Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Behold, a voice crying out in the wilderness!

I sometimes wonder if I am the reincarnation of John the Baptist when it comes to Hong Kong politics. I don't normally believe in reincarnation but, when it comes to local politics here in Hong Kong I certainly know how old locust breath felt. He had a rough time of it until Herod Antipas beheaded him. It is tough to preach to a stubborn and recalcitrant generation who resist doing the hard work of making straight the way for the Lord, or in this case resist making the hard political decisions that would lead to a better Hong Kong.

The issue of Universal Suffrage here in "The Pearl of the Orient" is a good example. I can't believe that I am the only one who notices that there is a problem in the way various members of the political zoo are braying, roaring and barking. The local politicians are using the term "Universal Suffrage" wrong. To be fair, both the pro-government and pro-democracy camps are missing the point. But then they were all educated by the colonial government to follow instructions and repress any independent thought so maybe that is to be expected.

Here is the deal. We already have Universal Suffrage. For those offices for which we are allowed to vote everyone who meets the qualifications to vote can vote. The vote is not coerced or corrupted. Elections are honest and fair in Hong Kong. Indeed, in Hong Kong the requirements to vote are in some ways quite lenient. Permanent residents who are not citizens can vote in district council elections. You don't see that in many places. What the two sides are really arguing over is not Universal Suffrage but which offices in the government are elected and which are appointed. This is a worthy topic for political discussion but it isn't Universal Suffrage. Rather it is the scope of Universal Suffrage. Granted, some of this is the fault of the lowest common denominator newspapers. Reporters are the dumbest of the dumb except in Hong Kong where they are dumber. It could be that the politicians have it right and it is being reported wrong. I don't think that is the case.

This is not a trivial point because since the two sides have the question framed wrong they cannot be expected to ever solve the problem satisfactorily.

Most nations with a representative government have some high governmental offices that are appointed rather than elected. Supreme Court Justices are appointed in the US and serve for LIFE. The house of Lords in the former UK (Now the EU province of England)are not elected. Yet, people do not say that those countries do not have Universal Suffrage. Rather than shouting about Universal Suffrage in front of microphones and making silly threats or throwing cardboard microwaves, what the two sides here need to do is sit down and discuss which offices SHOULD be elected, which MUST be elected and which should NOT or MUST Not be elected. Then, they need to come up with a procedure to appoint those offices that are not elected that allows the population to see that the appointments are just and reasonable.

I feel like John the Baptist, standing in my camel hair robe, rough sandals and leather belt lifting my voice and crying from the wilderness: "Why must the CE be directly elected?" If Gordon Brown was not directly elected to the office of PM the HKCE needn't be either.

Instead of threatening to quit maybe the pan-democrats should ask "Do we need a directly elected CE?" Is it possible that an indirectly elected CE would serve as well? Honestly, I have more problems with the functional constituencies and endless appointed Secretaries of bric-abrac than I do with the CE. How about letting the Central government simply appoint the CE but Legco has to approve any ministers, Secretaries or Czars he/she/it/they appoint?

How about a legco that can override the CE in a meaningful way?

How about removing de facto lawmaking powers from bureaucratic flunkies who are not elected?

I think that the proposal submitted by the CE office for political reform in Hong Kong is a good place to start. It may not be where you finish but it may be a good place to start. It expands the pool of people who select the CE. It makes the body more representative of the population and is generally a step in the right direction. Take the government's proposal as a starting point.

Admit it is an improvement if only a small one and go from there.

Here is a question for the pro-democrats:
Long hair Leung was directly elected, would he be a better CE than THBT? Or, could and SHOULD some governmental body protect us from ourselves, at least a little bit? Would Albert Ho or Emily Lau actually have less problem with the governmental policy if Long Hair were elected CE of Hong Kong? Would they honestly believe that he wouldn't be worse than THBT? If the CE is directly elected then that possibility exist. We may think that THBT is a bumbler but at least he understands the job, is able to mollify the central government and keep the PLA tanks from rolling down the street.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who has a sudden craving for wild honey

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