January 20, 2004
I am not a lawyer. I am thankful for that. However living in Hong Kong inevitably exposes you to legal issues because what passes for political discourse in this city revolves around a seemingly simple piece of law. The Basic Law is, in theory, Hong Kong's constitution. It was negotiated between the British and Chinese prior to the handover in 1997 as a way of assuaging British guilt at not introducing democracy to the place in the couple of hundred years they ran it. Like most such documents there is a mix of the bland and ambigious, designed to make it an uninteresting as possible. However it has become an important document to base the aspirations of Hong Kong's democracy movement.
For example, Article 45 in full reads
The Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall be selected by election or through consultations held locally and be appointed by the Central People's Government.Annex I and II specifies the interim method of selecting the Chief Executive (only in Hong Kong is the head of Government called CEO) and the Legislative Council. Each Annex finishes with the same rules for changing them from the muddle they currently are:
If there is a need to amend the method for selecting the Chief Executives for the terms subsequent to the year 2007, such amendments must be made with the endorsement of a two-thirds majority of all the members of the Legislative Council and the consent of the Chief Executive, and they shall be reported to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress for approval.Reading the English it seems simple: after 2007 both the LegCo and Chief Executive method of selection can be altered by a 2/3s majority in the (rigged) LegCo with approval from the Chief Executive. The NPC (China's Parliament), in theory, has the right to have the decision "reported...for approval" and "for the record."
Problem is China has realised they don't want Hong Kong to be too democratic. It would look like the Central Government is giving in to the voice of the people (500,000 marchers back in July and smaller protests since). It would give the people a voice. It would be the thin edge of the wedge. So the PRC does what anyone in their situation would: they slam the door. From the SCMP
After a week of dominating Hong Kong headlines, two leading mainland legal experts on the Basic Law return to Beijing today having delivered a clear message: go slow on constitutional change. They told the city in no uncertain terms it cannot elect the chief executive by universal suffrage by 2007. Think about 2030 or 2040 instead, they said.Democracy isn't Asia's forte. It appears the People's Republic isn't too happy about HK leading the way. No matter what it says in black and white.
The ultimate aim is the selection of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage. Ultimate being within the next 4000 years or so.
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Carnival of the Vanities #71
Excerpt: By hosting this week's Carnival I've learned two things: 1. This is a lot of work; 2. There are some
Weblog: The American Mind
Tracked: January 29, 2004 07:13 AM