Chinese Threat to Hong Kong’ Democracy

Synopsis:  The new electoral techniques represent the end of democracy in Hong Kong that was never truly democratic.


Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region of China. Recently the Hong Kong’s Chief Executive and members of its legislature were chosen in an undemocratic way. Adding to that, the Chinese government also made drastic changes to the process of choosing the Chief Executive and members of its legislature. This will further impact Hong Kong’s democracy.  

Functioning of Hong Kong’s democracy:
  • The term democracy does not denote the western type of democracy in Hong Kong. They follow ‘Democracy with Chinese characteristics.
  • Under this concept, democracy stands for more than electoral campaigns, voting, etc.
  • In Cantonese(a Sino-Tibetan language), These characters are called manzyu. Man means people and zyu means rule. In simple, People’s rule.
  • Manzyu suggests a system in which those who rule(zyu) have to listen and provide for the people(man).
  • Under this, Rulers can be more responsive in different ways. Such as listening to protest slogans, reading petitions, and engaging in dialogue with representatives of social groups, etc.
  • This makes Hong Kong a hybrid regime. It includes elements of liberal and illiberal institutions.
  •  Popular protests(Man) have earlier compelled officials(Zyu) to withdraw the public policies.
Power of People(Man) in Hong Kong: 

Local officials and opposition in Hong Kong often support the people(Man) to remove the unpopular proposals from the government(Zyu).

  • In 2003, China wanted the Hong Kong government to pass a law on national security and sedition. But the people(Man) protests made the proposal to withdraw from the government(zyu).
  • In 2012, the government tried to introduce Chinese mainland-style patriotic education into local schools. But the Man made Zyu to withdraw that too.
  • Earlier, Hong Kong citizens have forced one Chief Executive to step down before his term.

But the Future Hong Kong Chief Executive will not face such threat of removal by people(Man) protest. This is because of the new electoral rules. There is less political space for the creation of people(man) movements. 

Changes in new electoral rules of Hong Kong:

The new plan reduces the number of directly elected seats in the Legislative Council (Legco) from 35 to 20. 

  1. Firstly, 40 representatives will be chosen by the Election Committee of 1,500 members. They will select the Chief Executive.
  2. Secondly, The Hong Kong government will pre-screen the individuals who run for the seats in the legislature. They will judge if the person has sufficient patriotic credentials or not. 
  3. Thirdly, When the application is rejected based on patriotism grounds, the person cannot appeal the rejection in Hong Kong’s courts.
  4. Fourthly, the new rules also banned the protest marches. These were legal earlier and one of the foundational character of Manzyu.
  5. Fifthly, the popular television show, Headliner has discontinued under the new rules. The iconic show informed the Man(people) about the arbitrary policies of rulers(zyu). For example, it telecasted comic sketches on the policies of the colonial Governor and the Chief Executive policy during 1997. 
The conclusion 

All these steps indicate the arrival of a more authoritarian and less responsive era in Hong Kong. The citizens of Hong Kong will continue to find ways to voice resistance. But will have to do so in indirect ways. There is significant power contrast between the zyu in Hong Kong and the far more powerful rulers in Beijing.

Source: The Hindu

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