On October 15, 2014, Australia's biggest-selling national newspaper The Australian published a signed article titled "Why Should We Say No to "Occupy Central" in Hong Kong" by Chinese ambassador MA Zhaoxu. The full text is as follows:
Over the past couple of weeks, some people in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region have been holding illegal rallies which they call “Occupy Central”, in an attempt to paralyse the busiest CBD area in the city.
So far, “Occupy Central” has brought chaos and confusion to the streets and seriously affected Hong Kong’s share market, tourism and retail industry. It is estimated that Hong Kong’s economy has suffered losses of tens of billions of dollars in a matter of just a few days.
“Occupy Central” is illegal, as it turns a blind eye to the Basic Law of Hong Kong, puts Hong Kong’s social stability and economic prosperity in jeopardy, shatters the core values and rule of law of Hong Kong and disrupts the process leading up to universal suffrage in the selection of the Chief Executive of Hong Kong in 2017. No country in the world would allow such illegal actions that trample on rule of law and public interests.
The Chinese central government's basic policies toward Hong Kong remain unchanged and will not change. On September 22, Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed Beijing's steadfast adherence to the policy of "One Country, Two Systems" and the Basic Law while receiving a delegation of business leaders and professionals from Hong Kong. He also emphasized Beijing’s firm support to Hong Kong’s democratic development, long term prosperity and stability.
The political reform in Hong Kong will be a gradual process. It should be remembered, that for over 150 years until its handover to China in 1997, Hong Kong was a British colony and did not enjoy even a semblance of democracy, let alone universal suffrage. Former London Economics and Business Policy Director John Ross commented that “Western media reports on the Hong Kong issue have been too hypocritical. In the United Kingdom’s 150 years of colonial rule over Hong Kong, the UK never permitted Hong Kongers to elect the Governor”.
In fact, the idea of any kind of democracy in Hong Kong was first introduced by the Chinese government. In 1990, the central government of China adopted the Basic Law which included the commitment that in 2017, the territory’s chief executive would be elected by universal suffrage. And since Hong Kong’s return in 1997, the central government has steadfastly promoted for democratic elections of both the Chief Executive and Legislative Council in Hong Kong, which is no doubt an important step forward for Hong Kong’s political and democratic development.
As for the decision made by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of China on August 31, it outlines a roadmap for the selection of the Chief Executive in Hong Kong by universal suffrage. First, a nominating committee of broad representation shall be formed to nominate two to three candidates for the office of Chief Executive in accordance with democratic procedures. Second, each candidate must have the endorsement of more than half of all members of the nominating committee. Third, all eligible voters in Hong Kong have the right to vote for Chief Executive. Forth, the central government will have the final say on whether to appoint the elected candidate as Chief Executive or not. These four steps, completely in line with the Basic Law and realities of Hong Kong, are in the best interest of long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong.
The common aspiration of people in Hong Kong is to maintain the territory’s stability and development. With regard to the roadmap of political reform, despite a few criticisms, most people in Hong Kong actually welcome and embrace it. If we deny the whole plan simply because of a few objections, it will be a betrayal of the spirit of democracy. In fact, the mainstream public opinion in Hong Kong is in favor of the central government’s plan, since there are many more people who oppose “Occupy Central” than those who support. Many people, including those from the media and the Legislative Council in Hong Kong, have also stood up and spoken out against "Occupy Central" .
“Occupy Central” also drew criticism from the international community. Mr. Charles Powell, member of the UK upper house and former private secretary to Margaret Thatcher during the 1980s said, "Hong Kong has very extensive autonomy, far greater than we believed actually could be achieved when the Hong Kong joint declaration with China was negotiated". "The position about elections has been clear since the basic law was published in 1990 and I don't believe for one moment the Chinese are going to change that basic position". He added that protesters in the Occupy Central movement in Hong Kong are "unrealistic".
There is no perfect form of democracy in the world, nor is there a univeral standard for elections. We cannot just copy or clone a model elsewhere in the selection of the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, but should find a way that suits Hong Kong the best. A few people have been campaigning for replacement of the Basic Law with what they call “international standards”, and even proposing citizen nomination which is a clear violation of the Basic Law. Such is their attempt to mislead the public and misinterprete the law.
As an important economic and trade partner of Australia, Hong Kong is home to more than 80,000 Australians and around 1500 Australian enterprises. It is in Australia’s interest to have a peaceful, prosperous and stable Hong Kong.