China's top legislature decided on August 31 to grant residents universal suffrage in the election of Hong Kong's chief executive on the basis of nomination by a "broadly representative" committee.
This move marks a milestone in the development of Hong Kong's democratic governance and will lay a solid foundation for realizing the direct election of the chief executive.
There have been numerous controversies in Hong Kong in the past few years concerning how the chief executive should be selected. The recent Occupy Central movement—an occupation protest in Hong Kong's central business district—and its counterpart, the anti-Occupy Central movement, represent such disputes.
In fact, since China resumed its exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong in 1997, the Central Government has been pushing forward the progress of democracy in the special administrative region (SAR) according to its Basic Law, the SAR's mini-Constitution. In 2007, it further established a timetable for achieving universal suffrage in Hong Kong.
The decision to elect Hong Kong's chief executive by popular vote starting from 2017 onward represents the common will of its people. This approach has a solid legal basis and highlights the Central Government's commitment to achieving Hong Kong's long-term interests. It will allow groups holding different political opinions to shelve differences and reach a consensus, thus playing a significant role in keeping Hong Kong prosperous and stable.
When Britain ruled Hong Kong, the region's governor was appointed by the British Government and Hong Kong residents played no role in electing their leader. Since Hong Kong's return, the Central Government has established a set of democratic systems in the region based on the "one country, two systems" policy and the principle of "Hong Kong people governing Hong Kong."
Since it is unrealistic to immediately establish a democratic system in the region after more than 100 years of colonial rule, the Chinese Government has put in place a transitional period, working toward universal suffrage starting in 2017. In this period, Hong Kong's chief executive is selected by an election panel made up of representatives from all across the SAR.
Over the past two years, certain groups in Hong Kong have attempted to deny the Central Government's right to oversee the region's political system and have advocated a different approach according to so-called "international standards." Such radical activities aimed at swaying away from the Central Government and leading Hong Kong astray are doomed to fail.
Achieving the direct election of Hong Kong's chief executive requires the concerted efforts of the Central Government, the SAR Government and ordinary Hong Kong citizens. It is widely expected that residents in the region will work together with the government to improve the region's governance and turn universal suffrage into a reality.