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2014年9月 5日 (金)

香港長官選挙 自治を形骸化する民主派排除

The Yomiuri Shimbun
China’s action against pro-democracy groups scuttling Hong Kong autonomy
香港長官選挙 自治を形骸化する民主派排除

There is reason to believe Hong Kong’s “high degree of autonomy” is on the wane.

China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee has decided to reform the electoral system for choosing the chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, a move that sets the stage for changes in the former British colony’s next leadership election in 2017.

Hong Kong’s chief executives have been chosen through an indirect election by a committee of 1,200 representatives from various sectors. Pro-China representatives account for a majority of representatives on the electoral commission, making it virtually impossible for any pro-democracy candidate to be elected chief executive.

The NPC’s latest decision has ruled that the special administrative region’s leader would be chosen through a popular election, that is, a direct vote by Hong Kong residents. The decision has been made under the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, which serves as the territory’s constitution.

However, the decision made by the legislature’s powerful Standing Committee will be combined with a plan to create a special nominating committee that would largely comprise pro-China members, requiring all candidates for chief executive to receive support from more than half of the body before being allowed to run for office.

This means anyone critical of the Chinese Communist Party would be barred from running in Hong Kong’s leadership election. The NPC showed through its latest decision a virtually total disregard for calls by Hong Kong pro-democracy groups for significantly relaxing requirements for candidacy.

Choosing the Hong Kong leader under such rules does not deserve to be called a popular election at all.

Following the electoral reform decision, Hong Kong’s Legislative Council will take specific measures to revise and create relevant legislation, including a bill aimed at introducing a popular election system. However, the legislature has no authority to overturn the NPC’s decision.

If Hong Kong lawmakers vote against the popular election bill, it means the current indirect election system will remain in place. All this clearly shows that the NPC’s decision is an attempt by Chinese President Xi Jinping to prevent the election of a pro-democracy candidate as Hong Kong chief executive.

Economic driving force

When the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997, China established the special administrative region’s basic law under a policy of “one country, two systems,” pledging to grant Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy. China’s move was intended to maintain the former colony’s capitalist economic system, supported by foreign corporations, so it could use Hong Kong’s economy as a driving force behind its own economic growth.

In a sense, the latest election system reform was supposed to serve as a litmus test regarding the fate of Hong Kong’s self-rule.

However, the Chinese leadership’s decision fails to advance Hong Kong’s autonomy. The latest move is virtually tantamount to declaring Hong Kong’s true ruler is the Communist Party in Beijing.

The Chinese leadership’s inflexible stance seems to indicate its fears that any progress in advancing the former colony’s autonomy would allow the international community to significantly affect the region’s fate, a development that could make it difficult for China to control the territory.

China’s attempt to rigidly control Hong Kong politically has been evident in many respects recently — not only its electoral system reform decision. In January, the chief editor of a leading Hong Kong newspaper critical of Beijing was abruptly dismissed. More than 500 Hong Kong residents were detained after attending a street demonstration in July.

Beijing’s high-handed approach is adding to the anger and frustration felt by Hong Kong residents nowadays. Pro-democracy groups are poised to occupy Hong Kong’s Central District, its main business quarter, to protest the NPC’s decision.

If that actually takes place, it could create turmoil not only in the Hong Kong economy but in Asia’s as a whole. China should understand that it would be hardest hit.

For its part, Japan needs to closely watch Hong Kong as the situation could deteriorate.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 3, 2014)Speech


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