Thursday 7 May 2020

Let’s focus on 2048 and 2049 and ...

... 2050 and 2051. In other words, let’s focus on what happens post ’47.

Why is 2047 so important? The HK Basic Law says that Hong Kong is to continue with its present system of society and governance for “at least” fifty years from the handover on 1 July 1997. Hence 2047. That’s why the date looms so large. At handover it seemed too far into the future to worry about. Now, it’s just around the corner. And the use of the words “at least” gives an opening for talks.

The problem here is the protesters, and their pan-dem enablers. What they’ve done is worn away any goodwill there might have been on the Beijing side to discuss the issue. It might have been possible right up to mid last year. But now hatred of Beijing is thrown in its face. Why would Beijing want to talk with interlocutors who despise them?

The protesters have a schizophrenic view of China.  They fear and hate it as a tyrant-dictatorship. Fair enough; there’s a lot in that. But then they seem to think that if they challenge that very tyrant-dictatorship -- which they hate and let know they hate --  it will somehow, magically back down and buckle to their will. Contradictory, much? And they think that Carrie Lam, whom they despise as a puppet of Beijing, will somehow, magically, back them in their fight with Beijing. Delusional, much?

HK Seven Freedoms: Our view all along has been to value and protect the freedoms we already have. They are real, substantial, meaningful. We have every freedom of our homelands held up as beacons, of Australia, of America, of Europe. And we have greater freedoms than some of them: we don’t have “hate speech” laws, for example, so our freedom of speech is less constrained than Britain’s.

Democracy: The only freedom we don’t have is direct election of the Chief Executive.
But… it’s not like we, the general population, have no influence on the C-E election. We do in at least two ways. First, public opinion polling. It’s not the case that Beijing simply foists one of its own on the city. They take soundings, develop candidate long-lists, then short-lists, and take polling. When one or another proves unpopular, they’re dropped. It’s happened, eg Henry Tang in 2016. Second, we have direct influence in the Electoral Committee which vets final candidates, via our free and secret voting in District Council elections. I’ve taken part in every one, and in 2014 I chaired a campaign (we lost), so I know it from the inside. They are free and fair.
In turn the directly elected District Councillors get a vote on the Electoral Committee. That’s not direct election, to be sure. But it’s not nothing neither.
Maybe a bit akin to Electoral Colleges in the United States? Consider the process that brought Joe Biden to the Democratic candidacy. New polls say 40% of Democrats want him to withdraw! And there are big questions, especially on the left, about the Electoral College system vs popular vote. Are there really pan-Dems, people on the left, who would argue that a system which produced Trump is some kind of ideal?  It’s hard to conclude that that’s a model.
Or take Britain and Australia. We think we’re voting for Boris or Scott. But we’re voting for their parties, who can ditch them at any time, and often have ditched their leader. Not to draw too long a bow here, but it’s not like there’s some perfect way of getting a leader, no matter the system.

Sacrifice: And yet, and yet… it’s for that, or something similar, that the protesters and their pan-dem enablers, would sacrifice all our other freedoms. “Burn with us”. No thank you.
They had a chance in 2013 to accept moves forward on the election of a greater number of members of our Legislative Council, LegCo. But because it wasn’t perfect, because it wasn’t 100% of what they wanted, they refused it. Wrong move. I though so then, and think so even more so now. They blew it. But they blame everyone else, the government, Beijing.... I’m sorry but I just don’t trust them with the governance of our city.

To 2048 and beyond! Our freedoms are protected by the Basic Law, by One Country Two Systems, by our “high degree of autonomy”. “At least” until 2047. How about changing focus to 2048? To the future. To the future of today’s young protesters and their children.
Getting Beijing to the table will be the hard part. A good start would be give up violence of the protesters and the shenanigans of their pan-dem enablers. Maybe it’s too late. Aron Harilela doesn’t think so. I hope he’s right. A decent future for Hong Kong depends on it.
Extra reading:
Geoffrey Ma
Mike Rowse. And again
Henry Litton. And a letter
Alex Lo. And a glum take
Aron Harilela. 3 May 2020. : to which Regina Ip says “too early”.  And a commenter says “too late”. ADDED, 18 May
/Snip from Harilela:
Tycoon Aron Harilela, head of the city’s largest business chamber, has called for a dialogue between Hong Kong and Beijing on the city’s future beyond 2047 to remove uncertainty troubling residents and foreign investors.
 “If we are asking multinational companies to set up their regional headquarters here, how can we ask them to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to come to Hong Kong if we can’t give them some certainty of the financial landscape, the business law and the common law?” he said.
To all of which C-E Carrie Lam has said little, save that we must “treasure One Country, Two Systems”. Indeed.