Democracy forsaken on dissidents' power trip

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 November, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 13 November, 2009, 12:00am

For the past two years, our dissidents have been preparing for a showdown on constitutional development. Watching their infighting and listening to their rhetoric, it is now clear that this has nothing to do with democracy and universal suffrage; it's about power.

First of all, they want to take over the whole issue, so that whatever they want, goes. They claim they represent democracy, but have they ever held public meetings or otherwise solicited people's views?

Dissident lawmakers all claim they were elected for democracy. Was that the reason, the only reason why people cast their vote for them? Apart from universal suffrage, which was enshrined in the Basic Law as early as 1990 anyway, what is their common democratic vision? And, apart from mechanically repeating 'no' to everything, what have they done to promote universal suffrage?

Second, among the dissidents we never see any serious discussion on democratic development; they are too busy fighting among themselves for leadership. That is all there is to them. From their actions, it is clear that they don't care a damn about democracy, or what you and I care about. Their democracy is not power to the people, but power to a clique who claim to represent them.

Viewed from that angle, the upcoming consultation on constitutional development is a case of 'my way or the highway' for the dissidents. At one point, they contemplated resigning en masse from the Legislative Council even before the consultation had begun. Even now, mass resignation is still in the air sometime along the way.

Our dissidents are clearly not in a negotiating mood; they want to dictate terms by ganging up and hijacking the process, forcing another veto. But they are cowards, and they do not want to bear the responsibility of vetoing away universal suffrage in 2017 and 2020, as solemnly set down in the 2007 National People's Congress Standing Committee decision.

They went around spreading the rumour that this was a hoax and not a timetable, knowing full well that this remark was a lie; the issue was fully explored early last year by the Commission for Strategic Development, and dissident lawmakers were present.

When they confronted Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen on this point during a meeting last week, they got a clear and straight answer: election methods in 2012 are not preconditions to universal suffrage in 2017.

This should come as a relief to dissident lawmakers as they can veto the proposal for constitutional development in 2012 and still enjoy universal suffrage in 2017.

But the burden is now entirely on them to prove they are serious about democratic development, and not seeking to hijack the process for power. By vetoing the 2005 proposal, the dissidents proved to the world that they were not democrats.

Now they have a second chance, and should they veto this proposal for no good reason, the term 'dissident' will stick forever and their democratic followers will dessert them.

Lau Nai-keung is a member of the Basic Law Committee of the NPC Standing Committee and of the Commission on Strategic Development