Earlier this month, a historical election ended with Donald Trump losing the popular vote, but winning the electoral vote, thereby emerging victorious. As of now, his popular vote count is trailing 1.2 percentage points behind Hillary Clinton. The result, once considered unlikely by the public, has become reality to the people of America. Many described it as catastrophic, or even deplorable. Protests and violence broke out in many states; people on the streets were heard chanting ‘not my president’. Though Trump was elected through a system designed against the perils of the tyranny of majority, swathes of protesters saw the result as unacceptable and should be overturned.
The issues revolving around the interpretation of the Basic Law are no different. True, the political outcome might be favourable to many, especially the older generation of Hong Kong and the Leung administration. As Zhang Xiaoming (張曉明) said in a speech two weeks ago, the legal action of interpreting the Basic Law is just. Those who "use the LegCo platform to promote separatism" and “commit treasonous acts" are condemned and kept from power. But what’s at stake is no longer national sentiment – the consequence, but the swift and arbitrary process in which the Central government interprets and enriches the content of the Basic Law. What was once recognized as the last resort of Hong Kong’s legal system is now employed for political intent; what could have been solved by a robust independent legal system is intervened by an external force. The players playing against the rules are punished, but at what cost? This time around, the outcome might be just for some, but this drags the system from its strictly held values into uncharted territory.
There is currently a petition calling for the abolition of the electoral college system, and another for the electors in Trump-won states to vote for Hillary. In the short run, that may be an expedient way of achieving justice and electing the right candidate, but that would not honour the democratic ideal of fair elections and peaceful transfer of power. A Trump presidency might be, like his campaign, unorthodox and hard to stomach, but introducing exceptions to a well-functioning system may raise even more uncertainties and obstruct the pursuit of certain firmly established ideals and values – the rule of law for one.
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