The re-election last week of Donald Tsang as Hong Kongâ€™s chief executive was not a surprise, given Beijingâ€™s control over the vote. What has turned out to be surprising is how Tsang was officially challenged for his job by a pro-democracy candidate with no backing from the mainland who managed to get 123 of 796 votes. Such a challenge should send an important signal to Tsang and to Beijing: Ten years after the British handed over the islands to the Chinese it is time to bring universal suffrage to Hong Kong. Hong Kongâ€™s constitution calls for the â€œultimate aimâ€ of one person one vote in elections for the chief executive and the local legislature. The document, the Basic Law, also holds that open voting should be achieved in a â€œgradual and orderlyâ€ fashion. To Chinese authorities, ultimate and gradual seem to have become excuses to keep pushing universal suffrage to the horizon. The poll offered some signs of hope. Even though he was a sure thing Tsang participated in two debates with Alan Leong, his opponent.
Hong Kong stands as a very public model of whether China can make good on its promise to the world 10 years ago of â€œone country, two systems.â€ Hong Kong still has the feel of a free society compared with China. But it will not be a separate system unless residents gain their right to vote.