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The Significance of China’s Decision on Universal Suffrage

By Wang Zhenmin
The decision by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress to set a timetable for the introduction of universal suffrage in Hong Kong is of historic importance for both Hong Kong and mainland China, writes Wang Zhenmin, Vice Dean of the School of Law at Tsinghua University in Beijing and a member of the NPC’s Basic Law committee. He argues that democracy is essential to Hong Kong’s longterm prosperity and will also help China itself move toward more representative government. But he warns that Hong Kong’s wealthy establishment will have to adjust to changing social pressures as more and more local political power grows out of the ballot box.

By David Zweig

Though universal suffrage will arrive more slowly than most Hong Kong people would prefer, China’s decision to set a timetable is “a great victory for democracy”, writes David Zweig, Chair Professor in the Division of Social Science at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. But the road to full voting rights needs a better map, and drafting one will require better communication between mainland officials and Hong Kong democrats, plus a willingness to compromise by all concerned parties.

By Michael C. Davis

There may now be a timetable for local democracy in Hong Kong, writes Michael C. Davis, Professor of Law at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, but he sees eight specific obstacles on the road to full voting rights. Therefore, he thinks it is premature for pro-democrats to celebrate because both Beijing officials and many local figures remain deeply distrustful of democratic politics.

By Stephen J. Yates

Hong Kong can play a positive role in the development of overall US-China relations because its many civic and social rights can set an example for the mainland, writes Stephen J. Yates, president of DC Asia Advisory, a Washington-based consulting firm and former deputy assistant for national security affairs to Vice President Dick Cheney. But he find that the NPC Standing Committee decision sends “a chilling (and unnecessary) signal about its lack of tolerance for democracy in any territory covered by its constitution”.

Government and Business Relations Since the 1997 Handover

By Tai-lok Lui
The once-cozy relationship between business and government that helped give colonial Hong Kong its stability and prosperity has fragmented since the handover, writes Tai-lok Lui, professor of sociology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He says the rise of family-led local Chinese companies, which displaced their British rivals, has brought new competition and shattered a business unity that underlay official policies before 1997.

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