Mon Jul 2nd, 2007 at 06:25:53 AM EST
Amid the headlines and stories about the 10 year anniversary of Chinese rule in Hong Kong, there were many calls for more democracy in the territory. But if one didn't read carefully, one could easily have skipped the following information:
The territory was allowed to keep its capitalist economy, British-style legal system and civil liberties, though critics say media self-censorship is common. But China - like Britain - hasn't allowed Hong Kong people to directly elect their leader and entire legislature.
You might wonder how Britain, which ruled the territory for over 100 years, handled the thorny question of democracy for its Chinese British subjects. A mere 7 years before the 99 year lease was set to expire, the British finally allowed the people of Hong Kong to vote for their representatives:
The Basic Law of Hong Kong, which would serve as the constitutional document after the transfer, was ratified in 1990. Over strong objections from Beijing, Governor Chris Patten introduced democratic reforms to the election process for the Legislative Council of Hong Kong.
No, this can't be, you must be saying. Well, it's true:
Formed as a colonial legislature under the British in 1843, the first direct elections of the Legislative Council took place in 1991.
and from the same source:
In the 2004 election, 30 members were directly elected by universal suffrage from geographical constituencies (GC) and 30 were elected from functional constituencies. In the previous election in 2000, 24 were directly elected, 6 elected from an 800-member electoral college called the Election Committee of Hong Kong, and 30 elected from functional constituencies. The method of election after 2007 has not been specified. The Basic Law states that the ultimate aim is the election of all the Legco members by universal suffrage (Article 68 of the Basic Law of Hong Kong).
So, to resume: the British were loath to give up Hong Kong because of the terrible things that would happen to its oversea territory if the non-democratic Chinese took over, but the British themselves did not allow the people to vote, until 7 years prior to the expiration of the 99 year lease, and the Chinese are using the Basic Law set down by the British themselves for the Legislature, with the goal of having the entire Leislature elected. But the British are calling for more democracy even today although the Chinese have a better record than the British do in that regard.
The sole difference is that the head of the Legislature is now called Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai instead of:
Sir Henry Pottinger (1843-1844)
Sir John Francis Davis (1844-1848)
Sir Samuel George Bonham (1848-1854)
Sir John Bowring (1854-1859)
Lord Hercules George Robert Robinson (1859-1865)
Sir Richard Graves Macdonell (1866-1872)
Sir Arthur Edward Kennedy (1872-1877)
Sir John Pope Hennessy (1877-1882)
Sir George Ferguson Bowen (1883-1885)
Sir George William Des Voeux (1887-1891)
Sir William Robinson (1890-1898)
Sir Henry Arthur Blake (1898-1903)
Sir Matthew Nathan (1904-1904)
Lord Frederick Lugard (1907-1912)
Sir Francis Henry May (1912-1919)
Sir Reginald Edward Stubbs (1919-1925)
Sir Cecil Clementi (1925-1930)
Sir William Peel (1930-1935)
Sir Andrew Caldecott (1935-1937)
Sir Geoffrey Northcote (1937-1941)
Sir Mark Aitchison Young (1941)
Colonial Secretary Franklin Charles Gimson 1944 - acting
Rear Admiral Sir Cecil Halliday Jepson Harcourt - Head of British Military Government 1944-1946
Sir Mark Aitchison Young (1946-1947, Restoration)
Sir Alexander Grantham (1947-1957)
Sir Robert Brown Black (1958-1964)
Sir David Clive Crosbie Trench (1964 - 1971)
Lord MacLehose of Beoch (1971-1982)
Sir Edward Youde (1982-1986)
Lord Wilson of Tillyorn (1987-1992)
Chris Patten (1992-1993)
Sir John Joseph Swaine (1993-1995)
First non-Governor President of LEGCO.
Andrew Wong (1995-1997)
Now what's so undemocratic about that?