I apologize in advance for the digression from fiction and literature. In light of the current Umbrella Revolution in which Hong Kong people occupy the streets to protest Beijing’s renunciation on its promise on universal suffrage, I seek out The Basic Law of Hong Kong.
Hong Kong Basic Law Article 45 is a controversial article in the Basic Law (constitution) of Hong Kong. It states that the Chief Executive should be chosen by universal suffrage as an eventual goal. However, the requirements for choosing the Chief Executive as per Article 45 are ambiguous:
1. 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.
2. 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.
“A broadly representative nominating committee” means not every Hong Konger gets to vote. How does that make universal suffrage? The Umbrella Revolution is a result of a decision by senior Chinese leadership to set out clear limits on who can run for the position of chief executive, Hong Kong’s top leader, in 2017. The rules make it virtually impossible for anyone not trusted by the Chinese government to stand for election.
It is Beijing’s conservative interpretation of Point #2 above that has brought tens of thousands of protesters onto the streets. According to the rules announced at the end of August by the Standing Committee of China’s parliament, candidates for chief executive must gain the support of a majority of a nominating committee, meaning, there can be only two to three candidates. The people on the streets are asking for the right to nominate. Universal suffrage, under the international covenant, means that there are express rights to elect or be elected. There is no express right to nominate.