An Irresistible Force Meets an Immovable Object

A commentary by Bao Tong
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china-hk-reform-reject-june-2015-ii.jpg Hong Kong pro-democracy supporters stand outside the city's legislature after a vote in Hong Kong, June 18, 2015.

On Aug. 31 last year, the standing committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) made a preemptive decision about how the people of Hong Kong should run Hong Kong.

Yesterday, the Legislative Council (LegCo) met, quorate, with 36 people present. Twenty-eight votes were cast against the plan, while eight were for it, overturning the decision of the NPC standing committee.

This session was conducted according to law, so it naturally has an incontrovertible legal effect. While the decision of the NPC standing committee was once legal, now it has been overturned in LegCo by 28 votes to eight, which gives it legal effect.

The decision of the NPC standing committee isn't worth the paper it is written on now.

This is the first time the [ruling] Chinese Communist Party has met with such a setback within its own borders since it seized power in 1949.

The Aug. 31 decision of the NPC standing committee was concerned with elections. It said that it would expand the voting franchise for elections for the chief executive in Hong Kong to "one person, one vote."

That should be a good thing, but it also set down that nominations for candidacy must fit in with the wishes of the central government.

So it was effectively saying that Hong Kong people could have the right to vote, but not to nominate; that they could only hold free elections with one person, one vote within the framework it was laying down.

Let's say that candidates surnamed Wang, Zhang, Jiang, Yao, Kang and Mao were inside this framework, then the voters of Hong Kong could choose one that seemed suitable from among them to be chief executive. But they wouldn't be able to vote for Peng, Gao or Xi*, let alone anyone surnamed Zhang, Luo or Chu.

This is democracy with Chinese characteristics taken to a very high pitch. It is on a much higher level than the preselected "elections" that have been running throughout the 60-year history of the People's Republic.

To use an old Beijing saying, it's a crafty switch in tactics. But it's more suited to the Middle Ages than to the 21st century.

And just because this is found acceptable in mainland China, it doesn't mean there's a market for it in Hong Kong.

A 'heavy' crash

This elite, which has grown used to being the only show in town, and to having its own way for several lifetimes now, has suddenly run slap-bang into an obstacle that is hard to get past, and the crash has been a heavy one.

What's more, it has done so after putting many years' worth of effort into this task, under the watchful eyes of the Chinese people.

For the people of Hong Kong, rejecting fake universal suffrage isn't the same thing as getting genuine universal suffrage.

They have won a battle, but not the war. There is still a long and hard road to travel, that leads towards Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong.

Everything depends on Hong Kong people redoubling their efforts and not giving up along the way.

From the point of view of the Aug. 31 decision, maybe this isn't such a bad outcome after all.

It's probably a good one. It's a bitter pill to swallow, but also a wake-up call.

So far, we have only had some rather mocking reactions [to the vote] from a few bit players. The key characters have refrained from knee-jerk reactions, knowing better than to jeopardize their status and future by association with something that has been rejected, and will be consigned to the trash heap of history.

I hope that we can move on from this with a lesson from party elder Xi Zhongxun [father of Chinese president Xi Jinping], who believed that different opinions should be respected, protected and treated with courtesy, and by studying the broad direction of public opinion, which is akin to Modern Democracy 101.

Doing this will bring prosperity to the people of Hong Kong, mainland China and Taiwan, and definitely to the Chinese Communist Party, and will make everybody truly happy.

*Editor's note: In the summer of 1962, Mao Zedong announced at Beidaihe that there was an anti-party clique in the Chinese Communist Party comprising Peng Dehuai, Gao Gang and Xi Zhongxun.

Translated by Luisetta Mudie.

Bao Tong, former political aide to the late ousted premier Zhao Ziyang, is currently under house arrest at his home in Beijing.


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