HONG KONG – SOLUTIONS!

In a sea of blogs, articles, statements, op-eds, etc, etc., there is no lack of opinions as to evaluations of the current situation in Hong Kong, nor where we should go from here. Some of what I read is quite sensible and balanced though I have not been able to find one single piece of writing that I can simply share that corresponds 100% with what I think.

My own view of the situation has evolved as I gather more data and gain a broader understanding of the situation. I even took the time to study Hong Kong’s Basic Law. At this point the most constructive contribution I can give has to do with solution and strategy of where we go from here. To summarize this I have taken the liberty to use some material from opinions stated by others, edited them and added my own take on the matter so as to arrive at a specific conclusion. Here it goes.

Curiously the proposed means from both the yellow and blue ribbon camps are fairly unyielding and often don’t consider the view of the opposing side.

There have been some polls regarding the attitude of the “majority” of Hong Kong, but perhaps these polls have been organized to slant the opinions in the direction beneficial to the poll organizers – on both sides. But no matter what the actual numbers are I get the feeling many Hong Kong people are perhaps both a little bit yellow and blue. Many do support and understand the grievances and situations the student protesters face but maybe question the manner in which they are going about protesting them. Many seem to agree that mass rallies and public assembly are legitimate means of political expression but blocking major roads and access points have not been accepted by many.

I do think the majority in Hong Kong DO want some form of democratic system, regardless of the nuance of difference in how they define that democracy. I for one can empathize with both the yellow and blue sides in many regards and that’s not because yellow and blue make up the colors of the Swedish flag, where I’m from. I am however neither yellow nor blue as a label, or any other color under the rainbow. I’m me and I don’t easily place myself under the banner of a specific group. I am however a resident of Hong Kong and I’m planning to stay so no matter my lack of years in Hong Kong thus far, I certainly have a reason to be concerned and express my views.

When travelling on the road towards solution – any solution – I think it important to isolate common ground between two opposing sides as a starting point. I am of the belief that the large majority of us living in Hong Kong are outraged by the corporatist state Hong Kong has turned into run by a plutocratic or “tycooncratic” elite which lacks any real sense of empathy and engagement with the needs of ordinary Hong Kongers.

We may distrust the dictatorial nature of the central government and its one-party state, but isn’t it also a reality that a chief executive distrusted by Beijing is simply unworkable and that Hong Kong could not prosper without its support?

We can acknowledge the British did many things right for Hong Kong, though mostly out of self-interest, but we must also acknowledge that the city is an inalienable part of China.

Maybe the “real” silent majority is neither blue nor yellow but a little bit of both? It pains me along with many others to see the two camps tearing each other apart with the adopted “You’re either with us or against us!” attitude. “Necessary collateral damage” some say – I am not convinced.

While protest crowds are thinning and blood is beginning to cool, there are still those who want to up the ante. “Don’t back down!” and “We will stand our ground!” are phrases often heard. But as the protests evolved a divergence of opinions on the way forward has begun to manifest itself.

The eleventh-hour cancellation of a formal ballot on protest sites is a case in point. Protest fatigue is starting to show. Public patience and initial support are beginning to wear thin.

There is no sign of Beijing wavering in its adherence to the Basic Law according to their 31 Aug White Paper. Nor is there any hope of meaningful international pressure. With Beijing’s sensitivities and suspicions over foreign intervention, doing business with what is now the largest economy in the world (in purchasing power parity terms) outweighs many other considerations – for right or wrong but nevertheless reality.

Likewise, any unspoken desire to spread the protests to the mainland is unlikely. Stringent media and internet controls have ensured that any repercussions are kept well within bounds.

Therefore, so long as the Hong Kong government keeps the door open for dialogue and discussions while allowing the protests to continue – subject to law and order being maintained – time will be on its side. Beijing knows this well.

Time is clearly not on the side of the protests. The longer they carry on with disrupting public order, the more they will lose people’s support. The longer they are asking for something many consider impossible demands, the more they will be seen as simply a nuisance.

Their weakest card is that the protest movement with their current tactics is not likely to gather majority support of the Hong Kong people. Much of the silent majority are pragmatists, not idealists. They are already making their views known one way or another. Some 800,000 signatures gathered by the anti-Occupy coalition in just a few days did indicate something, however “controlled” that poll was.

For the same reason, any artificial attempt to engineer a “public referendum” through resignations en masse by activist legislators may well backfire. It may even risk the loss of some seats to the more moderate camp, threatening the veto power the pan-democrats now hold over electoral reform proposals.

In the final analysis, however disagreeable from an idealistic standpoint, an elected chief executive must not only work for the well-being of the “two systems”, he or she must be able to command the confidence of the “one country”. The inconvenient truth must be faced that the nominating committee is a screening process to minimize the risk of someone being elected who is suspected of being subversive of one-party rule in China or who is likely to lead Hong Kong towards separatism. On this latter point, the implications for Tibet and Xinjiang loom large. These risks act as a curse to Beijing. The insistence that chief executive candidates “love the country” must be seen in this context.

With all this in mind I can only see a positive outcome for the protest movement, even if a compromise, to form a strategy that includes playing for a realistic end game. In particular, political leaders should step up to the plate by steering the protests towards some achievable outcome, perhaps through the forums offered by the administration.

There have been many feasible propositions within Beijing’s red lines that are designed to make the selection of candidates more democratic, more open and more competitive. In addition, Beijing has indicated that pan-democrats are not automatically debarred from being considered by the nominating committee. Provided the committee can be made more representative and the winning candidate manages to secure the majority support of all voters through one man, one vote, I see little reason why a mandate and legitimacy cannot be achieved in the absence of public nomination.

To increase choice, another possibility that could be tested is to seek to relax, or even cancel, the cap on the total number of nominees, now restricted to only two to three, in exchange for accepting the requirement for over 50 percent support of the nominating committee before any candidate can be nominated. The latter requirement should be a sufficient safeguard for Beijing to minimize the risk of unacceptable nominees and is within the acceptable boundaries of the Basic Law to appeal or propose.

To enhance trust with Beijing, political parties should also help bring about more cooperative governance in Hong Kong between the administration and the legislature. Government and political parties could agree to support mutually acceptable candidates for ministerial positions – on the understanding such candidates will receive the party’s support. Such cooperation should be a hint towards improving the standing of some parties in the eyes of Beijing and could improve the acceptability of certain party leaders for Hong Kong’s highest office.

In short, hopes of forcing Beijing to bend national security interests to the will of less than the majority of the people of Hong Kong are perhaps a little vain. Rather than continuing an endless game of playing chicken going nowhere, political parties should help anchor the protest movement towards some realistic outcome.

Anything short of public nomination for a chief executive will not even be considered by some, but for those whom this applies to consider this: at the end of the day, gambling on all or nothing would only shut the door to the first step, however guarded and compromised, of realizing one man, one vote in 2017 or beyond. However imperfect, this would at least be one foot in the door. Throwing such aspirations to the wind through failure to achieve the possible would not be putting a foot in any door. It is only likely to antagonize the people of Hong Kong. This does not sound like good politics, tactics or strategy to me.

Having stated what is stated thus far, possibly some yellow ribbons will have stopped reading already or are at this point preparing a juicy counter comment.

But if you’re still reading, I want you to know that I sincerely and genuinely believe your movement has successfully communicated your concerns and ideological principles, much of which are agreeable by not only me, but most likely many of the people in Hong Kong. However, your movement has not won the hearts and minds of enough people in Hong Kong to cause a cooperative effort towards the achievement of your goals. Too much of your movement is seen as causing conflict and chaos without coming up with a solution to the problems that society faces, other than “democracy”. You often speak “tactics” but not nearly enough a responsible and realistic clear-cut strategy from which people can get behind and truly support.

How in the end the chief executive gets elected will not be the panacea end-all of problems in Hong Kong. I am not even sure it is a major factor in resolving the real issues of financial inequity and a 9-month over-pregnant property and real-estate market.

Your concept of civil nomination is an idea to get around the perceived bias of the nominating committee and enable the public to choose a chief executive which is not selected by Beijing. Fair enough but to win a war you need to assess the strengths and weaknesses of your enemy and hit him where it hurts – basic Art of War tactics.

Above I laid out what I think are more realistic means to go about solving the situation to a compromising but still satisfying result. But if you want to go further there’s a possibility another strategy could achieve your aims, but it will require lot more work and careful planning towards effectively stripping the nominating committee of its legitimacy. According to my understanding of the Basic Law, here are some things I think you could consider in order to accomplish this.

  1. In 2.5 years time, the People’s Candidate needs to get the support of the majority of the people of Hong Kong. The average Hong Kong person needs to believe that he or she is the right person to solve Hong Kong’s problems and give them a better life. Therefore the yellow ribbons need to start to select that candidate.
  2. Existing government representatives of the yellow ribbons can then launch a civil nomination process for any registered voter in Hong Kong to choose their candidates. If you get a million eligible voters to endorse your candidate, you can claim your process is legitimate.
  3. In the process of this civil nomination, the candidates will need to articulate the policies that they will implement when they are chosen as the chief executive, such as housing, social, economic and political policies. Most voters in Hong Kong do realize we are part of China (however disagreeable that is to some) and that direct opposition to China, the Chinese Communist Party or the principle of “One Country, Two Systems” is not credible nor will gain legitimacy.
  4. The successful candidate voted by the people can declare himself “Shadow Chief Executive.”
  5. By having a shadow chief executive and a team articulating the yellow ribbons policies, it would force the blue ribbons to also put forward candidates, or the yellow camp will have a clear run.
  6. By this process the yellow ribbons could win the hearts and minds of the people with policies designed to strike a balance between all sectors of society. Peaceful and well-organized mass rallies supporting the shadow chief executive along with television, radio and social media can raise his or her profile. Properly conducted surveys can show he or she has support of 70 percent of the population compared to 30 percent for the blue candidate.
  7. With such overwhelming public support for the yellow candidate, the nominating committee will have no choice but to include him or her in the chief executive election as long as the candidate is not seen as anti-China. The nominating committee (no matter its structure) is composed of Hong Kong people and they will have no choice in the face of overwhelming public support for a moderate candidate. If they do not choose him or her, then the whole electoral process will be seen as illegitimate and not credible.

So, there’s a possibility with the currently proposed system to actually have a “civil nomination”, but only if you start it yourself now to elect your own candidate. You simply use democratic processes to make an undemocratic system give you the result you want. Once in power, you have an influential position to try and make the next election more democratic or whatever political reforms you deem necessary for the best of Hong Kong.

This is a far more advanced strategy which is long term and requires far more work to achieve than what I laid out initially, but, it can be achieved without confronting China; without being seen as a bunch of revolutionaries and misguided students which is currently how the yellow ribbons are viewed by those who are in power of the system.

Only by winning the hearts and minds of the majority of people can you in my opinion embark on a winning strategy. Glorious or inglorious defeat should not be your aim. Hong Kong people do not want chaos and conflicts; they want someone who will make their life better.

Outside of the 1% of tycoons who are benefitting from the current structure of Hong Kong, I don’t think there are many others at heart who don’t want to see a change in economical reform though they may otherwise be fairly okay with the current social system at least in the blue camp. There are some positive sides to Hong Kong which are easier realized when you compare Hong Kong to other places around the world and it would be a pity to lose those qualities that have been and are making Hong Kong the unique city it is.

From what I’ve seen neither sides have currently provided much confidence that they either will or even have the power to change this for the better. The current government is lots of busywork costing [wasting] lots of money with almost nothing beneficial being achieved. No matter who is to blame and no matter your ideological standing, I think we can agree on this one point.

So, time to move forward in a constructive and cooperative manner and tackle this beast head-on with some doable, balanced and sensible tactics and strategies!

One comment

  1. I agree with this post. The yellow side should be pragmatic, as most Hongkongers are, instead of being stubborn in their ideals (doing the same thing that they criticize the government is doing). “Democracy” is not the panacea to all problems.

    I don’t know if it could be another solution, but I read Regina’s Ip proposal of granting students seats in the Nominating Committee (http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/article/1632991/regina-ip-proposes-giving-seats-nominating-committee-students) . At least from her side, she’s trying to find some compromise to end the conflict.

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