Democracy is popularly referred to be the rule of, by and for the people where the masses elect their representatives to organize and manage their affairs. It is widely yearned for by virtue of its welfare nature as it advocates the rule purely by and for the people. It stands for a responsible government. It advocates liberty, freedom, equality and better service delivery among others which is why it is desired for. These are the reasons by dint of which it holds a key position in the international political system.
Notwithstanding all this, democracy is yet to flourish properly across the world as there are places where it still struggles with its full-fledged installation among which Hong Kong is one. Hong Kong works as a special administrative territory of China since 1997 when it was handed over to it by the British. China kept assuring Hong Kong of continuing the status quo– mostly the capitalist-cum-democratic system as functioned under its former master, the British. But, it was not properly permitted to let its own system be unbridled.
Rather, China introduced a so-called democratic system under the mantra of one country two systems where Hong Kong was largely kept off exercising its sole powers and rights. The nature, composition, elections and functions of Hong Kong’s executive and legislature are befooling the democratic principles. Hong Kong’s democracy is just doing nothing other than maligning the democracy itself.
Historical Account of Hong Kong
China fought against the British in the First Opium War in 1842 and was defeated at the hand of the British. Hong Kong along with some other territories were occupied by the British. British introduced its own politico-economic system in its captured areas. Thus, Hong Kong breathed under the British-brought system for a long time.
Years back, the territory of Hong Kong was handed over to China. It happened in 1997 when the British formally handed over the governing responsibility of Hong Kong to China for the next fifty years. On this varied occasion, Beijing assured Hong Kong of granting full freedom and independence in certain matters which remained unfulfilled to a greater extent till now.
Hong Kong and the Plight of Democracy
As has been mentioned above Hong Kong was assured of having its own system by China, it is yet to have all of that. Hong Kong is, still, eagerly looking for the full-fledged installation of democracy as the plight of democracy it possesses is badly feeble. The post of the Chief Executive is occupied by the man selected by a Beijing-backed election committee from amongst the list shortlisted by China. Therefore, the Hong Kongers have very little role in electing their Chief Executive. As the Chief Executive is not elected by the people, he would not be bothered very much about the welfare of people to a larger extent.
Similarly, the Hong Kong Legislative Council shows a tattered picture of democratic ideals as it consists of seventy members of which only twenty are directly elected by people whereas the rest of the members are chosen by industrialists and professionals which are largely pro-establishment. As it is as clear as day that democracy advocates universal suffrage, Hong Kong is denied here over-exercising this very right as the electorates are just granted the right to vote merely for twenty members out of the total number of members.
Likewise, the political landscape of Hong Kong is largely occupied by pro-democrats and pro-establishment. The pan-democratic uproar is largely oppressed and most of the pan-democrats are exiled and put behind the bars. As it is a widely held trait of democracy to allow freedom of expression, Hong Kongers are deprived of this very right. The protesters against the undemocratic initiatives like the Extradition Bill were coercively dealt with. Similarly, those who are up-in-arms for the installation of democracy in its real sense are repeatedly coerced, exiled, arrested and oppressed. All these are denied and detested by democracy.
Beijing-led Initiatives hampering the democratic growth in Hong Kong
Notwithstanding the assurance Beijing extended to Hong Kong about the existence and continuation of the prevailing politico-economic order, China kept putting forward a number of measures with the passage of time aiming at diluting the role of the Hong Kong’s system and installing and promoting the Chinese-led political-cum-economic order. In the wake of this, China introduced its National Security Law in 2003, with an intention to curb treason against and secession from the mainland–China.
Following the same tendency, it further brought another initiative into force in the form of various amendments to Hong Kong’s curricula which aimed at penetrating and spreading the Chinese national identity at the cost of the dilution of that of Hong Kong’s one. Moreover, China hoodwinked the Hong Kongers by extending universal suffrage to them just in the election of the city chief in 2014. Furthermore, the introduction of the Extradition Bill in 2019, brought hundreds of thousands of Hong Kongers to record protest against the said undemocratic initiative brought in force by Beijing which stood for the extradition of culprits to the mainland–China.
This was totally unjust and undemocratic as it must have been the right of the authority of the concerned country to punish a man involved in illegal activities in that varied country. But, unfortunately, Hong Kong was kept away from exercising such power. Similarly, China enforced its National Security Law in 2020, which declared treason, secession, terrorism and collusions punishable acts and stressed upon the measures to subvert all of them. China kept its force at the border with Hong Kong to intervene at the time of occurrence of undesirable events inside Hong Kong. Likewise, Beijing influenced the judicial system of Hong Kong. As all these are anti-democratic practices, Hong Kong is portraying a dismaying picture of democracy.
While squeezing the discussion in a bottle, it is opined that despite the claims and assurance of China to ensure freedom and independence to Hong Kong in a number of matters, the special administrative region–Hong Kong– is yet to enjoy the operation and function of democracy in a real sense. The centrally controlled and the so-called institutions of Chief Executive and Hong Kong’s Legislative Council whose appointment and elections are not made purely by the public. Hong Kong does not enjoy the right to universal suffrage.
The polarized political fabric of Hong Kong is aggravating the undemocratic culture as the pan-democratic outfit is massively mistreated, coerced and exiled. The long historical archive of the Beijing-led initiatives has weakened the democratic footprints in Hong Kong. All this unveils that the democracy of Hong Kong is per se befooling democracy in letter and spirit as democracy in the name is doing nothing other than mocking itself.
The writer has done his Master of Arts in English Literature and Linguistics from NUML Islamabad. He can be reached at abdulsamadkhanbannu22@gmail.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.