Hong Kong needs democracy; ‘Occupy the Process’ to get it

Like most other Hong Kongers, I’m appalled by Beijing’s phony version of universal suffrage to choose the city’s chief executive. Beijing’s attempt to seize the nominating process undermines the principle of one country-two systems and Hong Kong’s promised high degree of autonomy.

The current system has produced ineffective chief executives who do not represent Hong Kong. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying (or CY Leung), like his predecessors, owes his position to Beijing and its Hong Kong loyalists, many of them business tycoons that benefit hugely from government largesse in Hong Kong and the mainland. (Macau’s chief executive is selected by an almost identical method, featuring an even smaller circle of voters.) As a result, Leung is far more intent on protecting their prerogatives than defending Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy that was promised when China regained sovereignty in 1997, a time I chronicle in my novel of Hong Kong On Air.

I’ve commented on two fine perspectives on the situation Beijing has created in Hong Kong on Forbes.com, one by Gordon Chang and one by Kandy Wong. I urge you to read both articles to understand why freedom loving people around the world should stand up and say, paraphrasing John F Kennedy in Berlin: “Ngo haih Heung Gong yahn.”

I’ve reposted my comments, with some annotations below:

[On Gordon Chang’s piece]
“As a Hong Konger, the issue is simple: Hong Kong people, not Beijing, should choose who rules Hong Kong.

I used to believe the great barrier to democracy was Hong Kong’s business community. But now Beijing has asserted its power over Hong Kong and trashed the principle of one country-two systems. Hong Kong deserves better, and I hope we can convince Beijing to do what’s right.”

[On Kandy Wong’s piece]
“As someone else who has chosen to call Hong Kong home, I agree that we deserve the right to choose our leadership without the heavy hand of Beijing. While Beijing talks about loyalty to the one country, that is really a fig leaf for its fear of real representative government on Chinese soil. The goal of universal suffrage in Hong Kong cannot be to overthrow the government of China, but to bring truly representative and effective government to Hong Kong. What happens in the mainland should be decided by the people of the mainland, and what happens in Hong Kong should be decided by the people of Hong Kong.

I’m not enthusiastic about Occupy Central [the plan for civil disobedience to disrupt Hong Kong’s business center to press for democracy]; instead I believe energies should be directed to Occupy the Process. The electoral system, as Beijing wants it, will be rigged, but Hong Kong people should do all we can, beginning today, to try to make it present a real choice. Identify the members of the nominating committee and build public pressure on them to nominate candidates that are endorsed by Hong Kong people. Boycott their businesses and challenge them publicly if they won’t comply. But first, I hope LegCo [the Legislative Council] will reject the current offer and make Beijing come back to the negotiating table. Shame on Britain and Margaret Thatcher for leaving this question up in the air and putting Hong Kong in this position.”

Author Nury Vittachi offers a different view on Britain and democracy to Hong Kong. However, as Kandy Wong said in reply to my comment, it’s not important what the Brits, did or didn’t do, the issue is what can Hong Kong do now that Beijing has put the mock in democracy. Vittachi, in his piece, makes the point, “Hong Kong has a long history of pro-democracy people succeeding in getting concessions where pro-Beijing people have said it was impossible.” To channel JFK again, so let us begin anew.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is a blogger for Forbes and author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, high finance, and cheap lingerie. See his bio, online archive and more at www.muhammadcohen.com; follow him on Facebook and Twitter @MuhammadCohen.