October 28, 2014

CHINA: Hong Kong’s Pro-Democracy Protesters Not Going Home Unless There Are Concessions On Elections, Says Former Government Official

The Wall Street Journal, China Real-Time
written by Ned Levin
Friday October 24, 2014

“Time to go home,” former Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa told pro-democracy protesters today. But his former deputy thinks demonstrators won’t clear the streets unless there are concessions on elections.

The students “haven’t continued this for 20-odd days only to retreat with nothing in hand,” said Anson Chan, who served as Hong Kong chief secretary between 1993 and 2001, working under both the last British-appointed governor and the first Chinese-appointed chief executive. Ms. Chan, a prominent democracy advocate in the Chinese territory, supports the student protesters in part because she feels like more moderate proponents have been ignored by the government.

The protests will last “until the government puts some concrete proposals on the negotiating table,” Ms. Chan told China Real Time. “And it isn’t as if it doesn’t have room to maneuver.”

For example, Ms. Chan said, the government could raise the representativeness of the 1200-person largely pro-Beijing committee which nominates candidates for Hong Kong’s chief executive. Protesters want Hong Kong citizens to be able to directly nominate candidates in 2017 elections without pre-screening by Beijing.

Ms. Chan watched the start of the protests from afar—she was in the U.K., in part for the opening of an exhibition of the paintings of her mother, a noted Chinese painter, at Oxford’s Ashmolean museum. She says she’s been struck by the restraint and discipline of the student protesters.

Student leaders were “the clear winners” of a Tuesday dialogue with government officials, Ms. Chan said. “Right is on their side, they spoke from the heart, they made reasoned arguments, and their demands were very reasonable,” she said. The same can’t be said for the government officials, who insisted that they couldn’t ask Beijing to revoke a ruling limiting election reforms. “I doubt that [the officials] who spoke–and I know these people–actually believed what they were saying,” Ms. Chan said.

Ms. Chan is still angry about the consultation process which culminated in Beijing’s rigid ruling. A report which Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying submitted to Beijing on reforms was “a dishonest, disingenuous document,” Ms. Chan said. “The entire report so distorts public sentiment.”

During the consultation period, Ms. Chan’s think tank submitted reform proposals to the government which sought to fit within the framework of the Basic Law, which stipulates that chief executive candidates be nominated by a “broadly representative” committee. Her suggestions were ignored.

“Can you blame any of us for feeling very angry? You treat us as if we are idiots,” Ms. Chan said.

Ms. Chan places faith in the students’ willingness to make a deal. “They themselves don’t want to see this prolonged. They want a platform. It’s up to the government to provide this platform. And I don’t think the students will be unreasonable,” said Ms. Chan.

No comments: