The other day I wrote about Article 45 of the Basic Law and what is might mean for the prospect of universal suffrage in Hong Kong. I have since revisited the Law Society’s take on the issue, as spelled out in its recent press release.
There are some similarities to what I wrote a few days ago – and some fairly big differences. Let us first look at the phrase “The ultimate aim is the selection of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures.” as it appears in Article 45. Note that, in the text of the Basic Law, the word “nomination” is not capitalised. This is important, because the Law Society, in its submission, has capitalised this word. In fact, here is how they have chosen to break down the sentence:
“Nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures”
Recalling the discussion on this board a few days ago, there is some doubt as to whether the term “in accordance with democratic procedures” qualifies the term “nomination” or whether it is a general requirement applying to the entire sentence. The Law Society, by focussing on this part of the sentence only, and by capitalising the word “nomination”, make it appear as if this is a stand-alone sentence, meaning that the term “in accordance with democratic procedures” can only be there to qualify the term “nomination”. The reason why this is appears to be particularly disingenuous is that, in the original text, the word before “nomination” is “upon”, which could simply indicate a sequence of events, so that the entire sentence could also be rephrased as: “Once nomination by the nominating committee has been done, the Chief Executive is selected by universal suffrage in accordance with democratic principles.” Whether or not that is the correct way of reading it can be debated, but it is certainly disappointing that the Law Society would exclude such as construal from the outset.