On January 1st, tens of thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators marched peacefully through the streets of Hong Kong. The purpose of the march was to urge that Hong Kong’s chief executive and all of its legislature be directly elected. “We want full democracy -- the right to elect our own chief executive and all members of the Legislative Council,” said Richard Tsoi, a leader of the Hong Kong group, Civil Human Rights Front.
The New Year’s Day demonstration was Hong Kong’s largest since July 1st, when about a half million people marched in a massive protest against proposed national security legislation that many feared would threaten fundamental freedoms. In the face of widespread opposition and international pressure, Hong Kong officials decided to pull the proposed law and promised to consult with the people on future security legislation.
Under Hong Kong’s constitution, or Basic Law, the city of about seven-million people is a special administrative region of China with a high degree of autonomy. The chief executive is chosen by an eight-hundred-member committee composed of a variety of officials, some elected and some appointed. The next election for the chief executive will not take place until 2007. But Hong Kong will hold elections for its Legislative Council next September. Only half of the sixty Legislative Council positions are decided by direct election. The others are chosen by business, professional, civic, and political groups. Democracy advocates in Hong Kong are pushing for direct election of the chief executive in 2007 and direct election of all members of the legislature in 2008.
In a recent speech to America’s National Endowment for Democracy, President George W. Bush pointed out that there are “essential principles common to every successful society”:
“Successful societies limit the power of the state and the power of the military -- so that governments respond to the will of the people, and not the will of the elite.”
One of the goals of Hong Kong’s Basic Law is a democratically-elected government. That is the best way to ensure the continued success of Hong Kong and the protection of its people’s fundamental freedoms.