Strong public opinion ‘primary’ for universal suffrage

Monday, August 23, 2010
Issue 1096, Page 3
Word count: 580
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

Without substantial public support for universal suffrage, it is unlikely that Beijing will be willing to start a dialogue with Macau regarding the political future of the territory, a commentator from Hong Kong said yesterday.

Ivan Choy Chi Keung, a senior instructor of the Government and Public Administration Department of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, made the remark when giving a talk about the inspiration of Hong Kong’s recent political reform at the Art For All (AFA) Gallery in Macau.

The event was organised by the Macau Civic Power and attracted around 20 participants.

According to Choy, who is also a member of the Alliance for Universal Suffrage, a coalition formed by 11 pro-democracy parties and groups in Hong Kong, for more than a decade Hong Kong has been having “solid” public support for democracy.

This, he added, is illustrated by findings that pro-democracy parties can always get at least 60 percent of votes in the legislative elections and public opinion polls have consistently shown that 60 percent of Hong Kong people want universal suffrage.

Choy stressed that “communication” and ‘dialogues” are the keys to have a successful negotiation with Beijing.

But given the current situation of Macau, he said it is nearly impossible that the Chinese government will agree to begin a formal conversation concerning a democratic political regime with the SAR Government.

In contrast to Hong Kong where there is “strong public opinion and a long lasting battle [between the pro-democracy parties and Beijing] that made the State Council realise that if the fight continued the situation would just get worse and contradictions would intensify”, entering a negotiation with the Hong Kong people thus acted as a “cooling effect” on the tension between the two sides, Choy explained.

“In the foreseeable future it’ll be very difficult for Macau to follow what Hong Kong has done [to move towards universal suffrage],” Choy said, “because Macau still doesn’t have the conditions for a negotiation [with Beijing].”

Instead, he believed that at present the only way for Macau to put pressure on the Chinese government is to question why Hong Kong was given the “permission” to attain universal suffrage whilst Macau is being treated differently.

Unlike Macau, the Hong Kong Basic Law states that electoral laws can be revised after 2007 and the Chief Executive and the Legislative Council can be elected by universal suffrage ultimately.

However, Choy reiterated that negotiating for democracy is a “long and on-going process” and it is very important to achieve certain results in different stages.

According to the commentator, the increase in people’s education level in Hong Kong has broaden their horizon and made them aware of the advantages and disadvantages of democracy.

In addition, the “poor performance” of former Chief Executive Tung Chee Hwa has made the Hong Kong people realise the importance of democracy and universal suffrage, Choy said.

“In Macau there is Ao Man Long [the ex-secretary for transport and public works being jailed for corruption]”, he said, but added that it seems that local people did not get “very much inspired” by the case.

Moreover, Choy said the news media in Macau are comparatively more conservative and tend to stress “harmony” in reporting.

Hence, apart from promoting the concept of democracy and stimulating more discussions in the public, he suggested launching an independent media channel on the Internet aiming to “break through news censorship” and report non-mainstream news in order to gather substantial public support for universal suffrage in Macau.

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