Wednesday, March 29, 2017

It's All in the Perspective: Congressional-Executive Commission on China Statement on Hong Kong's Chief Executive Election

 The Congressional-Executive Commission on China was created by the U.S. Congress in 2000 "with the legislative mandate to monitor human rights and the development of the rule of law in China, and to submit an annual report to the President and the Congress. The Commission consists of nine Senators, nine Members of the House of Representatives, and five senior Administration officials appointed by the President." (CECC About). The CECC FAQs provide useful information about the CECC. See CECC Frequently Asked Questions. They have developed positions on a number of issues: Access to Justice; Civil Society;Commercial Rule of Law; Criminal Justice; Developments in Hong Kong and Macau ; The Environment ; Ethnic Minority Rights;Freedom of Expression; Freedom of Religion ; Freedom of Residence and Movement ; Human Trafficking ; Institutions of Democratic Governance ; North Korean Refugees in China; Population Planning ; Public Health ; Status of Women ; Tibet ; Worker Rights ; and Xinjiang.

CECC tends to serve as an excellent barometer of the thinking of political and academic elites in the United States about issues touching on China and the official American line developed in connection with those issues. As such it is an important source of information about the way official and academic sectors think about China. As one can imagine many of the positions of the CECC are critical of current Chinese policies and institutions (see, e.g., here, here, here here, here, here, here and here).

CECC has been paying much attention to the evolution of the "One State Two Systems"structure that defines the relationships between the PRC government and that of the Hong Kong Special Zone. That attention has tended to be critical (e.g., Congressional-Executive Commission on China Chairs Denounce Chinese Government’s Unprecedented Intervention in Hong Kong’s Legal System (November 2016) and generally here, and here). The Statement provides a window into the way in which Congressional actors view the relationship between Hong Kong and China. It also suggests the framework within which they see legitimacy in electoral autonomy and the differences between the two systems respecting public engagement in politics beyond the confines of the United Front and the vanguard party. Lamentably it does little to explain how these notions, so thoroughly rooted in our won system, can be relevant to the much needed discussion around Hong Kong. And it leaves the question begging--to what extent is the One Country Two Systems policy a dynamic and transitional policy? To what extent is transition to be left to the national government? And to what extent van one point to any permanent differences in systems that are worth preserving--from the perspective of China and its role in the world.  Of course, underlying all of these questions is a fundamental one that our Congressional leaders are hardly in a position to ask or understand if answered: To what extent has the United Front Model been considered in the context of an evolving  political system in Hong Kong, one, of course, distinguished by the historical context in which it might be applied. This question poses interesting issues both for the Mainland and for Hing Kong (see, e.g., HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE).

Beijing Asserts Right To Interfere in Already Restricted Election; Pressures Election Committee Members Despite Basic Law’s Guarantee of Autonomy Concludes New CECC Analysis

March 27, 2017

(Washington, DC)—The Chairs of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, Senator Marco Rubio, chair, and Representative Christopher Smith, cochair, issued the following statements on the election of Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor as the fourth Chief Executive of Hong Kong.

“Sunday’s election for Chief Executive shows the people of Hong Kong’s legitimate demands for universal suffrage and true representative government remain unfulfilled,” said Rubio. “Beijing’s clear interference in these elections is yet another example of a precipitous erosion in Hong Kong’s long-cherished autonomy. Ominous reports emerged today, hours after the election results were declared, that several Umbrella Movement leaders are facing a new round of charges stemming from their involvement in the pro-democracy protests. It is incumbent upon Chief Executive-Elect Lam to take meaningful steps toward reforms consistent with the democratic aspirations of the people of Hong Kong—aspirations which animated the 2014 Umbrella Movement and which remain alive and well today.”

“Chief Executive-Elect Carrie Lam was clearly Beijing’s favored candidate, just like her predecessors, and this will make it exceedingly difficult to deal with the constant erosions of Hong Kong’s autonomy and rule of law,” said Smith. “It is in everyone’s interests that Hong Kong remain a free and prosperous bridge between China and the West, but the city’s unique vitality and prosperity are rooted in its guaranteed freedoms. If Hong Kong is to become just another mainland Chinese city under the new Chief Executive’s leadership, we will have to reassess whether Hong Kong warrants special status under U.S. law. We hope Chief Executive Lam will defend the rights and democratic aspirations of Hong Kong’s people because, in the long run, the Hong Kong model is the best hope for a rights-respecting and prosperous China.”

CECC Analysis of Chief Executive (CE) Election: A newly published CECC analysis of the election concludes that Chinese central government officials sought to determine the outcome of the already highly restricted CE election by pressuring Election Committee members to vote for Carrie Lam. National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) Chairman Zhang Dejiang reportedly asserted the central government’s “right to step in” to the CE elections. The election itself was limited to 1,194 voters, denying Hong Kong residents a meaningful voice in their government. According to the CECC analysis, such actions are inconsistent with Hong Kong’s Basic Law and Hong Kong’s obligations under international law. Article 22 of the Basic Law says that no “department of the Central People’s Government…may interfere in the affairs” of Hong Kong, while article 45 provides that the “ultimate aim” is to hold elections for CE by universal suffrage.

Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act: Senator Rubio introduced the bipartisan Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act (S. 417) in February 2017 in order to reaffirm the United States’ historical commitment to freedom and democracy in Hong Kong at a time when its autonomy is increasingly under assault. An earlier version of this legislation was introduced in the 114th Congress by Representative Smith in the House of Representatives.

CECC Statements and Events on Hong Kong: The CECC has held public hearings and events and the Chairs have issued public statements on political and rule of law developments in Hong Kong, including the cases of abducted booksellers. Disappeared Hong Kong bookseller Gui Minhai’s daughter testified at a CECC hearing in May 2016. The CECC’s 2016 Annual Report has a chapter on human rights and rule of law conditions in Hong Kong.


No comments: