sexta-feira, 12 de junho de 2009

A podridão do sistema

Macau's Rotten Borough
The future of Hong Kong?

Wall Street Journal Asia (*)
June 12, 2009

When Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997, Beijing promised the territory that its "ultimate aim" would be to select Hong Kong's chief executive through "universal suffrage." Since then, the Hong Kong government has dragged its feet on pushing China to implement this promise. The territory's residents need only to look to nearby Macau to see what could happen if this democratic stall continues.

Macau's "election" for chief executive kicked off last month when Fernando Chui Sai-on, a former culture minister, announced his candidacy. The mainland's official Xinhua News Agency reported in May that the Chinese central government approved Mr. Chui's decision to resign as culture minister, clearing him to seek the chief executive position.

A few fringe candidates, including a practicioner of Chinese medicine and a casino card dealer also collected forms to register for the election, but they are not expected to get the 50 Election Committee nominations needed to become official. The only other politically viable candidate mentioned in the Macanese press is Ho Chio-meng, a prosecutor who recently handled a big graft scandal. Under Macau's election rules, Mr. Ho has until today to throw his hat in the ring. If he doesn't, it will be a one-horse race.

But regardless of the number of candidates, the process is not democratic. Under the territory's mini-constitution, the chief executive is chosen by the 300-member Electoral Committee composed of 24 Beijing appointees, six religious leaders, 16 legislators and 254 members chosen by "special sectors" that represent business interests.

The vote is rigged in favor of Beijing, like the rotten borough system of Great Britain in the 1800s. The 24 China-appointed members tend to vote in line with the wishes of their mainland bosses. The 16 legislators this year don't include either of Macau's two pro-democracy legislators, who are boycotting the vote, saying they will not help legitimize an undemocratic system. That leaves the 254 special-sector appointees, many of whom have business or family ties to Beijing. Macau's 559,846 people have no direct say.

It's hard to know what Macau's citizens think of all this, given that they have almost no public space in which to voice their opinions. Macau's press self-censors in part because a hefty portion of its advertising money comes from the government. The local blogosphere is lighting up with protest, but the territory's anti-defamation law, Article 23, which passed earlier this year, appears to be intimidating many to keep their protests confined to the relative anonymity of cyberspace.

Macau's economy is closely tied to China. The mainland provides the territory with food, water, energy and the flood of tourists it needs to keep its core industry -- gambling -- afloat. Macau's citizens, like Hong Kongers, were promised freedom of speech, association and religion when the territory was handed back to China in 1999.

But Macau wasn't promised one thing that Hong Kong was: universal suffrage. Macau's chief executive election suggests that China has no intention of experimenting with democracy if it isn't bound by law to do so. That is why it is so crucial that Hong Kong take advantage of its legal rights sooner rather than later.

(*) Os negritos são da minha responsabilidade.

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