If you believe the Chinese government, Benny Tai is the mastermind and main offender, guilty of conspiring to overthrow the Chinese state power. He’s got one wayward history since the 2013 Center Occupation rally. This time, Tai outlined a highly subversive plan in a statement titled “Ten Steps to Destroy each other”. The declaration calls on the pro-democracy councilors in the Hong Kong Legislative Council (LegCo) to blackmail the city government, threatening China’s undisputed power in Hong Kong. His first step in executing this evil conspiracy was to hold July 2020 pro-democracy primaries with his accomplice, the “Power for democracy” activity group. . All candidates to participate in the primary election are members of this subversive gang. All the voting centers and the media groups that support the primary election are witnesses of the crime, who could be arrested later. 600,000 voters in the primary elections? They may be investigated as an accessory to crimes if there is evidence of subversion.
This is the narrative behind the recent mass arrest of more than 50 pro-democracy figures, based on press conferences released by Hong Kong police and national security agencies and published articles. by pro-Beijing media. The story follows typical Chinese state logic, revolves around the theory of sin, denies human free will, and tends to create the story of a “organized crime” (often postponed). ((supported by foreign powers), with the ultimate goal of explaining a simple truth: The people are dissatisfied with an incompetent government.
A self-justifying story like this might fit China’s internal propaganda but is very far from reality if you look closely at the developments around the primary elections.
Conspiracy: From the Declaration to the Primary Election
Benny Tai’s manifesto, published in April 2020, refers to “mutual annihilation,” a term popularized by protesters in 2019 that describes a powerful strategy to compel the government. Hong Kong and Beijing restored autonomy and democratic rights to the city. Despite its radical title, the declaration is a continuation of the moderate front, “in the system” of the movement achieved steam in 2019. It proposes a step-by-step strategy, beginning with winning a majority of LegCo in the September 2020 election (a majority will require at least 35 of the 70 seats of the legislature; hence it is also known as the “35+” plan). The ultimate goal is that the pro-democracy LegCo will block the budget twice to force Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam to resign and pressure the government to do so. “Year of need” of protests in 2019, including a call for universal suffrage to elect Hong Kong’s leader and lawmakers.
Learning from the split of votes in previous elections, law scholar and former law professor Benny Tai and others held a city-wide primary election as part of the pro-democracy faction this month. 7 years 2020, with more than 600,000 voters voted. To put this into context, preliminary elections took place in the context of the new National Security Law being implemented in Hong Kong.
However, two weeks later, Beijing postponed its official elections until September 2021, citing public health risks posed by the pandemic. In January 2021, the Hong Kong Department of National Security arrested organizers and candidates in the primary elections, accusing them of conspiring to overthrow.
It may be in line with Beijing’s intentions to label all those involved in Mr. Tai’s plan an exclusive extremist group. In fact, the candidates and legislators came from many different political spheres, and they approved Tai’s plans to varying degrees.
The first of these individuals are the most moderate, including neutral politicians, who sometimes openly oppose Beijing’s agenda, including the legislation of Security Laws. Nation. Although they do not openly support the “35+ plan”, these politicians often favor the “Five Needs” – a goal like the manifesto. In fact, each of the “Five Needs” previously found supporters among the councilors who supported Beijing before the National Security Law came into effect.
The latter is also moderate, but it requires further study of Hong Kong’s electoral mechanisms in order to understand their positions. This group consists of candidates running through a mechanism called “functional constituencies, ” which one (before this year overhaul the entire electoral system) will elect half of LegCo’s seats to represent different specific economic and social sectors. The electoral mechanism adopts the right to limit votes and traditionally gives preference to well-established candidates. As a result, it is seen as an unjust system and broken by many democrats – running in functional electoral districts is purely an unpopular political move. As a result, the camp did not perform well and remained a minority in LegCo, despite its two-decade history of winning 60% of the popular vote in previous elections. This is where I personally participate as a political science scholar: Last year, I together with others, openly encouraged public participation in functional constituencies for representations of voters’ pro-democracy tendencies.
Since my open call, I have met with many candidates from the pro-campaign functional area over the age of 35. Many are outside of politics, but they share a common goal of beating out favorably established candidates in their field. However, they certainly do not understand the description of “complicity in subversion”: many look for changes in the current system, but disagree with a veto on the government budget because of the older electoral base. and more conservative of them. Working under a big pro-democracy banner was never their hobby; Many have prioritized the specific needs of the voter’s domain.
In other words, despite Beijing’s best efforts to describe all offenders as radical in order to bring down the government, there has never been a well-defined “35+” loyalty club. apparently because the individuals disagree on future plans after the LegCo election. So how can Beijing accuse all the candidates of being part of a unified conspiracy?
It is true that a third group of candidates running for the rest of LegCo’s seats in the “geographic electoral district,” participated in the primary elections and supported a budget veto. Many have signed a statement promising to use LegCo’s powers to meet the “Five Needs” but remember that none of them fully agree with Tai’s 10-step proposal. In addition, how does a conditional veto – a part of the legislator’s power – constitute subversion, especially when it is dependent on requirements that many councilors support. up with sympathy?
Taking a step back, will the budget veto really shut the government down and “threaten national security” as Beijing claims? Under Article 51 of the Basic Law, if the budget is denied, the executive can still apply for account funds, and even approve the said funds if the Legislative Council is dissolved. Under no circumstances will the Hong Kong government be as crippled as we have seen in the United States when budgets are in short supply. The fact that the government can afford to remove any elected official as they see fit suggests that Tai’s political declaration is a scapegoat and nothing more.
Under the assumption of the Ordinary Law or even basic logical inference, no candidate should be arrested. But this mass prosecution (and others like that Martin Lee‘sand Andy Liof the cases) shows the logic of the Chinese state, to take control of legislative powers and enforce the law, despite common sense in a civil society. The prosecutors are the backbone of our society, a fact that even people who are trusted cannot deny. However, who dared to utter a word in protest? In a period reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution, anyone could become the next target of prosecution when the red line changed to meet “national needs”.