Hong Kong – 10 Years On: Rule Of Law Still Applies, But Democracy Has Not Yet Arrived – Chris Patten

From Global Viewpoint:

Several years ago, Samuel Finer, a distinguished professor of politics at Oxford, wrote a three-volume history of government. He set out to describe every form of government that has ever been. There was one short chapter on societies that were liberal but not democratic. The only example he could think of was Hong Kong.

When I left Hong Kong 10 years ago, we were in the throes of introducing democracy in the territory. We were late in doing so. But what we set out to do was to give the citizens of Hong Kong what they had been promised in the agreement on the city’s handover to China, known as the Joint Declaration. It was also a development that was specifically allowed for in the Basic Law, Beijing’s constitution for Hong Kong.

Alas, this has not happened. Democratic development in Hong Kong has been blocked by Beijing. It has also intervened twice in the judicial process in Hong Kong. But otherwise, it is fair to say that Deng Xiaoping’s principle of “one country, two systems” has been upheld. Hong Kong remains an open society living under the rule of law ” within China. [Full Text]

Chris Patten, chancellor of Oxford University and the former EU commissioner for foreign affairs, was the last British governor of Hong Kong. Click here to listen to RTHK’s interview with Chris Patten. Read also Donald Tsang’s speech at Seminar in Commemoration of the 10th Anniversary of the Implementation of the Basic Law:

… The Basic Law gives Hong Kong people unprecedented democratic rights. Since reunification, the Chief Executive has been elected by the Election Committee. The result of the third Chief Executive Election echoes that of the polls conducted by various universities. This demonstrates that the Election Committee is indeed broadly representative and can fully reflect community preference. In respect of the legislature, the number of directly elected seats has increased from one-third in the first term to half in the third term.

According to the design laid down in the Basic Law, the political system in Hong Kong is executive-led and headed by the Chief Executive. The Executive Authorities and the Legislature are constituted through different means. There are no concomitant and necessary correlation between the political background of the Chief Executive, the Principal Officials and Members of the Legislative Council. Therefore, it cannot be taken for granted that we would gain support from the Legislative Council on government policies, legislation and the budget. Unlike Governors before the reunification, the Chief Executive cannot appoint any Members to the Legislative Council. This is a fundamental change to the political and constitutional arrangements.

Overall, since reunification, the Executive Authorities have had the support of the Legislative Council. Most of the bills and appropriation bills proposed by the Executive Authorities were passed by the Legislative Council. However, we do face challenges. In promoting democratic development in Hong Kong, we have to bridge political differences in the community so as to facilitate the emergence of a political mainstream. To further the development of Hong Kong’s political system while ensuring full implementation of “One Country, Two Systems” and an “executive-led” system, we must, under the Basic Law framework, unite the political forces of the Executive Authorities and the Legislature so that they will become the political mainstream. As we take forward Hong Kong’s constitutional development towards the ultimate aim of universal suffrage, we have to create favourable conditions for the sustained development and progressive consolidation of this political mainstream. This requires much wisdom, courage and forbearance. We have to exert our utmost to help foster a community consensus on constitutional development and change the confrontational political ecology that polarises the people of Hong Kong. This is a monumental task requiring an attitudinal change on the part of both the Administration and the political parties. [Full Text]

June 21, 2007, 2:52 AM
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Categories: Hong Kong, Politics