Hong Kong is scheduled to have a direct election in 2017, but the chairman of China’s National People’s Congress (hereafter NPC) Zhang Dejiang has cautioned against being too democratic. After the annual NPC meeting in Beijing, several delegates quoted Zheng’s worries about the new move in government and whether it was a good fit for Hong Kong. As Radio Free Asia reports, delegate Ma Fung-kwok quoted the chairman in this summary of his thoughts, “You can’t just import [electoral systems] or copy foreign countries, or else it may not be a good fit with the local environment and easily enter a democratic trap…” The chairman of NPC also counseled Hong Kong that adopting too many Western election habits “could bring disastrous results.”
Zhang has emphasized that Hong Kong must keep “love of country” as the top priority at all times, meaning the polls must reflect that love as well. In order to ensure this, all Presidential candidates must be approved by a nominating committee. Reuters has estimated that the committee will be dominated by pro-Beijing loyalists, making it questionable as to whether or not opposing democratic nominees will be allowed to run.
However, loyalists are starting to receive significant backlash from Hong Kong’s pro-democracy advocates. There have been threats to shut off the business district and instigate a kind of “Occupy Central” to voice their displeasure against China’s “fake democracy.” While there is doubt that these protests will do anything to change the proposed democratic process, outcries over the Google blocks a few years ago certainly swayed Chinese government officials.
Defenders of Zhang and other chairmen ensure that this kind of democratic election will be what is best for Hong Kong and China. In order for a democratic process to work in Hong Kong, the laws must conform to the local expectations, otherwise the city will fall into a democratic trap. However, the NPC has failed to announce exactly what this trap would do or what the supposed dangerous results of more Western-influenced voting may be.
Throughout the next three years Hong Kong will be playing a tug of war between its people and its government. Hopefully by election season there will be more of an understanding between the people and the rulers.