By Mick Krever, CNN
The standoff between Beijing and Hong Kong over that territory’s right to choose its own leaders reflects “a lack of confidence on the part of Beijing leaders,” Anson Chan, who led Hong Kong during its transition from British to Chinese rule, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday.
“Quite frankly, [China’s leaders] have a number of very formidable challenges on their plate, and the last thing they want to risk is any suggestion of instability and the loss of control over Hong Kong.”
“But there are also moderate voices in Beijing who realize the role that Hong Kong plays not only in sustainable economic growth in the mainland, but also helping our country modernize and come into the twenty-first century.”
It does not help, however, that China’s international trade partners have by and large signalled that they are willing to do business with Beijing “almost on any terms” – Chinese domestic issues be damned.
Pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong are digging in a day ahead of Chinese national day, but there is little sign that Beijing will change its position on who nominates candidates for chief executive of Hong Kong.
“China will not compromise, even if some people threaten them illegally,” C.Y. Leung, the current Hong Kong chief executive, said.
“I don’t suppose, realistically, it will budge anytime soon,” Chan, the former chief secretary of Hong Kong, said. “But both the chief executive and Beijing have got to show some signs that they are listening to the pleas from the people of Hong Kong.”
“The students are not going to remove themselves from the streets unless and until there is some indication of sincerity and a willingness to talk about universal suffrage for the election in 2017.”
“At the end of the day, what most people in Hong Kong are concerned about is whether we can preserve our core values and our lifestyle, both of which are guaranteed not only in the joint declaration, but in our mini-constitution, the Basic Law.”
The Basic Law was agreed to by China and the UK, when London handed control of Hong Kong over to Beijing in 1997.
“The Basic Law in black and white says universal suffrage means the right not only to vote, but the right of every permanent Hong Kong resident to vote, it says the nominating committee for the election of the chief executive have to be broadly representative, and the nomination process has to be democratic.”
China long followed that agreement, Chan said, but has over the past several years been chipping away at it.
Amanpour asked whether Chan ever anticipated China reneging on the commitments she said it made.
“I certainly did not. Otherwise I would not have put my whole heart and soul into helping to sell the joint declaration and the basic law and the point of the handover.”