HISTORY HAS PLAYED a unique and significant role in Chinese culture. It’s not only a collection of chronological events or a summary of wars, rulers and dynasties — it embodies traditional values and ethics. More importantly, Chinese people emphasize that history has some kind of “periodic cycles” and rulers should learn lessons from history on how a dynasty rose and fell. As a Tang emperor once said, history is like a “mirror” on which emperors could reflect their own governance.
Emperors or dynasties will be overthrown and replaced by others if they do not serve the fundamental interests of all people.
In this respect, the significance of the recently adopted historic resolution on the experience of the Communist Party of China over the past century should not be underestimated.
RELEVANT TO HONG KONG
What interests me the most in the resolution is the discussion of the concept, content and practices of democracy and many of which are also relevant to Hong Kong.
Democracy has been the keyword or buzzword for centuries around the world. People fought and killed each other because of it and, in modern times, people took part in various elections in order to achieve it.
According to the resolution, China is to develop “whole-process people’s democracy” which places greater emphasis on how politicians deliver their policies and promises than the election process itself. The essence of the “whole-process people’s democracy” is that people are at the center of governance.
It has greater authenticity, along with the exemplary political mechanism that involves extensive deliberations, discussions and consultations before each important decision is made in China. It has fostered diverse consultation at the community level and people’s opinions can be conveyed to the top legislature and executive organs.
While Hong Kong is practicing “one country, two systems”, there are elements of “whole-process democracy” that are revealing and applicable to Hong Kong, particularly the procedures and outcomes of electoral democracy. In the past decades, people in Hong Kong have been working to realize universal suffrage and “one-person-one-vote” is seen by many as the ultimate goal of any political system. For them, progress in our electoral system is measured only by the proportion of directly-elected seats returned by geographical constituencies.
INTEGRATION LARGELY IGNORED
Unfortunately, we have spent too much time debating on our electoral system and much more important issues, such as economic growth, upward social mobility and integration with the Chinese mainland, have largely been ignored.
Hong Kong’s improved electoral system introduced this year is aimed at rectifying many of the defects rooted in some myths of Western democracy. Western notions of democracy, which focuses mainly on periodic elections and change of ruling parties and leaders, have proved to be seriously flawed. It serves more to divide than to unite societies with fragmented and even conflicting values, interests and religious beliefs.
More importantly, Hong Kong’s new electoral system embodies the original intent of the design of our political system: executive-led, coordination between the executive branch and the legislature and, more importantly, balanced participation among all sectors. These important guiding principles for the drafting of our Basic Law are upheld in the new system.
NEW YOUNG FACES
I am pleased to see that under the principle of “patriots administering Hong Kong”, a large number of new and young faces are running in the coming Legislative Council election, including aspirants in geographical constituencies and functional constituencies, as well as those to be returned by members of the Election Committee.
Qualified contenders also include those from national associations or groups which represent Hong Kong people living on the mainland, reflecting the recent trends of more and more Hong Kong people working or living across the border.
We look forward to healthy competition among candidates and more debates on policy preferences, good governance and in tackling the city’s deep-seated problems.
MANY FORMS OF DEMOCRACY
Democracy takes in many forms, and its merits and demerits can only be judged by its own people. In many democratic countries, once the elections are over, voters are left out in the cold. If voters are awakened only for casting ballots but enter a dormant period after that, or if they’re merely favored by political celebrities during the election campaign, such democracy is not genuine.
What’s even worse is that such elections can easily be marred by political donations, biased media and polls, and turned into a race of manipulation, disinformation and trickery.
“Whole-process democracy” emphasizes both the process and outcome, and the supervision of the governance is exercised by all sectors at all times — not only during the elections. Its guiding principle is people-centric governance and people-centric development.
These important concepts are relevant to Hong Kong’s current situation. Many of our deep-seated problems, which are common in other modern cities in the world, including high income disparity, soaring home prices and lack of upward social mobility for young people, can be more easily tackled if the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government firmly embraces the people-centric governance philosophy.
Dr Henry Ho is the founder and chairman of One Country Two Systems Youth Forum.
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