No City for Fair Elections

China in Context by Epoch Times Issue 23
February 27, 2017 12:54 pm Last Updated: March 12, 2017 2:36 pm

Trusting the Beijing leadership to strictly adhere to the 1997 British handover arrangement with Hong Kong would be misguided, given the Chinese Communist Party’s penchant for duplicity.  

The Kuomintang, or the Chinese Nationalist Party, found this out the hard way while working with the communists to fend off the invading Japanese in the 1930s and 1940s. The Communist Party gradually infiltrated the Kuomintang ranks while the latter bore the brunt of the fighting. Four years after World War II, the communists launched an insurrection against the greatly weakened and discredited Kuomintang government; the communists now rule China, while the nationalists are a major political party in Taiwan.

Once bitten, twice shy, Taiwanese governments have flatly rejected the Chinese communist regime whenever it has batted its eyelashes with talk of reunification under a “one country, two systems” model. Most Hongkongers would understand the wisdom in steering clear of Beijing, having seen their freedoms and way of life being slowly eroded over the last two decades of Hong Kong’s return to the mainland.

Under the “one country, two systems” arrangement, Beijing is not to interfere with the elections for Hong Kong chief executive, although the winning candidate must be officially appointed by Beijing.

Yet Beijing’s hand in Hong Kong’s affairs is most noticeable in these elections: Candidates actively seek the approval of the Chinese leadership in official events, or in clandestine meetings on the mainland. Pro-Beijing members form a majority of the 1,200-strong election committee that picks the Hong Kong leader, and these members take “guidance” for their votes from the Liaison Office, the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, or via the communist-controlled press in Hong Kong.  

Tung Chee-hwa, the first Hong Kong chief executive, recentlyconfirmed Beijing’s manipulation. In a closed-door meeting with about 30 eligible voters from Tung’s own think tank, Tung reportedly claimed that the Chinese leadership won’t appoint “unacceptable” candidates should they emerge as the winner in the March elections. He also indicated Beijing’s preference for former Chief Secretary Carrie Lam over John Tsang, the former finance secretary and the most popular candidate according to local polls.

Determining what Beijing truly wants, however, is made problematic by the current factional struggle (see article below). Sources close to discussions in Xi Jinping’s administration have told this newspaper that Xi approves of the work of candidates John Tsang and Woo Kwok-hing, but wishes to stick to the “one country, two systems” arrangement. Meanwhile, reports in Hong Kong newspapers claim that Hong Kong overseer Zhang Dejiang, a key member of the faction rivaling Xi, had said that Beijing only backs Carrie Lam out of four possible candidates, contradicting Xi.

The uncertainty surrounding the Hong Kong elections suggests that tensions in Beijing are coming to a head. The conflicting messages also suggest that the Chinese Communist Party is determined to get involved one way or another in the affairs of a territory to which it explicitly promised autonomous status in an international treaty. From the CCP, of course, nothing less is to be expected.

— Larry Ong

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