As the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to China approaches (1 July 2017), I am posting the first Hong Kong Transition Project reports of the 5th anniversary (2002) and the 10th anniversary (2007). The 15th anniversary report (2012) is already on site. A full report on the third round of constitutional reform which was launched in December 2013 will be posted in March 2014. The third round of constitutional reform aims to amend the Basic Law to achieve the direct election of the Chief Executive in 2017 as promised in the Basic Law and in the April 2007 Standing Committee of the National Peoples Congress decision. Further reform of Legislative Council elections is expected for the 2016 elections, following the first reforms implemented in the elections of 2012.
The run-up to the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong's reunification promises to be long and drawn out and is in a very real sense already underway. This anniversary run-up will be fraught with tense negotiations over the degree of democracy Beijing officials will permit. At the same time, the Occupy Central movement promises to do its best to peacefully bring Central District to a standstill if the reforms do not meet international norms of democratic practice, such as full right to stand for election without pre-screening by non-democratic means, and the full right to vote with "one person, one vote" equal voting effect on the outcome. Beijing officials have already voiced strong opposition to Occupy Central, and the PLA has already very publicly staged drills aimed at "handling emergencies" in the SAR, spokespersons say, but which the South China Morning Post reported as what many take for warning exercises to Hong Kong demonstrators that the PLA can and will act if needed.
So stay tuned to news from Hong Kong, good or bad. For if Hong Kong can achieve a reasonably full degree of democracy by its 20th anniversary in 2017, that will indicate that all of China will likely eventually move forward on political reform. If Hong Kong cannot achieve an acceptable level of democracy, and if the PLA and Beijing officials act to suppress the democracy movement in Hong Kong, the 20th anniversary could mark not the beginning of democratic change in China, but the beginning of rounds of suppression and revolts with no option but overturning CCP rule. Already the signs are not good on the mainland, for many who advocate political reform have been silenced or intimidated by the new regime that just assumed power. Such an outcome or repression and revolt instead of reform could undermine China's entire modernization process and condemn China to the same sort of failed reform and collapse seen in the former USSR.