The End of Fake Universal Franchise (For Now)

[Note: The veto may well represent the closing of the Umbrella chapter in HK’s 3-decade-old democracy movement. (See background.) Of course, the struggle for genuine universal suffrage will go on and we will continue to comment and blog on the latest developments. Thus, the revised title “HK’s Umbrella Movement and Beyond.” As usual, existing blog posts will continue to be updated.]

[Updated on Sep. 28, 2015]


The veto — with unexpected drama and tears

The veto was expected, because the government proposal would need 2/3 of legislators to pass. Pan-democratic legislators had just over 1/3 of the votes to secure a veto. What was not expected was the walkout by pro-establishment legislators.

[June 18] Hong Kong parliament defies Beijing’s insistence and rejects ‘democracy’ plan : Proposal that would have allowed election of leaders, but only from candidates vetted by Communist party hierarchy, is defeated in key vote (香港立法會否決北京政改方案何去何從)

The “political reform package” was rejected on Thursday with 28 legislators in Hong Kong’s parliament voting against it. Eight lawmakers voted for the proposal. There are 70 members in all but more than two dozen pro-government politicians walked out of the session without voting in an apparent attempt to halt proceedings.

Pro-democracy lawmakers and activists celebrated the result, even though it means the current system – under which Hong Kong’s chief executive is chosen by a 1,200-member pro-establishment “election committee” – will remain in place.

[June 18] Hong Kong reform package rejected as pro-Beijing camp walk out in ‘miscommunication’ (with video)

All 27 pan-democratic lawmakers kept their vow to vote no, and pro-establishment medical sector representative Dr Leung Ka-lau added a 28th vote. That would have been enough to deny the proposal the two-thirds majority it needed. But the pro-establishment camp’s plan to blame pan-democrats for the failure of reform was severely undermined, as the walkout left just eight yes votes and a clear majority against the package.

Harry’s cartoons:

cartoon-0621-net cartoon-0623-net

How many voters do the “yes,” “no” and “abstain” votes represent, respectively? 政改真正場外點票


The vote count is the best possible outcome for the pan-dem camp. The govt had championed the line that the pan-dems should bear the responsibility for denying HK voters the right to “one-person, one vote” in choosing future chief executives, calling on voters to punish them in future elections (“票債票償”). (See 北京欲借泛民手否決政改) As it turned out, it is the pro-establishment camp that has to bear the responsibility for not voting for the bill.

veto 1607016_843635909051554_2156176794971663533_n

This dilemma for the pan-dems before the vote: [June 18] The day Hong Kong’s Legco entered a parallel universe

Pan-democrats who had fought for years for democracy decried a government package that would allow Hong Kong people to choose their leader by one person, one vote. Their Beijing-loyalist rivals, hardly known as staunch pro-democrats, argued in favour of universal suffrage.


Why did pro-establishment legislators walk out? 

Immediately after the blunder, pro-establishment legislators claimed that they walked out in order to wait for Heung Yee Kuk chairman Lau Wong-fat to arrive to cast his vote. The plan was to delay the vote by denying the session the required quorum. However, as 8 pro-establishment legislators stayed, the plan failed and backfired.

Why is “Uncle Fat” so important? [June 19] Hong Kong pro-Beijing politicians rue their missed opportunity in political reform debate [Uncle Fat]:

the thousands of villagers he leads are immensely important to the camp. The Heung Yee Kuk – which Lau chaired until handing over to his son recently – is highly efficient in organising villagers to split votes between slates in Legco elections, a crucial skill thanks to the quirks of the city’s proportional representation system.

Immediately after the veto, pro-establishment legislators apologized to Beijing’s Liaison Office. For the pro-Umbrella camp, it was bad enough that pro-establishment legislators just followed the herd in walking out, with a no. of them saying that they had no clue of what was going on. See 蝦碌議員冇獨立思考 李怡:他們的選民要反省. It was worse when such legislators felt compelled to immediately apologize to Beijing’s representatives in HK. This is just the latest proof that the pro-establishment camp answers to Beijing rather than to HK people, rendering the “one country, two systems” model meaningless. See Stage set for loyalist apology session with Beijing honcho.

[June 19] This blunder is likely to cost some political hopefuls their future chances. Jeffrey Lam of the Business and Professionals Alliance and Ip Kwok-him of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong apologized for the fiasco. So did Regina Ip, tipped as ‘chief executive hopeful’, after failing to cast Hong Kong reform vote. Lam was criticized by name by Sing Pao, a pro-establishment paper: 《成報》社評促林健鋒辭行會 狠語連轟:自私、荒謬、戇居、蠢材、永淪笑柄. See also a satirical piece on the tearful apologies: 哭泣的季節


If the perceived failure of the Umbrella Movement caused polarization in the pro-democracy camp, then this blunder has produced similar recriminations and divisions in the pro-establishment camp: Bickering escalates in pro-Beijing camp over bungled Legco vote on Hong Kong political reform–Recriminations fly among the pro-Beijing camp over bungled vote on electoral reform package that’s been described as an ’embarrassment’. Also Fallout from implosion of Hong Kong’s reform package continues–Walkout fiasco may cost main players their Exco seats as Beijing takes more interventionist line:

“The pro-establishment elites come from different interest groups and are disunited,” Lau, the former head of the official think tank, the Central Policy Unit, said yesterday. “I am afraid the only force that can coordinate them is not from Hong Kong but from the central government.

The inside stories got more interesting a few days later. Private chats among pro-gov’t legislators before and after the walkout were leaked. There was no mention of “waiting for Uncle Fat” in the conversations. What apparently happened was that the pro-establishment legislators wanted to take the vote in the early afternoon, for fear that many protestors would turn out after work if the vote were to take place in the evening. Pro-establishment legislators coordinated among themselves to minimize their speeches. Yet, pro-democracy legislators also did not use up all their allotted time to speak. The vote was called at 12:27, much earlier than had been expected.

[June 25] Legco president Jasper Tsang refuses to quit as leaked reform vote WhatsApp chat emerges–Revelation that Legco chief discussed strategy during historic vote in WhatsApp texts heaps more embarrassment on pro-Beijing lawmakers 

The exposé sparked a witch-hunt within the camp for the whistleblower, who is believed to have spilled the beans to prove members were not properly informed about the need to wait for rural kingpin Lau Wong-fat to arrive at Legco to cast his vote – the reason cited by those who led the walkout. The text messages made no mention of Lau. The messages suggested pro-establishment lawmakers delay their speeches that morning to prevent pan-democrats from controlling the timing of the crucial vote on reform.

[This SCMP story contains translation of the whatsapp chats.]

The leaks in the Oriental Daily:

[June 24] 建制絕密WhatsApp第1集:甩轆對話足本實錄

[June 25] 建制絕密WhatsApp第2集:議員甩轆後互卸責

[June 25] 建制絕密WhatsApp第3集︰人大炮轟垃圾議員

veto 1655371_848219428598215_6508277423420276613_o

It is a puzzle who leaked the confidential chats. Given that it is the Oriental Daily, a staunchly pro-government newspaper, that received the leaks, it is rumored that Beijing’s Liaison Office could be behind the incident. Why would the Liaison Office do that? Jasper Tsang, the Legco chair, stuck to formal procedural rules and refused to halt the vote as requested by a pro-Beijing legislator. Tsang now faces a vote of no confidence moved by Chan Wai-yip. See Jasper Tsang’s behind the scenes role exposed.

His ruling, which was instrumental in the chain of events that led to a Beijing-embarrassing 28-8 vote against the reform package, seemed to cement Tsang’s reputation for evenhandedness — although he is a longtime member of the pro-establishment Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, of which he is a former chairman.

However, in WhatsApp excerpts published in the Oriental Daily, Tsang emerges as a coordinator for Legco’s Beijing loyalists, advising on the timing of their speeches in favor of the electoral proposal.

Among those who stayed to vote “yes” were members of the Liberal Party. James Tien said afterwards that Ip and Lam were not leaders of the pro-establishment camp and there was no reason to follow the walkout.  (See more on James Tien.) See 建制群插民建聯. Here is an analysis of the deep differences between the Liberal Party and Uncle Fat:

Tien would likely have been happy to wait for any other sick old man, but not Fat Suk…

[Tien] is best remembered for helping to sink the bill enacting the national security provisions of Article 23 in 2003, leading to the downfall of former Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa. After that, Tien was seen as disloyal to the pro-establishment camp, and his political capital quickly diminished.

Lau withdrew his rural fiefdom’s support for the Liberal Party from 2004 onward, reportedly at the urging of Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong. This is why Tien failed to retain his New Territories East seat in the 2008 Legislative Council elections…

Second, Lam should remember that Tien had a score to settle with him after Lam split the Liberal Party in 2009 by founding the breakaway group Economic Synergy, which became the Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong in 2012.

RTHK documentary 表決時刻

[July 26] The new verdict blames the Liberal Party for the fiasco. 東方:北京認為政改蝦碌事件 錯在自由黨James Tien’s response:



Another tearful legislator was Ronny Tong

[June 22] Tearful Ronny Tong quits as legislator hours after resigning from Civic Party amid rift in Hong Kong’s pan-democratic camp

Moderate pan-democrat Ronny Tong Ka-wah sent shockwaves across Hong Kong’s political spectrum yesterday, giving up his directly elected seat in the Legislative Council as well as quitting the party he co-founded nine years ago.

The lawmaker’s departure from the Civic Party had long been expected because of his more compromising approach to political reform, but his decision to quit Legco came as a shock, exposing how wide the rift within the city’s pan-democratic camp has become….

A hard-hitting analysis of Tong:

Mr. Tong appears to suffer from the delusion that there is some golden middle path between these polarized positions, but that path appears to be increasingly illusive.

The reality is that the polarization of political organizations mirrors the polarization of society as whole.

The middle gets crushed in this process, and it really is no good wailing about the erosion of the middle way.

[Jasper, Jasper – what have you done?]

[June 19] Who is the biggest loser after rejection of 2017 electoral reform proposal? 

Ironically, they all agree on one thing: all sides are losers in the failure to attain universal suffrage.…


More casualties: the “retiring” of ministers Tsang Tak-sing and Paul Tang

[July 21] Two Hong Kong government ministers Tsang Tak-sing and Paul Tang replaced in shock cabinet reshuffle

Labour Party stalwart Lee Cheuk-yan condemned Lau’s appointment as “shameful”, complaining that the new minister “did not even pretend to be neutral” and might favour his political allies in the coming district elections.

More on post alienating pro-regime alliesJames Tien.


The tent city was finally cleared

Protestors and tents had remained for months after the official clearing of occupy sites last Dec.

[June 24] Last of tent city torn down six months after street protests

Dozens of tents belonging to the last holdouts from last year’s democracy protests were dismantled Wednesday, more than six months after the street occupation ended.

Officers from the Lands Department backed by police undertook the clearance in Tim Mei Ave. outside government headquarters, using heavy equipment to demolish large structures and grab-mounted lorries to haul them away.

The tent city on May 23:

IMG_0927 IMG_0928 IMG_0929 IMG_0930 IMG_0931 IMG_0934 IMG_0935 IMG_0936

[Mar. 26] Occupy after Occupy: The umbrella occupy movement has survived in a small corner in Admiralty: Occupy by stealth? Hong Kong protest camp grows as demonstrators mark six months of movement

A tent community has been slowly expanding on the pavement outside the Admiralty government headquarters since police cleared Occupy’s base camp on Harcourt Road and the adjoining roads in December, ending the 79-day mass sit-in. The latest feature is a “study room”, which started to fully function three days ago. With seven benches, lit by fluorescent tubes powered by charging packs, the corner is a smaller version of Occupy’s study room on Harcourt Road at the height of the protests.


[Sep. 6]  HKFP Lens: Remnants of pro-democracy Occupy protests remain as one-year anniversary approaches



Looking ahead:

When the Umbrella Movement first unfolded, practically every commentator said that “Hong Kong will no longer be the same.” Although the Umbrella Movement has not secured the stated goal of genuine universal suffrage, the civil society has become highly mobilized. The civic groups that have mushroomed in past months will continue their agitations. On the top of every group’s agenda is to register new voters and win seats in the upcoming elections for District Boards and the Legislative Council. With polarization among both the pro- and anti-Umbrella camps, HK politics now operate on new terrains and it is difficult to predict how the elections will turn out. So stay tuned.

The importance of the District Board elections 【傘後 ‧ 區選】前言:一場事關重大的真普選


[Mar. 29] Young people form new political groups to contest in the coming District Board elections

New kids on the block aim for eight District Council seats青年新政 – Youngspiration; How do they plan to defeat the resourceful pro-establishment camp 傘兵憑甚麼挑戰蛇齋餅糭? — 專訪青年新政




Campaign to register young people as voters


Young people used to have much lower turn outs at District Board elections: 區選前瞻系列:青年投票率遠低中年和長者

‘Build democracy, regain the future’ is the theme of this year’s July 1 march

A new Charter for Community Citizenship to practice autonomy at the grassroots level: 《社區公民約章》運動

RTHK documentary 路盡。未盡

Yet, many young people are so alienated that they did not register as voters:

Newly registered voters for the November 2015 District Council elections are overwhelmingly retirees (two thirds of newly registered voters are over 56) and many young people between the ages of 18 and 30 remain unregistered. This is a very serious challenge, more so than the lack of broader support for the occupation itself, and indicates the lingering sway of disenfranchisement even among Hong Kong’s younger population. (One year after Occupy, political alienation of the young still the major challenge for democrats)

At the same time, “Western District” (Beijing’s liaison office has been mobilizing to defeat pro-democracy candidates

【西環如何操控區選 1】 建制無間道:事無大小,第一件事搵中聯辦工作部

【西環如何操控區選 2】建制無間道:「組織票」把泛民打個落花流水


Further demands on the HK government v the government’s priorities:

[June 4] At the annual candle light vigil at Victoria Park, students demanded revision of the Basic Law by burning copies of it. We support Martin’s Lee’s response: We understand why students are so frustrated as to burn the Basic Law. While the Basic Law could be revised to better reflect the stronger commitments made in the Sino-British Joint Declaration, the real problem is not the Basic Law itself but its implementation. it would be more appropriate to burn instead the August 31 decision which forms the basis of the fake democracy proposal and the White Paper which puts one country ahead of two systems.

[July 6]  Student activist Joshua Wong faces charges over Hong Kong ‘white paper’ protest last year ; activists are arrested a year after burning the White Paper in June 2014團體中聯辦燒白皮書 抗議中共毀港自治


[June 26] Michael Davis: Reform failure should prod Hong Kong leaders to step up as defenders of our autonomy

Now is the time for the government to examine the obvious flaws in its position. This might begin by appreciating the important roles of the local government to guard local autonomy and represent the interests of the community. The Hong Kong government’s shortcomings in both respects have bred a lot of the distrust it faces. Officials should appreciate the wisdom of voters and their capacity to make sensible decisions. Once that is understood and incorporated in a new government policy to promote genuine electoral choice, a compromise with pan-democrats should not be out of reach.

It must be clear by now that an electoral model that denies real choice among viable candidates will deny full legitimacy to the candidate elected. Genuine choice achieved by lowering the nomination threshold and/or dramatically changing the make-up of the nominating committee, as numerous proposals have suggested, seems the only way to reopen the reform discussion and repair the damage caused by the divisive approach taken.

It’s time to return Civic Square to us — the Civic Square is outside the Central Government Offices where the Umbrella Movement started:

Civic Square has a very special meaning for the people of Hong Kong as a popular platform for public assemblies where citizens can express their views on public issues directly in front of government headquarters.

Our right to protest and freedom of assembly are guaranteed by the Basic Law and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

[Aug 19] Joshua Wong: The next phase of the democracy movement: A referendum on constitutional reform and sustainable democratic self-governance (translation)

[July 9] The gov’t decided to focus on a clean HK campaign instead 梁「後政改」推清潔香港 林鄭領軍

[July 9] And a new innovation and technology bureau, which is seen as yet another way for CY Leung to benefit his inner circle. See CY Leung’s dream of Hong Kong tech bureau stays alive as Legco approves extra meetingsTech bureau saga reveals an inconvenient truth ;  IT sector against the plan 讀者投稿|公開信:一群梁振英沒接觸過的科技人員「一人一相」反對倉卒成立創科局你以為真的那麼多人支持創科局嗎?


[July 12-] The pro-establishment camp is suddenly faced with a new crisis: water in housing estates constructed by China State Construction contains high levels of lead. China State Construction has strong ties to the CY Leung government and has secured many govt contracts. This crisis could well reshape the dynamics of the coming District Board elections.

See Developmental delay found in children affected by lead water, Secretary for Food and Health saysExplainer: How the water lead contamination scare became a citywide concernHow the government lost public trust over lead contaminationHong Kong lawmaker Helena Wong moves from blunders to tainted water scandal ; The plumber at the centre of Hong Kong’s lead contamination scare has revealed that a hospital, more than 10 public housing estates and an unspecified number of private residential developments may be affected through their fresh water pipes (also Hospital piping has parts linked to lead in water: Plumber); Lead level of 14 times WHO limit discovered at Hong Kong public housing flat, as two more estates join contaminated list; Contractor must bear responsibility for tainted waterHong Kong lawmaker denies conflict in lead drinking water scare ; 梁振英民建聯成輸家 民主黨本土派有利 食水含鉛超標 水務署點名水喉匠林德深避提中國建築 ; 【 香港鉛爆?】房署准用國產貨被指罪魁 網民稱國產「假銅」水管整條含鉛 政府謊稱接駁位出事圖掩飾 問題遍全港 ; 中國建築母公司 曾涉賄賂被世銀列黑名單 蔣麗芸積極反拉布 丈夫任董事中國建築 逾百億工程合約受拉布影響一鉛領導多鉛社會 鉛鉛不絕香港玩鉛鉛水 一杯鉛水 澆醒港豬689句式下看到的政治現實沒有民主,哪有民生… 

Tainted water saga reveals how China SOEs do business in HK:

the World Bank imposed a six-year ban on the firm’s parent, China State Construction Engineering Corp., barring it from project bidding as a result of a bribery case. So why is it that this notorious Chinese firm was still awarded fat government contracts in Hong Kong? Could this be the result of a little help from Beijing’s liaison office in the territory? 

… The fallout is now causing political ripples. CY Leung and the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong are among the big losers as most of their supporters are low-income senior citizens living in public housing estates. This evolving crisis is a direct threat to their health. Suffering from the inferior quality of the homes and facilities built by Chinese state-owned firms, these Leung supporters may resent the government’s policy of integration with the mainland.

CY Leung belatedly sets up a third body to investigate Hong Kong water contamination scare. Critics suggest that CY had first to make sure that China State Construction is only a minor state-owned enterprise and so the commission wouldn’t upset Beijing:  

梁政權既沒有立即承擔監管不足的責任,更不敢向總承建商中國建築追究,第一時間就卸膊給一個水喉匠。直至昨天,大概獲知中國建築只屬三流國企,梁振英才自我否定他的「初步結論」,表示要成立獨立調查委員會。(香港於無聲處,可有驚雷 )

Forty Hong Kong estate residents record ‘higher than normal’ lead levels amid tainted water scare

Kai Ching kids show signs of intellectual development delays




Maintaining nonviolence–and the underappreciated effectiveness of targeted boycott

Pepper spray, once rarely seen in HK, has become the police’s choice response to protests. See police state.

As discussed on earlier posts, some rowdies concluded from the “failure” of the Umbrella Movement that nonviolence was ineffective and urged the use of force to combat police violence.  See a letter to HK people by Hong Kong Localism Power and People Power: 本土民主前線致全港市民書

[June 15] Such calls made it easier for the police to attribute the discovery of bomb materials to “localists”: 10 activists held in ‘plot to detonate bombs’ as Hong Kong debates reform bill.

The pro-democracy camp quickly pointed out that the attribution was dubious: National Independent Party: Terror group or political bogeyman?

… what is worrisome is that the authorities have branded this group as a “localist”, thereby lumping it together with other activist groups which have no intention of employing violence in their pursuit of genuine autonomy for Hong Kong. In fact, none of the pro-democracy groups knew about the National Independent Party until it was divulged by the authorities… [The] slogans [found] are quite strange for members of localist political groups.

… Hong Kong Localism Power and People Power stressed that they do not condone violence.

… It is becoming clear that this shadowy group is besmirching the image of localist political groups. It is being used to portray “localists” as violent groups that intend to sow chaos and disorder in the city to pursue their agenda.

[July 31] Yuen Kwok-yung, who resigns as HKU Council member, thinks that the mayhem at the HKU council meeting was caused by outsiders rather than HK students. All around the world, regime supporters use provocateurs to stir up troubles in order to blacken the opposition. Rowdies criticize the deployment of marshals during the umbrella movement — hope that they see the importance of using marshals to block such provocateurs from infiltrating into their protest. 要對學生公道點:

「到底是誰講粗口、『掟嘢』、撞人,好多面孔(看來)不像學生。學生的樣子永遠好innocent(清白),有他們自己好直接、好清潔的想法。」 他形容,校委會召開會議當晚有很多非學生的人混入,見到有些人「年紀大好多、樣貌猙獰好多,粗口爛舌」,並不像是學生,亦不知是什麼人。

I have said enough on the fallacy that nonviolence has failed. We were on an academic exchange program to Israel and the West Bank in June. If any group knows something about nonviolence vs. violence, it should be the Palestinians. It is true that they tried nonviolence in the first intifada and failed–but let us not forget that the simple throwing of stones was seen as a form of violence and possibly contaminated the nonviolent efforts (so much so that many Jews object to the characterization of the first intifada as nonviolent). More importantly, the turn to the most violent form of violence — suicide terrorism — in the second intifada failed too, with much higher casualties. According to Israelis from the right to the left, Israel has put violent attacks under control. What the Nathanyahu government fears the most is not violence, but the Palestinian Authority’s recent turn to the United Nations and the International Criminal Court, and the rising global movement for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions. State security forces everywhere know how to respond to violent resistance with disproportionate force, but are often dumbfounded by nonviolent forms of resistance. If the best strategy for the Palestinians is nonviolence, why would it be otherwise for Hong Kong? See The rational response to Israel’s state terror: boycott and Europe must not back down from labeling West Bank settlement products. See updated lists of targeted boycott. 

Umbrellas in Jerusalem (well, in support of LGBT rights rather than HK):

Screenshot 2015-07-01 22.32.05


Filed under Umbrella Movement

2 responses to “The End of Fake Universal Franchise (For Now)

  1. Pingback: Sacking James Tien? You risk alienating pro-regime allies | Hong Kong's Umbrella Movement and Beyond

  2. Pingback: Reflections One Year On | Hong Kong's Umbrella Movement and Beyond

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