Veteran Democrat warns young of long road ahead

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 January, 2008, 12:00am

Veteran democracy activist Szeto Wah yesterday sounded a warning to the next generation of Democratic Party members that politics was not just about rising through the ranks and winning seats but a lifetime commitment to democratic principles.

At a small ceremony at the party's headquarters, Mr Szeto symbolically handed the democracy baton to party members under 30. Mr Szeto was in no mood to celebrate, however, reminding the 'youngsters' of the hard work ahead.

'Taking on the democracy baton doesn't mean you can rise through the party ranks and automatically get a district council or legislative council seat. This takes a lot of work,' he said.

'It's not about carrying on when you win a seat, and giving up when you lose. That shows your dedication to democracy is not true.'

The Democratic Party is finding it more difficult to win council seats. Factional disputes, the rise of alternative parties and the lack of expansion in the political structure have meant the party has lost the dominance it has held since before the handover. It suffered a sound defeat in November's district council polls.

Mok Siu-lun, a self-proclaimed member of 'Democratic Party version 2.0', said there would have been more opportunities for rising talent if more district council or legislative council seats were available.

The National People's Congress Standing Committee last month set a timetable under which all legislative councillors would not be returned by universal suffrage until at least 2020.

Mr Mok said: 'Of course we were disappointed, but we were disappointed for all Hongkongers because we have already waited for universal suffrage for so long.'

A decision on whether founding party chairman Martin Lee Chu-ming should run again for the Hong Kong Island Legco seat this year is expected at the party general meeting in March.

'To be honest, I don't mind not doing it all. I'm 70 years old. Who wants to be campaigning at this age?' Mr Lee said. 'But it's not just my decision, it's up to the whole party.'

The party is expected to field two lists for Hong Kong Island, with another former chairman, Yeung Sum, giving priority to a fresh face on one.

Each year, Mr Szeto, who turns 77 next month, spends more than 100 hours writing spring couplets to hand out to the community during Lunar New Year.