Beijing's plan to bring its version of “democracy” to Hong Kong hit a snag when an electoral reform bill was vetoed on June 18 in the city's legislature — because of its own supporters’ failed walk-out.
A total of 28 legislators voted against the while, while eight voted in favor. Thirty-one pro-establishment lawmakers were absent — they had left the building just before, intending to delay the vote to wait for the arrival of their member Lau Wong-fat.
According to the city's Basic Law, any constitutional reform has to be approved by two-thirds of lawmakers, no matter if they are directly elected by the people or represent special or professional interests (known as functional constituencies). As the majority of pro-establishment legislators failed to cast their vote, even if all 28 pan-democrats voted in favor of the bill, it would still have been vetoed.
The reform proposed allowing the people of Hong Kong, a special administrative region with much autonomy from China, a direct vote for the city's chief executive instead of the current election-by-committee model. But China insisted that all candidates get majority support from a nominating committee stacked with pro-Beijing members before being allowed on the ballot. Discontent over this universal suffrage with a caveat sparked massive protests late last year, called Occupy Central and dubbed in the media the Umbrella Revolution.
The stunning veto was followed by infighting among pro-establishment lawmakers and strongly worded warnings from pro-Beijing media. The 31 lawmakers who walked out one by one shed tears in front of the cameras, apologizing to their supporters for their wrong judgement.
News outlet Wen Hui Bao urged Hong Kongers on popular Chinese social media platform Sina Weibo to kick democrats out of the legislature; otherwise, it warned the principle of “one country, two systems,” which gives Hong Kong its autonomy, could be in jeopardy:
【政改否决后 香港将会是……】未来10年，港府不会重启政改，普选遥遥无期。深圳GDP将超越香港，中央极可能会考虑2047年结束香港高度自治，并入深圳，由中央管辖。 港人唯一可以补救方法，就是“毋忘618‘泛民’抢走我一票”到明年立法会选举，运用手上选票，将泛民议员踢出议会!
After electoral reform vetoed, Hong Kong will become… …: Hong Kong's government will not put forward another political reform proposal in the next 10 years. There is no timetable for universal suffrage. [The neighboring Chinese city] Shenzhen's GDP will surpass Hong Kong, the central government may consider putting an end to Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy by 2047 and merging Hong Kong with Shenzhen, directly under the administration of the central government. The only thing Hong Kong people can do is to remember during the Legislative Council elections next year that [their voting right] was robbed by the pan-democrats on 18 June. Use your votes to kick them out of the council.
The year 2047 marks 50 years since the handover of former British colony Hong Kong to Beijing and the implementation of the city's governing Basic Law, which ensures many freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland. The agreement between the UK and China stated that Hong Kong's way of life should remain unchanged for 50 years; what will happen to Hong Kong afterward is unknown.
Indeed, the 2016 “Legco” elections are the next battlefield for Hong Kong's democracy movement. If the pan-democrats keep their seats in the legislature, it will imply that a critical number of Hong Kongers still hold out hope for a genuine democratic political system.
Judging by the comments in the news thread, many took Wen Hui Bao's statement as a political threat:
No wonder Hong Kong people feel so resentful. Add oil. Don't become like Beijing, where village guards bully and pollute the city.
So many people are criticizing [the veto] without knowing what exactly happened. […] Hong Kong has done nothing wrong, the result is a manifestation of democracy. They just want to prevent Hong Kong from becoming like mainland China, full of corruption.
Now talking about 2047, I wonder if the thugs will still be alive by then.
Wen Hui Bao is like the Global Times in Hong Kong. I hope Hong Kong people won't be threatened. “Hong Kong merging with Shenzhen”, how can you say such a thing? If it really happens, the party will bear the shame, not the British colonizer, nor the Hong Kong people. The changes in Hong Kong take place when it is under China's sovereignty. Don't mess around.
Don't underestimate the Hong Kong people. You have already tried to threaten them to accept the fake universal suffrage and you failed. Listen to yourself, you use abolishing Hong Kong's autonomy to threaten people without reflecting on the reason behind your own failure — the fact that you don't respect the Hong Kong people's wish, you don't respect your own commitment to letting the Hong Kong people ruling themselves, you don't respect public opinion […]
A number of the pro-establishment lawmakers, including Reginal Ip, have blamed the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, a pro-Beijing political party, for taking the lead in staging the walk-out.
On the other hand, Wu Hon Ching, a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, blamed the Hong Kong government for its failure to present a concrete proposal to Beijing after the public consultation period, leaving the steering committee of China's National People's Congress to set up the framework for electoral reform.
As the mechanism of the chief executive election remain unchanged, the issue now at stake is whether current Chief Executive CY Leung will win reelection or another politician will take his place — the pro-Beijing and pro-establishment camps have majority votes in the election committee, so don't expect much diversity of ideas.
2047 is far away. Between now and then, do expect more political drama in Hong Kong.
Follow our in-depth coverage: Hong Kong's Umbrella Revolution