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Democracy is more than a set of rules

“Authentic democracy is not merely the result of a formal observation of a set of rules, but is the fruit of a convinced acceptance of the values that inspire democratic procedures: the dignity of every human person, the respect of human rights, commitment to the common good as the purpose and guiding criterion for political life” (407, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church).
As Hong Kong goes to the polls in a District Council election on November 6, people will face a more complex procedure than in previous years, as a result of the constitutional reform package which has created five new seats in the Legislative Council (LegCo), the candidates for which have all been nominated by the elected members of the district councillors.
Although they are to be elected on a one-person-one-vote basis, this does not equate to a democratic process, as people have no say in the nomination process nor do they have the right to run as a candidate. However, the number of overall candidates has been increased significantly.
On the eve of the passage of the constitutional reform package last year, June 24, the government promised to scrap the practice of appointing District Council members to get the support of the Pan-Democrats for its proposed bill.
However, it did not give a timetable until September and although the number of appointed members will drop by one-third, from 102 to 68, the decision was made without consultation and a watered down consultation process was announced on what to do with the remaining appointed seats.
The appointment system for District Councils had fallen into abeyance under the British, but was reintroduced after the handover to Chinese sovereignty in 1997. The process has been consistently criticised by the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission and other civic bodies as only representing the preference of the chief executive, not the people.
In addition, the selection criteria are vague and open to nepotism and conflict of interest.
The fact that appointed seats remain, reflects the lack of political development in Hong Kong and, on top of this, we have seen a resurrection of the furore over the judicial reviews on the right of abode for migrant workers in the territory, prompted not by the hearings themselves, but the opening of the election season.
As soon as campaigning got underway, both politicians and political parties began inciting unrest over the issue and attacking both the migrants themselves and organisations in the community that support them.
Sadly, they have not succeeded in doing much, other than using unverified data to create hysteria among the public, feeding xenophobic sentiment and silencing political parties that are prepared to support the migrants who, although they live in the city, have no right to stay permanently and no right to vote.
They are simply trapped between disinformation and silence.
This preoccupation during the run up to the election has also served to cloud the real issue of the development of democratic processes of governance in the special administrative region, as well veil the adherence of the government to undemocratic ways.
It should be a call to all those able to vote to do their homework well before setting off to the polling booths, and to cast their ballots in favour of building a society of justice in the spirit of harmony. SE