Critics say the Hong Kong pan-democratic activist group Occupy Central is excluding moderates from their movement and that the vote they are holding on June 22 will be unrepresentative of Hong Kong.
Occupy Central’s “Universal Voting Day” is supposed to produce a winning set of electoral procedures for the group to endorse for the 2017 elections. They will then call on the government to adopt that set of procedures–or a similar one–in order to ensure a free and fair vote for chief executive, or else they will occupy the streets of the main business district.
But more than one month before the votes are even cast, it is already known that the winning platform will include a call for a civic nomination. All three of the proposals on the ballot include a civic nomination. (I have outlined the details of the proposals on my blog, China Travel Writer.)
The three proposals on the ballot were determined after Occupy Central whittled down a list of that originally included more than 20. They solicited opinion from experts on international election law and found 15 of the proposals to be in compliance. On May 6, Occupy Central held a deliberation day and vote to select the three proposals that would make the ballot. Only people who had pledged to support Occupy Central’s proposed occupation were allowed to vote–about 2,500 votes were cast.
But Occupy Central needs more than just the support of the few thousand the movement hopes to rally in the streets if they are to be successful. For the government to face enough pressure to submit to Occupy Central’s demands, Occupy Central needs to have a large amount of the public on their side. The June 22 referendum is supposed to legitimize the occupation of city streets–an act that the group admits is illegal–but many have said the referendum itself lacks legitimacy.
On May 7, Alex Lo, an editorialist for the South China Morning Post wrote an article titled “Occupy Central referendum won’t represent Hong Kong’s electorate.”
In it, he criticized the methods used to select the three ballot proposals:
However the so-called referendum turns out next month, the outcome is no different or any more democratically representative than if Tai and his supporters just come out and demand public nomination as their be-all and end-all position.
Occupy hired a group of so-called international experts to filter out practically all election reform proposals that supposedly failed to meet international standards, presumably as stated in the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
But while any reform proposal that has any realistic hope of gaining passage in the legislature must include some elements in those rejected proposals as stipulated by Beijing, Tai and Company effectively make sure only pan-democratic proposals get an airing.
Next, out of the 15 mostly pan-democratic proposals already pre-selected, they had some 2,000 hardcore supporters of Occupy Central yesterday choose three to put forward for their online “referendum” next month. Are these people representative of Hong Kong’s 3.5 million electorate or just an extremely small, self-selecting sample group that constitutes the most extreme and uncompromising elements within the pan-democratic camp?
Another article, headlined “Occupy Central accused of ‘disenfranchising’ moderates in vote”, notes disappointment among moderates, including moderate pan-democrats, who felt their proposals never had a chance:
The decision sparked concern from five moderate pan-democratic lawmakers and from Hong Kong 2020, the advocacy group set up by former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang.
Eight moderate proposals, including those from Hong Kong 2020, lawmaker Ronny Tong Ka-wah and a group of academics missed the cut. These proposals allow only the nominating committee to pick candidates, in line with the Basic Law, but candidates would need the support of just a minority of members.
Most of the losing proposals wouldn’t have allowed public nominations. The Hong Kong Bar Association has said that public nominations are not legal in accordance with the SAR’s Basic Law mini-constitution. The Chinese government is opposed to public nominations.
Many pragmatic pan-democrat lawmakers are not pushing the issue, either. For them, the most important conditions to ensure is that there is no “love our country, love Hong Kong” requirement that is used to bar pan-democrats and that there is no pre-screening. (The DAB, the major pro-establishment party, proposed that candidates should win majority support of the nomination committee before being eligible for the general election.)
Yet people opposed to civic nominations will have nothing to vote for on referendum day.
An editorial in The Standard, called the results of the deliberation day “a serious setback for the pan-democrats”:
Occupy Central’s stance on civil nominations won’t exert pressure on Beijing.
If it’s convinced that a deal becomes mission impossible, Beijing will play on according to its own script.
It will widen divisions already existing among the pan-democrats.
If their camp had been lacking a common blueprint to negotiate with Beijing, next month’s public vote was supposed to find one. The screening by 2,500 people dashed that hope.
Benny Tai, the Hong Kong University law professor who has been instrumental in devising and promoting Occupy Central’s campaign, defended the process in Apple Daily, saying the process was necessary to ensure reasonable choices were made:
Q: Why does the “Universal Political Reform Deliberation Day” only result in the selection of three proposals? Is that not filtering?
A: Any one in the public sphere can make a proposal on a method by which to elect the chief executive and have it deliberated, as long as it complies with international standards. … A key point at the “Universal Political Reform Deliberation Day” is to have a completely open platform so that anyone can participate, rather than just some privileged people or some political leaders having the right to select the plan. The only condition is that they identify with the convictions of “Occupy Central with Love and Peace”. In such an open arrangement, it is ensured that the resulting decision of the “Universal Political Reform Deliberation Day” are reasonable choices.
Q: Can the universal voting results be representative of Hong Kong people?
A: The results of the “Universal Voting Day” will reflect how many people support the three procedures. Some people often refer to “Universal Voting Day” as a public referendum. Actually, that is misunderstanding the meaning of “Universal Voting Day.” We have said from the start that this is a process of citizen authorization that will allow the Hong Kong people who support universal suffrage to authorize “Occupy Central with Love and Peace” to fight for which universal suffrage procedure by which to elect the chief executive. So the results of the “Universal Voting Day” will be representative of the desires of all the Hong Kong people who vote. If 300,000 people vote, it will be representative of 300,000 people. If 500,000 people vote, it will be representative of 500,000 people.[Questions and answers were originally in Chinese.]