Hong Kong’s demand for genuine democratic reform is still served in debates by the central government, democratic groups, the academe and other stakeholders. Amidst extreme clamor from Hong Kong’s public, the Central Government Adviser on Hong Kong expressed rejection over public nomination for the Chief Executive post in 2017. According to a state researcher, Beijing’s proposal to limit public to non-binding recommendations for the upcoming election depends on what the central government will allow. However, allowing any measure of democratic action from the public might open for a compromising step on Beijing’s political stability. If then granted, crippling Beijing’s political move and even further damage its relationship with the pseudo-democratic city. Its stand over the issue of dismissing electoral reform would mean concession at some point. Thus, providing affirmation to an urgent need to a more democratic selection of its leaders.
Consistently, Beijing argues that allowing public nomination and granting universal suffrage are against the fundamental principles of the Basic Law. There are emerging proposals, however, in order to solve the conflict or at least satisfy the clamor for electoral reform – the creation of a small committee solely granted with the authority of nominating candidates through the process of one man, one vote system. At one point, this proposal can be considered since factions among various stakeholders are still in play. Notably, however, this type of system would open the gates of doubt and corruption as this might further forward Beijing’s interests.
In retrospect, last July 1st, over thousand of pro-democratic protesters rallied in the streets of Hong Kong eagerly demanding for universal suffrage. Pan-democrats have called for a public nomination defined that anyone who can secure a certain number of nomination should then be declared a candidate.
Ironically, Dong Likun, a senior research fellow of the Institute of Hong Kong and Macau Affairs emphasized that the elected Chief Executive must possess patriotism and the love for country. In a reasonable contrarian perspective, these characterization and qualification open the floor for debates. Now we question, how does one qualify leadership and service? Leadership in general is never about possessing superficial characteristics, but the assurance of service with tangible results and output. Furthermore, putting it in a more democratized statement, public service is not about the measurement of patriotism but to hold responsibility and accountability over your people. The idea of love for country is universal – that is why other democratic nations allow its citizens to run for public office as provided by law. The difference, however, is that Beijing defines patriotism as not being anti-central government.
Costly Election. According to the state’s local think tank, allowing voters to put forward the names of chief executive candidates will be costly and hard to execute on its own. In a research conducted by the Policy Research Institute, two of five countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development that have a president and score higher than Hong Kong on the Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2012 democracy index – countries that do not permit public nomination are Mexico and France. Other countries like, the United States, South Korea and Chile allow run dual-track systems allowing party and public nomination.
The institute has supplemented its study with the case of James Soong Chu-yu, that no candidate nominated in this system had so far won the electoral race. It should be noted that he ran through public nomination twice under People First Party but unfortunately failed to win both electoral cycles. He spent more or less HK$3.5 million to secure almost 520,000 petitions, costing HK$6 each petition.
Other countries, like the United States of America and the Philippines require large amount of funding to run a political campaign if you speak in reality which should not be the case. National Taiwan University political scientist Wang Yeh-lih stated that it is indeed important to have public nomination to ensure small parties or people without party affiliations to enter the race. However, it is not early for aspirants to be nominated due to limitations of financial resources.
In addition, public nomination of presidential candidates in the United States, presidential aspirants are nominated by political parties or by a certain number of registered voters, but varies among states; in Chile nominated by political parties or at least 0.5 percent of voters who cast a ballot in the previous parliamentary election; while in South Korea nominated by political parties or at least 3,500 nominations from registered voters. However, in France, candidates need 500 nominations from elected officials or mayor and in Mexico candidates can be nominated only by political parties.
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