A good distillation of the Western perspective on the pro-Democracy protests underway in Hong Kong can be found today in an unsigned Gray Lady editorial, "China’s Crackdown in Hong Kong."
So far USG has been reticent to lecture China in the usual hectoring and hypocritical American fashion. No need to. The talking points can be disseminated through the Fourth Estate; and here the Gray Lady editorial board does the job.
First, the central falsity must be peddled: Beijing has reneged on its commitment to hold free and fair elections in Hong Kong by 2017 because candidates for chief executive must be screened for pre-approval by a PRC-friendly nominating committee:
If China had honored the political commitments it made before taking control of Hong Kong from Britain in 1997, it is likely there would be no protests in the city streets and no crackdown over the weekend by riot police using tear gas, pepper spray and batons against pro-democracy demonstrators.
Instead, the government in Beijing, ever fearful of its people, reneged on promises and allowed or ordered Hong Kong authorities to attack students and other citizens demanding democratic elections in Hong Kong. The pro-democracy protesters were so enraged that thousands defied a government call on Monday to abandon street blockades across the city. On Tuesday morning, tens of thousands, including many new recruits angered by the police actions, had again filled the city center.
. . . China also promised free elections for Hong Kong’s chief executive in 2017, but, late last month, China’s legislature called for limiting the candidates who would be allowed to run, among other restrictions. With the government insisting on controlling the nomination process, the protesters’ demand for fully democratic elections looked to be slipping away, so they took to the streets.Next, the editorial goes on to fire the other talking-points bullets found in the Western arsenal: 1) Chinese president Xi Jinping is a ruthless autocrat itching to bring a bloody Tianamen crackdown to the good folks of Occupy Central with Love and Peace (this is the entire focus of a story today by Ed Wong and Chris Buckley), and 2) such a crackdown would be devastating for corporate stability and would threaten the independence of Taiwan.
Peter Lee's story yesterday in Asia Times Online, "Beijing reaps bitter fruit in Hong Kong," directly refutes the whole "Beijing reneged on its commitment to full democracy" mantra. The PRC never imagined a situation where candidates to lead Hong Kong's government would not be vetted:
Selective memory has also found its way into reporting (or at least headline-writing) Occupy's claims that the current democracy movement was triggered by Beijing "reneging" on its promise of democracy for Hong Kong by scheduling universal suffrage for 2017, but insisting that only candidates vetted by the commission could run for office.
As far as I understand it, the commission set-up was integral to Beijing's foundational plan for Hong Kong. In other words, the PRC would commit to 50 years of free rein for business/society only if the direct democracy genie could be kept in the bottle by controlling the list of candidates eligible for office.
I also suspect that the PRC told the Thatcher government that, if the UK tried to belatedly introduce full direct democracy in Hong Kong prior to 1997 (as Chris Patten championed) and burden the PRC with the unpleasant task of rolling back a democratic status quo when it claimed sovereignty over the territory, that would be a trigger for the real Occupy Hong Kong - by China.
As noted above, Deng Xiaoping was the conceptual architect of the strategy to install a "kill switch" on Hong Kong democracy and balance Hong Kong's economic and social freedoms under the "one country two systems" formula with political control by keeping hostile administrators out of the Hong Kong political mix.
Here's what Deng Xiaoping said about the Hong Kong rule in 1984:
"Some requirements or qualifications should be established with regard to the administration of Hong Kong affairs by the people of Hong Kong. It must be required that patriots form the main body of administrators, that is, of the future government of the Hong Kong special region. Of course it should include other Chinese, too, as well as foreigners invited to serve as advisers. What is a patriot? A patriot is one who respects the Chinese nation, sincerely supports the motherland's resumption of sovereignty over Hong Kong and wishes not to impair Hong Kong's prosperity and stability. Those who meet these requirements are patriots, whether they believe in capitalism or feudalism or even slavery. We don't demand that they be in favour of China's socialist system; we only ask them to love the motherland and Hong Kong."
And here's how that intention was implemented in Article 45 of the Hong Kong Basic Law, which became the effective constitution of Hong Kong upon reversion in 1997:
"The Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall be selected by election or through consultations held locally and be appointed by the Central People's Government.
"The method for selecting the Chief Executive shall be specified in the light of the actual situation in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and in accordance with the principle of gradual and orderly progress. The ultimate aim is the selection of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures."
Clearly, the PRC's envisioned terminus (the "ultimate aim") of the democratic reform line is universal suffrage to vote for candidates put forth by a nominating committee, not universal suffrage in the nomination as well as election process, which is the Occupy Hong Kong movement's demand.
If the PRC government revised, promised to revise, or hinted it would revise this understanding to do away with its most important tool for controlling electoral politics in Hong Kong, the nominating committee, please let me know. Until then, I will regard the "China reneged/broke its democracy promise" line as a canard peddled to provide unnatural enhancement to the legitimacy of the Occupy movement.
"We don't like the Basic Law and want to overturn it after 17 years through street action" is, I suppose, a tougher sell than "China broke its promise" but, in my opinion, it's more honest.Of course the most obvious point in all of this is that we here in the United States, the "fountainhead of democracy," pre-screen candidates by select committee as well. These select committees are called either "Republican Party" or "Democratic Party." Concentrated wealth calls the shots for both.