Thursday, 23 April 2015

A Gulf Between Them

Carrie Lam, centre right is mobbed along with boss CY Leung (in white)
Now that the electoral reform package has been released, it's time for the Hong Kong government to sell it to the public.

Things got off to a bad start yesterday. After unveiling the package in Legco, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung, and even Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying tried to visit residents in Mei Foo, but the senior officials were drowned out by protesters and loud boos that they had to beat a hasty retreat.

Dozens of people used amplifiers, saying, "2017, we are doomed", and "we want real universal suffrage", overpowered Lam's voice.

As Leung escaped back to his vehicle, some shouted, "Resign, CY Leung".

Doesn't sound like it was receptive...

So today Lam tried another tact to try to change people's minds by saying if they accepted the package now, there was a chance -- a chance -- that Beijing would amend the electoral framework.

Emily Lau hopes to change Beijing's mind on electoral reform
This morning on Commercial Radio, she said the National People's Congress Standing Committee had a constitutional right to revise the electoral framework in light of the actual situation if the next Hong Kong government decided to roll out another round of reform.

"At the second step [of the so-called five-step reform procedure], the Standing Committee has to make a decision on how to amend the electoral system," Lam said. "It can make a decision based on the actual situation -- such as the ways to make the governance smoother -- at that time."

So basically Beijing can monitor the situation and tweak it as it sees fit -- and there's a good chance that if Hong Kong people continue to protest for universal suffrage, it doesn't mean China will grant it to us -- and in fact the opposite could happen.

Lam is not outlining the possible circumstances in which the electoral system could be amended, and the language is probably vague enough to give Chinese leaders enough leeway to justify whatever changes they wish to make.

Elections are not something the Chinese government is familiar about. While it likes to say it rules by consensus, there's a lot of backroom politicking going on. And if members of the National Congress do vote on something, it is pretty much sanctioned already, and the vote justifies their pre-determined decision.

So what will it be, folks?

Accepting the package now in the hopes there will be tweaks later -- but that could go in the opposite direction, or to hold out for something better?

The pan-democrats continue to stand firmly in the veto camp, though they seem disillusioned as well.

Democratic Party chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing said, "We need to step up efforts to change the situation and make Beijing willing to make changes." She said these would include efforts to explain to Hong Kong and Beijing officials what the pan-democrats see as the plan's negative impact on Hong Kong.

Does she really think China will listen to them? There is so much mistrust between the two parties, and also the pan-democrats lost moral ground during the Umbrella Movement that it's hard to see how the they will win back the public's support.

Things are so divisive that the chances of finding middle ground seem too remote...

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