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Tuesday, March 16, 2021, 00:06
Nothing mysterious about being patriotic
By Ho Lok-sang
Tuesday, March 16, 2021, 00:06 By Ho Lok-sang

Under the electoral reform package passed by the National People’s Congress, the Election Committee will be expanded to 1,500 members and they will not only elect the Chief Executive, but also elect a yet-to-be-determined number of LegCo members and vet the legislator candidates. The number of LegCo seats will be increased from 70 to 90. In addition, there will be a vetting committee to review potential candidates for the Election Committee and for the LegCo to ensure that those who enter the race are patriotic.

There should be no disputing the need to disqualify unpatriotic people from running for important positions that have a bearing on how the government operates. But some people are troubled by the lack of objective criteria to determine if someone is patriotic. Some people say they love the country and Hong Kong but they do not love the Chinese Communist Party. Some people insist that their fight for “democracy” is patriotic because they want to see a China that follows the Western model of multiparty politics. 

But someone who loves the country certainly wants the country to be well run. If the country is well run, and if one wants to sabotage it, how can one be patriotic? 

People, of course, are free to think what they like. But if they not only think what they like, but also act to sabotage the existing governance model in the belief that somehow a revolution to change China’s political system will lead to better governance without any evidence, in practice they would be hurting the China that they claim they love. 

In a previous article (China Daily Hong Kong Edition, Dec 8, 2020), I pointed out the bias in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Although all people in a country should enjoy equal political rights, Article 21 in the Declaration states that “The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage.” But why does “the will of the people” have to be expressed in this way? Why can’t people elect a different political system that has proved better at serving their interests? Why is it not better to systematically choose leaders based on such criteria as relevant experience, track record, and character? Don’t they know that “electioneering” often involves swaying people’s perceptions through misinformation and manipulation of emotions? Don’t they know that in Transparency International’s surveys, political parties are regarded as the world’s most corrupt institutions (at least in the 2004 and 2010 surveys)?

The government, of course, does benefit from having diverse and honest views on policies, so there is no question that the electoral reform should allow opposition

If one opens one’s eyes, one has to agree that China is well governed. The political system on the mainland is working better than anyone ever imagined. 

If one is truly patriotic, one’s criticisms should aim to help the ruling party do even better, instead of trying to sabotage the political system on the mainland. Because the current system under CPC leadership has served China well, protecting and preserving the system is patriotic. This is why political security is important. The political system, it must be noted, does not belong to a particular group of people and does not serve the interests of a few. In the World Justice Project 2020 Report, China ranks 51st among 128 countries or jurisdictions in Absence of Corruption. China ranks 40th in Order and Security, 67th in Regulatory Enforcement, 64th in Civil Justice, 62nd in Criminal Justice, and on all these counts China ranks higher than India. Interestingly, even on “sanctions on official misconduct” which is a criterion under “Constraints on Government Powers”, China’s score is 0.49, noticeably better than India’s 0.41. Life expectancy on the mainland has kept rising and, according to Macro Trends, stands at 77.13 this year, again much higher than India’s 69.96.

The government, of course, does benefit from having diverse and honest views on policies, so there is no question that the electoral reform should allow opposition. But criticizing must be based on facts and should be meant to help the country and Hong Kong move forward. Asking foreign powers to sanction Hong Kong or the mainland certainly cannot be patriotic or an act of love for Hong Kong. 

Thus there is nothing mysterious about being “patriotic”, the meaning of which should be quite clear. Being patriotic does not mean one has to agree with every policy initiative from Beijing, but it does require respecting China’s political system. If the “pan-democrats” had respected the political system on the mainland and had supported Article 23 legislation, there would have been no need for the current electoral reform. If they had condemned the violence of the rioters and stood up to the rioters with the SAR government, the progression toward “the ultimate aim” of “selection of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures” would have continued smoothly. If they had not rejected the political reform package put forward by the SAR government in 2015, we would have had universal suffrage to elect the Chief Executive in 2017. Given what had happened, those who complain about the National Security Law and the latest election reform need to recognize that these developments are the logical results.

The author is senior research fellow at Pan Sutong Shanghai-Hong Kong Economic Policy Research Institute, Lingnan University.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily. 

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