Struggle for universal suffrage in Hong Kong

Struggle for universal suffrage in Hong Kong
Hong Kong.

Political leaders in Hong Kong are struggling to find some workable compromise between pro-democracy groups and pro-Beijing politicians that will allow the Legislative Council to pass a reform Bill on universal suffrage acceptable to Beijing.

Without it, the increasingly frequent protests and demonstrations seen in the territory in recent years will only increase.

Some radicals may even ask for complete autonomy or separation, a development that will certainly be met with stern action from Beijing.

The political scene in Hong Kong has been increasingly chaotic lately. Indeed, protest rallies and marches have become the norm.

Working-class people need basic housing, and the middle class is being squeezed by rising living costs and stagnant incomes. As a result, income gaps have widened and the middle class has become thinner.

Young school and college leavers march to air their grievances in job hunting. Protesters cry for press freedom in support of journalists assaulted by unknown attackers.

And pro-democracy politicians have been exploiting the situation, attributing the chaos to an "unfairly elected chief executive" who does not have a mandate from voters.

In accordance with the Basic Law, the mini-Constitution of Hong Kong, the chief executive is nominated and elected by an election committee which consists of representatives from commercial, professional, social and political sectors.

Pro-democracy activists call this a "small circle election" and demand that it be replaced by universal suffrage.

The radicals ask for "genuine direct election", while the moderates suggest that the committee accept and nominate candidates proposed by the public and political parties.

The pro-democracy camp is also calling for the abolition of the 35 "functional" constituencies in the Legislative Council.

The latter constituencies represent organisations such as the medical council, chambers of commerce, and teachers' unions.

All 70 seats, they argue, should be directly elected.

The subject of universal suffrage is not new. It was discussed in the drafting of the Basic Law.

Under colonial rule, the governor was appointed by the British government and legislators were nominated by the governor. There was no democratic election. But the British pushed for democratisation when they were departing from Hong Kong.

As a result, Beijing agreed, as stated in the Basic Law, that one of the ultimate aims would be "the selection of the chief executive by universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures and the election of all the members of the Legislative Council by universal suffrage".

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