Benny Tai: “Pocket it first” may turn out to be “sit on it” or “that’s all”

Benny Tai’s statement on the anti-Occupy Central campaign’s incoherent messaging on universal suffrage and the Hong Kong’s government’s “pocket it first” ploy
Original published in Ming Pao on 9 August 2014: Read original 

The Anti-Occupy Central campaign, which has been gaining momentum, is directed against the “Occupy Central with Love and Peace” movement.  While the campaign claims to support universal suffrage, it has never specified what “universal suffrage” means.  On the face of it, the Anti-Occupy Central campaign aims to stop occupy Central from happening.  To OCLP, however, occupying Central is just a means to a 2017 Chief Executive electoral method that meets international standards and provides voters with a real choice.  In this light, the real purpose of the Anti-Occupy Central campaign is to stop OCLP from achieving universal suffrage through occupying Central.

“Universal suffrage” as meant by the Anti-Occupy Central campaign cannot be the same as the one demanded by OCLP.  Otherwise the whole campaign makes no sense at all.  Since the Anti-Occupy Central campaign cannot be asking for a universal suffrage that has a higher standard than what OCLP is asking for, it is very likely to be the one that the HKSAR government is currently pushing us to “pocket” first.

What the government wants us to “pocket” is a 2017 Chief Executive electoral proposal that allows one-person-one-vote on candidates who have been pre-screened according to the criterion of “love the country, love Hong Kong” by the central authorities.  The nomination arrangements could be improved in the future but only with the consent of the central authorities.  In other words, the “pocket it first” proposal does not meet international standards as demanded by OCLP.  I wonder how many of those who have signed the Anti-Occupy Central campaign petition realize they may also be indirectly supporting the “pocket it first” proposal.

The “pocket it first” proposal, as any pure pre-screening proposal, cannot resolve the legitimacy crisis faced by the HKSAR government.  Whoever wins an election out of a group of pre-screened candidates will not be accepted by the majority of society.  Any Chief Executive that comes out from this sort of Chinese-style universal suffrage will not be able to forge consensus in society and will only face continued resistance.

Unlike pure pre-screening proposals, the “pocket it first” proposal retains the possibility of improvement in the future. However, it never specifies the conditions under which improvement can happen and, if it happens, how much or exactly what it will be.

This is in fact just a “political cheque” written to Hong Kong people by the central authorities.  Whether the central authorities honor the “cheque” is completely at their discretion, as seen by the repeated bouncing of the “cheque” on universal suffrage in the past.  How can Hong Kong people trust that “pocket it first” will not turn out to be “sit on it” or even “that’s all”?

No longer will Hong Kong people will settle for this kind of temporary relief.  We must firmly resist the “pocket it first” approach and fight for a proposal that conforms to international standards.

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