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Democracy in China: ‘The struggle for Hong Kong,’ or ‘The Great Leap Sideways’

Hong-Kong-lawyers

The territory’s citizens must not give up demanding full democracy—for their sake and for China’s

Chinese officials have called it a “leap forward” for democracy in Hong Kong. Yet their announcement on August 31st of plans to allow, for the first time, every Hong Kong citizen to vote for the territory’s leader has met only anger and indifference. Joy was conspicuously Xi-tall-Jinping-HTabsent. This is not because Hong Kong’s citizens care little for the right to vote, but because China has made it abundantly clear that the next election for Hong Kong’s chief executive, due in 2017, will be rigged. The only candidates allowed to stand will be those approved by the Communist Party in Beijing, half a continent away.

“Xi Jinping, the party chief and president, had the opportunity to use Hong Kong as a test-bed for political change in China. Had he taken this opportunity, he might have gone down in history as a true reformer. Instead, he has squandered it.”

At its worst, this risks provoking a disaster which even China cannot want. Democrats are planning protests. It is unclear how many people will join in, but the fear is that the territory’s long history of peaceful campaigning for political reform will give way to skirmishes with police, mass arrests and possibly even intervention by the People’s Liberation Army. That would disrupt one of Asia’s wealthiest and most orderly economies, and set China against the West. But even if, as is likely, such a calamity is avoided, this leap sideways is a huge missed opportunity not just for Hong Kong but also for the mainland. A chance to experiment with the sort of local democracy that might have benefited all of China has been missed.

One country, one-and-a-half systems

China’s announcement marks the end of an era. No longer is it possible to argue that the development of democracy in Hong Kong can forge ahead even in the absence of political reform in Beijing (see article). The arrangements, set out by China’s party-controlled parliament, the National People’s Congress, were needed because of a pledge to grant the territory a “high degree of autonomy” and eventually “universal suffrage” when it took over from Britain in 1997. To most people, that meant having the right to choose their leader themselves.

China has stuck to the letter of its promise, but not the spirit. In 2012 the chief executive was appointed by a 1,200-strong committee stacked with the party’s yes-men….(read more)

The Economist

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One Comment on “Democracy in China: ‘The struggle for Hong Kong,’ or ‘The Great Leap Sideways’”

  1. […] [Also see – Democracy in China: 'The struggle for Hong Kong,' or 'The Great Leap Sideways'] […]


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