Regardless of people's political orientation, there's one uniting theme in Hong Kong: the deeply flawed and inadequate governance. Events over the past six months strongly suggest political reform is needed to safeguard "one country, two systems" and ensure a tenable, mutually beneficial relationship with Beijing.
Here are five reforms that any government - whether it be under Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor or an eventual successor - ought to consider, to restore normalcy to civic life and mainland relations.
First, the political system must be reformed so appointees are selected not only based on technocratic merit or partisan loyalty, but also political competence and savviness.
Many past and present appointees have considerable technical expertise and impeccable credentials, yet they lack political skills like communication, lobbying and persuasion - which would have been helpful in bracing the administration for the public backlash over the summer.
Endemic issues of recalcitrance and unresponsiveness extend beyond the now-withdrawn extradition bill. The government must consider hiring people with talent and experience in public policymaking and empathetic deliberation - particularly young, aspiring public servants who have strong, qualified views on the city's blueprint for the future.
Appointees also need a clearer and enforceable mandate, to liaise with the public and pressure groups, particularly those the administration has traditionally neglected. A more proactive governing cabinet would be pivotal to finding room for convergence between Beijing's desire to win Hongkongers' hearts and minds and their wish for greater political autonomy.
Second, public debates and open-air consultations should become a routine feature of Hong Kong politics. Lam's first public dialogue was crucial in allowing members of the public to vent their frustration - but both the lack of follow-up and the often facetious responses left even the most moderate person perplexed and resentful.
Open dialogue sessions mean little unless the agenda and conclusions are actionable and somewhat binding. For far too long, the Legislative Council has remained a tokenistic, rubber-stamp entity in which career politicians battle for careerist victories.
If the council is unwilling to pass policies on issues that affect people's livelihoods, civil rights or socioeconomic progress, the public should be given the opportunity to do so, through debates and consultations.
By compelling officials to defend and justify policies to the public, a debate-driven format can help bridge differences between the mainland and Hong Kong, while ensuring differing views are well represented.
Third, accessible channels of communication should be established for the Hong Kong public to directly reach Beijing officials. It is delusional to believe mutual bellicosity can lead to a harmonious, stable political future for Hong Kong.
That Beijing was taken aback by the landslide defeat of pro-government parties in the district council elections suggests transparency and frankness are lacking in the communication between political circles in Beijing and Hong Kong.
On the other hand, it would benefit both sides if Hongkongers were granted the opportunity - within political and feasibility constraints - to voice their concerns to Beijing by non-violent and institutionalised means. Beijing would find Hong Kong far easier to govern, and Hong Kong's civil society could thrive in ways complementary to China's rise.
Fourth, this summer's crisis is no single individual's fault - it is a combination of numerous structural failures. Rather than concocting an out-of-touch reading of the root causes of the unrest, the administration should offer a framework for the public to freely air their grievances. These reconciliation-oriented discussions can be held online and offline, and should be hosted by trained mediators.
More fundamentally, a committee of inquiry is a prerequisite for de-escalation, though it is by no means enough. Hong Kong needs genuine, structural solutions to problems ranging from uncompetitive education and misunderstanding of the mainland to police conduct and political insensitivity.
Fifth, Hongkongers would benefit from greater involvement in national politics. Our technocrats, businesspeople and professionals have unparalleled expertise and knowledge - we can do much to transform the city into a constructive and integrated component of national politics, a voice that does not seek futile independence yet stands up for the city's core values.
Greater involvement of local representatives in national affairs would also help defuse the hostility that has unfortunately accumulated over the years. Hong Kong needs a leadership that is well versed not only in local affairs but also the history and politics of China, while being internationally minded enough to deal with significant international pressure.
With such suggestions comes the inevitable question: why would Beijing agree? There are many reasons: the reforms offer a bloodless means of incorporating public concerns and preferences into the city's governance framework without damaging national security.
They can play a key role in isolating the tiny, insignificant secessionist minority from a majority of "soft" pro-democracy voters, who can be persuaded by what they perceive as the availability of alternative paths to changing the status quo.
Finally, with the seismic political events this year, it is only a matter of time before policymakers on both sides of the border begin to rethink Beijing's Hong Kong policies. Now is the right time to consider what medium-term reforms could look like.
At the core of the ongoing protests is an overwhelming demand for systemic reform. Yet any political reform within Hong Kong must respect Beijing's baselines for national security and geopolitical stability. This requires everyone - political activists, business moguls and cultural icons included - to make a concerted case to Beijing that it can work for everyone's benefit.
Brian Wong is an MPhil (political theory) candidate at Wolfson College, Oxford and current Rhodes Scholar-elect for Hong Kong in 2020
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