It's not called democracy. It's called democratic centralism." Oh, and the Communist Party is willing to share some of its power with some of the people in Hong Kong, just not with all of them.

Hong Kong Told to Strive for a ‘Less Perfect’ Democracy
On the eve of a decision by Beijing on rules for elections in Hong Kong, a top Chinese scholar presented a series of justifications on Thursday for why the territory’s more than seven million people should temper demands for Western-style democracy, insisting that a “less perfect” version of democracy is better than none at all.

Hong Kong is set to pick its top official, the chief executive, by a popular vote starting in 2017. China’s legislature, the National People’s Congress, is expected to give guidance in the coming days on how it should implement the elections.

Beijing has taken the position that candidates must be vetted by a nominating committee, which democracy activists and pro-establishment figures alike say will screen out anyone seen as unacceptable by Beijing.

Wang Zhenmin
Speaking in Hong Kong on Thursday, Wang Zhenmin, dean of the law school at Tsinghua University in Beijing… said… “The overwhelming majority of the people in Hong Kong and the central authorities would like to see universal suffrage in 2017,” he said. “We should not let the people down…. Less perfect universal suffrage is better than no universal suffrage. Leave some room for future growth.”…

Democrats in the Hong Kong legislature have vowed to block any measure that does not allow for free and fair elections, and a broad coalition of citizens, including religious leaders, students and even some members of the city’s financial community, have vowed to stage large protests that may disrupt business in Asia’s top financial center if the government’s plan limits who can be on the ballot.

Mr. Wang acknowledged that there was mistrust over Beijing’s intentions in Hong Kong, which is run separately from the rest of China… Many Hong Kong residents fear that such autonomy is being eroded, citing recent pressure on the media and a controversial policy document issued by Beijing earlier this year…

Mr. Wang drew on a theoretical shift made more than a decade ago that allowed capitalists into the Communist Party…

[He] appeared to [be] advocating that [the business tycoons] retain power in Hong Kong disproportionate to their numbers.

“Even if it is a small group of people, a very small group of people,” Mr. Wang said. “But they control the destiny of the economy in Hong Kong. If we just ignore their interests, then Hong Kong capitalism will stop. So that’s why on the one hand we realize universal suffrage in Hong Kong, on the other hand we must guarantee the continued development of capitalism in Hong Kong.”…

Beijing Rules Out Open Elections in Hong Kong

China’s legislature laid down strict limits on Sunday to proposed voting reforms in Hong Kong, drawing battle lines in what pro-democracy groups warned would be a deepening confrontation over clashing visions of the political future of the city and of China.

Pushing back against months of rallies calling for free, democratic elections in Hong Kong, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee set out procedural barriers for candidates for the city’s top leader that would ensure Beijing remained the gatekeeper to that position and to political power over the city...

The move closes one of the few avenues left for gradual political liberalization in China after a sustained campaign against dissent on the mainland this year under President Xi Jinping...

Occupy Central, the main Hong Kong group advocating open elections, said it was planning civil disobedience protests in the city’s commercial heart...

Beyond its consequences for this former British colony of 7.2 million people, the tight reins on Hong Kong politics reflect a fear among leaders in Beijing that political concessions here would ignite demands for liberalization on the mainland, a quarter-century after such hopes were extinguished on Tiananmen Square in 1989...
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