Artucle 45 of Hong Kong’s Basic Law or mini-constitution states — the ultimate aim is the selection of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures. In 2007, an amendment came in to apply this to the 2017 election. At no stage did it suggest there should be an election without the candidates being approved by a committee. The protestors are arguing for an election that conforms to ‘international standards’. Given the procedural complexities and different methods in which Americans choose their presidents, the British their prime ministers and Londoners their mayors, is there a detailed document laying out exactly what amendment is needed to the Basic Law and how Hong Kong people want to elect their next chief executive? And if there, could someone let me know the link?
While China’s President Xi Jinping was hunkered down against unrest in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, Indian Prime Minister Modi dropped by New York’s Madison Square Gardens to receive a rock star’s reception. The signals are that, like India’s democracy did with Modi’s election, China’s authoritarianism needs to smarten up get ahead of the game. One way forward would be to offer a slots for the 2017 Chief Executive’s election to one of the battle-scarred veterans of the pro-democracy campaign, such as the urbane Martin Lee or fiery Emily Lau. The people of Hong Kong are more pragmatic than ideological. The institutions are strong enough to handle the outcome and no Hong Kong government, whoever’s in charge, can survive by picking fights with China. As Iraq and Ukraine have shown, however much muscle you have, you can’t shoot and tear gas your way to victory. And who knows, the pro-democracy candidate might not even win.
Britain’s looming constitutional debate — a bonanza for the political chatterati — is misplaced. The SNP’s popularity over Scottish independence mirrors the growing support for UKIP over Britain’s independence from Europe. Both are deeply-felt grass-roots sentiments about power and national identity. The governance of England carries no such mass of feeling. If it did, the turn out for the 2012 election of police commissioners would not have been a record low of 15 per cent; nine out of ten cities would not have rejected proposals for directly elected mayors; the referendum on electoral reform would not have failed so spectacularly (68 per cent against; 32 per cent in favour on a 42.2 per cent turn out); and the House of Lords would no longer be an unelected chamber of members appointed for life. Therefore would it not be wise to deliver to Scotland what was promised without linkage and concentrate all minds on Europe. There is a credible scenario of Britain voting to leave Europe and a few years from now Scotland — in another referendum — voting to leave the United Kingdom.
Britain has long experience in handling independence movements from the 1922 partition of Ireland to the 1947 partition of India to the 1980 ‘coconut war’ of Vanuatu to the 2014 referendum in Scotland. Invariably there’s trouble. There are, though, two very different types of unrest. Northern Ireland’s conflict stemmed from a perception of inequality between two religious groups. Power, vested in one, was used to repress the other. Although smaller in scale, this is similar to the Sunni-Shia conflict in Iraq. It is about birthright and tribe and mistrusted institutions. The present Scottish quest for independence relies on the decision of individuals, regardless of birth, which is why within many households there were opposing views. They are based part on nationalism and part on merit. Other governments from Spain, to Russia to China would be wise to watch how Britain now faces the challenge keeping the United Kingdom together. If it succeeds it will show how, despite arguments, compromises and frustrations, it is possible to weave a complicated political tapestry that retains sovereignty without bloodshed.
Scotland has proven itself a global example of the democratic process — from the discipline of the count to the determination to transport sealed ballot boxes over storm-whipped seas. Its success relied on Scottish institutions, the rule-of-law and the acceptance of the result by the losing side. All this now needs to be forensically examined by those advocating a similar electoral process in parts of the developing world. Like many of them, Scotland’s vote was about the unknown. Therefore, which Scottish institutions were vital for the referendum and how weak could they have been for it still to succeed? After getting it lethally wrong from Iraq to South Sudan, there is now a blueprint on how to get it right.
Peter Greste’s letter from Egypt’s Mazraa Prison gives us a rare insight into stamina, courage, innocence, compassion, family and injustice. Much of what he says about the anger, the frustration, the question of why and the search for calm, must apply to the thousands locked up in Egypt and the tens of thousands of political prisoners held by dictatorships around the world. Egypt’s revolution was meant to be the beacon that led the Arab world into an era of democracy and good goverance. It has failed abysmally, begging the question for tourists and businesses as to why they even go there. There are ancient ruins in Turkey and Peru, magnificent rivers and beaches in Latin America and Africa. There are business deals to be done in Moldova and Bangladesh and contracts to sign in Chile and Malaysia. In Egypt, you know your are dealing with corrosive corruption and courts that bend with whichever dictator happens to be in power. Best stay away. Or Egypt can show it is on the path of reform by releasing Peter, his colleagues and all its political prisoners. bit.ly/1sehwLX
With much debate about the media and war reporting, four points noted by the great Sandy Gall stand well the test of time.
Journalists covering the Vietnam and Cambodian wars accepted that if they fell into the hands of the Vietcong or Khmer Rouge they would most likely be killed. Among those thought to have been executed are Sean Flynn from Time, Dana Stone, CBS and Dieter Bellendorf, NBC. Therefore, as tragic as it is, today’s brutality is neither new nor confined to Islamic terror.
The debate about Scottish independence and its currency is a sideshow. Has Singapore, Ireland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, East Timor, Eritrea, South Sudan, Taiwan, Estonia, Ukraine failed or succeeded because of currency issues? They have not. Separating nations will produce tears, challenges — often bloodshed, and the result could be good or bad. But currency is not an issue. By banging on about it the Better Together Campaign (which I support) shows how removed it is from the grass roots sentiments that move people towards independence. And its difficult to understand the Bank of England Governor Mark Carney stating that for a currency union to work there has to be common taxation and spending and that it would be incompatible with sovereignty. If that were the case the Euro would never have happened.
After China’s decision to limit democratic reform in Hong Kong, from my most recent piece — Nikkei Asia Review:-
Beijing only has to look at Iraq or Ukraine to see the pitfalls of failing to meet the aspirations of educated citizens or of introducing electoral democracy at too fast a pace. The consequences of getting it wrong in Hong Kong could be catastrophic. The territory’s democratic ambitions may well prove to be the biggest and most dangerous challenge in this phase of China’s global expansion…….Hong Kong is not a barren reef in the South or East China Seas where disputes can be tested without human cost. Its highly educated population cannot be gunned down and jailed if ambitions are restricted. Its pro-democracy movement will rightly continue to campaign, push and criticize. China must understand that it cannot risk challenging Hong Kong’s pragmatism to the point where people head for the barricades because they feel they have no other choice.