Think like winners, Ronny Tong says
The pan-democratic camp should cast aside its role as a mere opposition and embrace a 'ruling mentality' if it is to offer a suitable candidate to be the first chief executive elected by universal suffrage in 2017, one leading member of the coalition says.
'There are still five years to go. But at this moment I cannot see any potential candidate from our camp who thinks like a leader of a government,' Ronny Tong Ka-wah said. 'One needs not only popularity, but also pragmatism. Running for office is not like contesting a beauty pageant.'
Tong, a lawmaker and veteran barrister, co-founded the Civic Party in 2006 with the stated aim of becoming Hong Kong's ruling party.
Tong has become even more sceptical of populism since a row over an amendment he proposed to the copyright amendment bill.
The bill aims to extend copyright laws to cover electronic transmissions. Tong's proposal was that there should be an exemption for internet users creating and sharing parodies as long as they caused only trivial economic damage to the owners of the material. Tong believed his suggestion was a compromise.
But he came under fire from internet users who wanted a blanket exemption, and the Civic Party sided with them. Tong considered quitting the party and even leaving politics to return to legal practice.
'I realised giving up amounts to admitting failure to [complete] the three goals I set for myself when I co-founded the Civic Party,' he said. The first of those goals, a minimum wage, became law in 2010 and the second, a competition bill, looks set to be passed within days.
But Tong is not giving up on his third goal: 'I want to see the coming of universal suffrage.'
How best to achieve one-person, one-vote elections has become a big bone of contention between moderate and hardline pan-democrats.
Tensions came to a head in 2010, when proposals for the expansion of the Legislative Council prompted two Civic Party lawmakers and three from the radical League of Social Democrats to stand down and fight by-elections they hoped would be a 'de facto referendum' on universal suffrage. Tong and other moderate democrats, including the Democratic Party, disagreed with the radical approach and formed the Alliance for Universal Suffrage, which sought negotiations on a compromise.
The alliance advocated the 'one person, two votes' system that was eventually adopted, giving every voter who did not already have a vote in a functional constituency the right to vote for the five new seats proposed for the district councils functional constituency. In September's poll, 3.2 million voters will choose these five of the city's 70 lawmakers.
'I still do not believe the de facto referendum worked. But it has brought many problems since then,' said Tong, adding that his views on the poll generated 'the greatest attacks' on him.
'[The by-elections] did not help to bring silent middle-class people to the pan-democratic camp, which was a goal of the Civic Party.
'The pan-democrats are going to face another crossroads when we discuss the electoral methods for 2017 and 2020 [the first Legco elections due to be held under universal suffrage]. If the plan isn't our most ideal one, does that mean we will completely dump it again? There are many shades of grey, and the reform package in 2010 was one.'
While he said the 2010 by-elections generally remained a taboo subject between him and his colleagues, he revealed that Civic Party leader Alan Leong Kah-kit and chairman Dr Kenneth Chan Ka-lok had said they would probably not repeat the exercise during talks to decide the system for the 2017 poll.