Since the “Occupy Central” demonstrations started on Sept 28, they have caused not only considerable inconvenience to members of the public, but economic losses which have yet to be tallied. The protests spread from Central to Admiralty, Causeway Bay, Mong Kok and Tsim Sha Tsui. “Occupy Central” has turned into “Occupy Hong Kong”. Meanwhile, the initial sympathy of some Hongkongers toward the students has changed to impatience and even animosity, thanks to the chaos they brought to the economy and daily lives.
It is clear that Beijing will not accept the initial three student demands, including the resignation of Chief Executive (CE) Leung Chun-ying. Unless students moderate or drop their demands, it is doubtful their dialogue with government representatives will be productive.
Beijing’s reaction is still “do not back-down, no bloodshed”, and most Hongkongers also do not want chaos. However, disturbingly, bloody clashes have broken out between “Occupy” and anti-“Occupy” protesters. This has prompted the media to speculate that the action to restore law and order by local police remains a possibility.
Will this political gridlock be resolved soon? Are there any creative ideas which could bridge the gap between the demands of the “pan-democrats” and the central government, while exacting the least social cost?
Apparently, we need dialogue, not street theater. It is time to return to the negotiation table.
Theoretically speaking, the reform framework established by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) on Aug 31 may arguably be superior to most leading democracies in two respects.
First, in the primary election stage, the 1,200-strong Nominating Committee (NC), which will determine candidates for the SAR’s 2017 CE election, can circumvent the partisan politics that beset many parliamentary systems, since it consists of multi-party (or no party) representatives from four sectors (and their sub-sectors) representing a cross section of society. The NC’s definition of the four sectors — which sections should be appointed or elected, which organizations will have the right to vote, and how they will vote after entering the primary election — is still open to negotiation.
This pristine political area offers considerable scope for “pan-democratic” lawmakers to demand conditions favorable to their political make-up.
Second, in the general election stage, the “one person, one vote” mechanism guarantees that every ballot cast will be counted and provides a cross-check to the above-mentioned elite vote. Here we can even go one step further in precluding “rotten apples, rotten oranges” from becoming CE candidates by augmenting the SAR’s nascent democracy while learning from other democracies and still avoid intruding on Beijing’s sovereignty over the SAR.
Retired University of California Berkeley Physics Professor Peter Yu, born in Hong Kong, proposed the following in his private e-mail:
(1) For the SAR legislature to add one more choice, “none of the above” (NOTA) to ballot papers, in addition to the candidates approved by the NC; and
(2) In the eventuality that “NOTA” were to win the election, the process would have to start all over again. The next time around, the candidates who lost to “NOTA” would not be permitted to run again. This would ensure that, at least, the candidate who won would be acceptable to the majority of Hong Kong citizens.
“NOTA” would offer a completely different scenario from either abstentions, or blank votes. This is because “NOTA” would allow voters to indicate disapproval of all candidates. Abstention means that a voter either does not vote on election day or is present during the vote, but does not cast a ballot. A blank vote means that a voter willfully casts a ballot with the intention that it is invalid.
This procedure can repeat until “NOTA” no longer wins the general election, since “NOTA” is not a real candidate. Hong Kong’s Basic Law gives Beijing the authority to appoint the CE of the SAR. If the winner does not qualify for “loving the country and loving Hong Kong”, the first runner-up can be appointed and the sequence can go on or the whole election process can repeat until a candidate acceptable to both the Hong Kong electorate and Beijing is found.
Currently, there are at least 12 countries where citizens can vote for “NOTA”: Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Finland, France, Greece, India, Spain, Sweden and Ukraine. The US state of Nevada also adopted “NOTA” as a ballot option. “NOTA” could be a valuable tool for quantitatively gauging voter sentiment.
Mainland and Hong Kong are like members of a family, destined for a level of domestic conflict. But it is inadvisable to air our “dirty laundry” in public. Hong Kong has long prospered without so-called “genuine” democracy, but Hongkongers cannot survive without food, water and economic support from the motherland.
This is a middle way or independent path that could end the present political stalemate. As it offers a pace and level of reform potentially acceptable to the central government, it is an idea worth considering by student groups, “pan-democrat” lawmakers as well as Beijing.
The author is an independent scholar and freelance writer. She is also the founder and president of the China-US Friendship Exchange, Inc.
Author’s other political commentaries on Hong Kong’s recent “Occupy” movement:
1. ‘Occupy Central’ is a major strategic mistake
By Wang Shengwei
2. An open letter to 'Occupy' initiators and 'pan-democrats'
By Raymond W. Yin Translator Wang Shengwei
Chinese version: http://www.discuss.com.hk/viewthread.php?tid=23855027
3. Hong Kong SAR should endeavor to make history
By Wang Shengwei
4. Sun Tzu's wisdom offers lessons for Hong Kong
By Wang Shengwei
5. Conciliation is the only way forward for SAR
By Wang Shengwei