Friday, 25 July 2014

Bridging the gap with calm dialogue

[Article by Ken Davies in China Daily Hong Kong Edition on 25 July 2014]

Opinion on how to nominate the next Chief Executive (CE) candidates of the Hong Kong SAR in 2017 is deeply divided, with much name-calling and emotion clouding the issue. What is now needed is calm dialogue to find common ground so a consensus can develop around a workable, broadly acceptable solution.


The "pan-democrats" can not ignore Hong Kong's geopolitical location. The SAR is indisputably a part of China. The Basic Law stipulates that the method of selecting the CE must be reported for approval to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress after endorsement by a two-thirds majority of Hong Kong's Legislative Council and the consent of the current CE. So central government leaders have to be happy with whatever arrangement is produced, or it won't happen.
Bridging the gap with calm dialogue
At the same time, those leaders can not ignore a poll (even if they view it as being illegal and invalid) in which over a fifth of registered voters showed their wish for public nomination of candidates. More fundamentally, the fears of a significant proportion of the population of an erosion of freedom and the rule of law need to be honestly addressed -- not brushed aside.

If this chasm is not bridged, there will be an increased risk of instability. There is ample scope for the "Occupy Central" movement, and maybe other groups, to engage in protests whose outcome is not easy to predict with certainty. So far, the police have shown decency and restraint, but they might find this difficult to maintain should demonstrations escalate and they face increased pressure to contain disruption.