Whether under British rule or Chinese rule, Hong Kong was never granted universal suffrage. Even as a colony, a governor was sent from London. Nonetheless, once Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997, Britain had successfully ingrained the idea of democracy among the public.
Traditionally, since 1985, Hong Kong has practiced in direct elections, where a council of 12 legislators was chosen from various sectors of the economy to represent the city. The following year, however, a mass pro-democracy rally was held, and in 1997, as Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Chinese Premiere Deng Xiaoping signed the declaration that claims the legislature of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region ”shall be constituted by elections.” China has kept the agreement in place, but hasn’t granted universal suffrage. Rather than having the classic 12, now Hong Kong has 1,193 electors, chosen by Beijing to represent the 7 million citizens of Hong Kong. Efforts for general elections, pledged by Chief Executives, have started in 2004, pushed to 2012, and now promised by 2017 by the newly inaugurated Chief Executive Leung Chun-Ying.
Who is Leung Chun-Ying? Leung Chun-Ying is a self-made millionaire property broker, who is a member of the pro-establishment bloc of Hong Kong politics. Leung was elected in March, winning 689 votes from the 1,193-seat committee of business elites who mostly vote according to Beijing’s wishes. Hong Kong’s 3.4 million registered voters, who voted for lawmakers in Hong Kong, had no say. Once Leung was elected, the online version of People’s Daily – the official newspaper of the CCP – addressed Leung Chun-Ying as “Comrade Leung Chun-Ying.”
Usually the title comrade is reserved by the CCP only for its members. Previous Chief Executives, including Tung Chee-Hwa and Sir Donald Tsang did not receive such title from the party. The page later removed the comrade title. Still, the idea of one country, two systems seem to be dissolving as leader transitions continue.
Nonetheless, the idea of democracy among HK residents still remains. On the day of Leung’s inauguration on Sunday, Chinese Premiere Hu Jin Tao, was interrupted by a protester in the audience shouting, “End one-party rule!” as he gave an inauguration address for Leung.
The day before, police had to use pepper spray to threaten protesters who were trying to present Hu Jin Tao a 100,000-name petition for an investigation into the suspicious death of a Tienanmen Square dissidents. When Leung’s speech was given entirely in Mandarin instead of Cantonese (a dialect spoken by 89% of the population), it immediately angered the proud locals and received remarks such as, “Leung might as well have knelt in front of Hu Jin Tao in a full kowtow.”
Furthermore, in mid-afternoon, roughly 400,000 protesters marched towards the government headquarters waving British colonial flags in a gesture of nostalgia for an era during which democratic rights were limited but the rule of law was firmly in place.
Surely enough, the inauguration of Leung Chun Ying also marks the 15th anniversary of the handover back to China. Interestingly, the parody of Hong Kong’s handover anniversary anthem music video has become a major hit on the web. Fewer than 5,000 people have watched the official video called “Believe in our Dream,” while ten times as many have watched the parody “Who’s stolen our Dreams?” – which rants about how the Communist Party is “brainwashing” Hong Kong. The counterfeit version of democracy is something the public definitely will not tolerate.