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A left turn on a long road

Recent events point to a shift towards the left within the government of Hong Kong.  This may be seen as…

By Aaron Tam , in A Lighter Shade of Red: Hong Kong politics , on January 15, 2009

“Hong Kong people should not be misled into thinking that the question of the timetable and road-map for full democracy has been settled” - Albert Ho (above)

Recent events point to a shift towards the left within the government of Hong Kong.  This may be seen as a weakening of the pro-democracy camp by the year 2017.

A tsunami of Chinese national patriotism followed the protests in Tibet, the earthquake in Sichuan and the Olympic games in Beijing.

These events swept the country up in nationalistic fervour in the months prior to the September 2008 Legislative Council elections in Hong Kong.

Given the circumstances, it was predicted that the pro-democracy camp, made up of separate political parties and independent candidates, would fare poorly against Beijing supported politicians.

The democratic candidates faired better than expected in that election. Most importantly, they held on to the 21 seats in the legislature in order to retain their ability to block the government from revising the Basic Law of Hong Kong.

In total, democratic candidates who had 26 seats preceding the 2008 elections, won 24 seats out of the 60-seat legislature.  Public voting and business groups selected 19 of the 30 seats and labour unions chose 5 of the other 30.

The question now is, will they be able to maintain these 21 seats by the year 2017?

2017 is a year of great importance to the city.   Hong Kong residents were promised universal suffrage by 2017 and it now is up to the pro-democracy legislators to hold the line and to supervise the implementation of an extensive political reform for the years to come.

However, there is a catch.  “Whether it is 2012, 2017 and 2020, universal suffrage will still have to be supported by two-thirds of the incumbent legislators and consented by the Chief Executive” Albert Ho, chairman of the Hong Kong Democratic Party (HKDP) explained.

With Pro-democracy politicians now facing an increasingly pro-Beijing government, the battle for the guarantee of universal suffrage and a fair electoral system by 2017 just got more difficult.

“Hong Kong people should not be misled into thinking that the question of the timetable and road-map for full democracy has been settled,” Ho said.

One of the obstacles along the road-map for democratic politicians may be the appointment of Jasper Tsang, former chairman of the pro-Beijing political party, The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) as the President of the Legislative Council in October 2008. This is a clear sign that the shift towards an increasingly pro-Beijing government has been gaining momentum.

The September 2008 election was also marked by the decision of notable democrats such as Martin Lee, the founding chairman of the HKDP and Anson Chan, who served as Chief Secretary under both the British and Chinese to not run for the current legislature.  The two dropped out to make way for the next generation of pro-democracy politicians.

Both of them admitted that the next generation would have a difficult path towards a democratic Hong Kong.