Democracy groups running unofficial polls on the future of electoral reform in Hong Kong and Macau have the Chinese Communist Party up in arms but so far not armed. The Macau poll held on Sunday, August 24 was shut down by local authorities and four organisers arrested, Beijing called the vote “illegal and invalid”.
The Special Administrative Regions, former colonies of Britain and Portugal, elect a governing body with an odd franchise in both territories which allow for some directly elected members, some elected by “functional constituencies” such as the professions, business groups and community groups, and others appointed by the chief executive of the region.
The Legislative Council in Hong Kong and the Legislative Assembly in Macau govern their respective SAR, with Beijing responsible for defence and foreign affairs but not policing – though increasingly they are making their presence felt on the street.
Under the “one country, two systems” arrangement agreed between Britain and China, in Hong Kong universal suffrage will be allowed at the next Legislative Council elections in 2017 and democrats are agitating for a directly elected leader of the government from a list of candidates chosen by the people, rather than Beijing. But according to Standing Politburo Committee member Zhang Dejiang the white paper released by Beijing on the future of Hong Kong, one of the chief reasons for conflict, is not the end of reform – and this could well go the other way than Britain had originally intended. The Chinese regime under Xi Jinping has given not the slightest hint it is interested in political reform.
The South China Morning Post has followed both processes closely, in the lead up to the referendum in Hong Kong in June and the results, such as this piece by Michael Chugani, Referendum versus white paper can only result in zero reform.
The BBC asked Why did Hong Kong hold unofficial democracy referendum after it was widely reported almost 25% of Hong Kong citizens voted in the poll, which the New York Times says bolsters the democracy movement.
This is certainly giving the Chinese Communist Party a taste of civil disobedience beyond its control, at least so far. An op-ed in today’s Global Times, an English language news service in Beijing, goes so far as to say “The opposition camp in Hong Kong embraces some unrealistic illusions that must be knocked out. A number of extremists must pay for their illegal confrontational behavior, which should serve as the basic logic for Hong Kong society. ”
This morning the SCMP reported:
Macau authorities have stepped up their crackdown on democracy activists operating an unofficial “referendum” on the upcoming chief executive election, placing a core leader under judicial investigation yesterday.
But the allegation that the poll organisers had breached personal data laws is in question, with a legal scholar saying it is “hard to justify” the detentions on those grounds.
The authorities’ latest move came after police shut down all five of the poll’s physical voting stations and detained then released four organisers within hours of the referendum’s launch on Sunday.
Jason Chao Teng-hei – leader of the Open Macau Society, which is organising the poll with Macau Conscience and Macau Youth Dynamics – was accused of failing to comply with a government order to stop the referendum. Chao said the order was illegal.
His case was transferred to the public prosecutions office, part of Macau’s judicial system, and he is required to make an application if he needs to leave Macau for longer than five days. Read more…