Occupiers had mistaken notions about democracy

Occupiers had mistaken notions about democracy
(Centre-R) Benny Tai of prominent pro-democracy group Occupy Central, Hong Kong student leaders Alex Chow, Joshua Wong, Alan Leong of the Civic Party and an unidentified activist attend a press conference at the pro-democracy protesters camp site in the Admiralty district of Hong Kong on October 26, 2014

The occupiers believe "genuine universal suffrage" is the necessary condition for democracy. They imagine that once Hong Kong has genuine universal suffrage the way they want it, Hong Kong will then have democracy.

They are mistaken.

Because of this mistaken notion and because the value of democracy had been taken for granted, they chose to violate the law and the rights of fellow Hong Kong citizens in their pursuit of democracy. Fortunately the "Occupy Central" movement ended with no loss of life, and Hong Kong has learnt a valuable lesson.

Occupiers had mistaken notions about democracyMany of the protesters, particularly those from the Hong Kong Federation of Students and Scholarism, still insist on public nomination as the requirement for genuine universal suffrage.

They do so in the full knowledge it is not permitted under the Basic Law. Violating the Basic Law is violating the basic principles of democracy.

Violating other peoples' rights to the use of roads and other public places is violating the laws of Hong Kong relating to public order. Many commentators have noted that the so-called "pro-democracy" movement is undemocratic in spirit.

Given that the Basic Law clearly stipulates that candidates for the post of Chief Executive (CE) are to be nominated by the Nominating Committee, Article 45 offers no room for "interpretation" as to whether candidates might be nominated by any party other than the Nominating Committee.

The Basic Law also explicitly states that the final interpretation of the Basic Law rests with the nation's top legislature. Respecting "One Country, Two Systems" must include respect for this right of the top legislature.

Lew Mon-hung, a former member of the country's top political advisory body, wrote in a recent article that the greatest danger for the "One Country, Two Systems" policy, which protects Hong Kong's way of life, lies in a disrespect for the differences between the two systems. He is right.

However, his article mainly criticised Beijing for showing a lack of respect for the differences between the two systems, while completely ignoring the protesters' disrespect for the system on the mainland. He should know that the Communist Party of China (CPC) has evolved by learning from its past mistakes.

The CPC undoubtedly has much to learn, but criticising the CPC for having the "genes for not respecting the 'One Country, Two Systems'" and for "a historical inertia for being biased toward the left" does nothing to foster trust and understanding between Hong Kong and Beijing.

The fact is that Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region of China and the CPC is China's ruling party.

Beijing has kept its promise to allow Hong Kong to continue with its common law system inherited from colonial times, and the Court of Final Appeal continues to include judges invited from overseas. Beijing has kept its promise and allows Hong Kong to maintain its fiscal and monetary systems.

Beijing also continues to allow freedom of the press in Hong Kong, and to demonstrate lawfully on virtually any issue. Even demonstrations by some cults banned on the mainland have been tolerated in the SAR. Lew's charge that Beijing does not respect the differences in the two systems is unfair.

On the other hand, do the protesters respect the "One Country, Two Systems" framework?

Many of the protesters explicitly express their desire to change the mainland's political system.

The demands of the protesters directly deny the top legislature's right to interpret the Basic Law and even challenge the Basic Law and the national Constitution itself.

But ultimately the CE "shall be accountable to the Central People's Government and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in accordance with the provisions of this Law". Someone who actually opposes the central government and the political system of the mainland certainly cannot serve as CE.

This is precisely the reason I wrote in an earlier article that "the most important lesson that the occupiers need to learn is that treating Beijing as an enemy instead of a friend will only lead Beijing to treat them as enemies. Is it not obvious that Beijing can not allow its enemies to rule over Hong Kong?"

The SAR government will soon launch the second stage of public consultation on political reform. If we sincerely want universal suffrage for the election of the CE we have to respect the laws of Hong Kong, the Basic Law, and the Constitution.

Anyone who wants to stand as a candidate for election to the post of CE must be prepared to be accountable to the central government and the Hong Kong SAR.

A high degree of autonomy is not full autonomy and is certainly not defiance.

Defying the law of the land is not the way to democracy. It is the path to anarchy. Above all, it is undemocratic.

The author is director of the Centre for Public Policy Studies at Lingnan University.

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