Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Hoist on their own petard - or are we?

The recent visit to Hong Kong by Li Fei, chairman of the Basic Law Committee (BLC) of the National People's Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC), appears to have been primarily intended to let the Hong Kong public know the permitted limits of our long-promised democracy.  As a China Daily article by devoted Beijing acolyte Lau Nai-keung makes clear, what this means in practice is that Beijing will tell us in advance who we're allowed to vote for to save it the necessity of telling us after the election that we voted for the wrong person - a precaution Lau considers necessary because of Hong Kong's "disrespect towards Beijing's goodwill".

Unusually for anyone on the establishment side, Lau does acknowledge that the interests of Hong Kong and Beijing may not always coincide, a fact he describes as "embarrassing", though the only solution he offers is "a capable CE to keep both sides happy".  But how is this fantasy figure to be chosen?  While there has been talk of it being a legal requirement that any candidate "love China and love Hong Kong" in order to be qualified for election, no law has yet been devised anywhere that can mandate or verify love.

It appears from comments by another Chinese official,  Hao Tiechuen, that the required "love of China" may be ensured through loyalty to the country's constitution, presumably by requiring candidates to swear some sort of oath of loyalty - something he describes as an internationally accepted convention.   Hao is of course wrong in saying that loyalty to a country's constitution is generally a requirement for election in other countries - take a look at the Scottish Parliament, for example - only that changes to that constitution should be achieved through constitutional means.

The fundamental problem here is that the Chinese leadership itself does not live by what it proposes.  The Chinese constitution guarantees - in theory - human rights, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of demonstration, and property rights; all values dear to us in Hong Kong.  But not only do the authorities regularly ride roughshod over all of these rights in practice; and not only do the courts lack the power to overthrow a law as unconstitutional; but a substantial faction within the leadership regards the very concept of what it calls "constitutionalism" as a Western-imposed affront to "socialist" values [with Chinese characteristics, of course.]

So where does that leave Hong Kong?  In the contradictory position of requiring a potential leader to demonstrate loyalty to China's constitution in order to assure the Chinese leadership of his or her deference to them, while they themselves ignore the very same constitution with impunity.  You couldn't make this stuff up.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent analysis.