Why should we tolerate this zero-sum game?

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 November, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 27 November, 2009, 12:00am

There's a very strange phenomenon occurring in relation to the consultation on constitutional development by 2012, and it can easily be seen by any disinterested observer.

The government and pro-establishment side are seriously thinking about how to move forward, under the given constitutional framework, towards universal suffrage in 2017. They are talking about the nuts and bolts of democratisation and social commitment.

Yet, on the pro-democracy camp's side, we never hear anything about democratic progress, social responsibility or alternative proposals. Their overall strategy is to gang up and put a halt to any progress, to force a showdown with the central government with a view to extracting concessions.

All their discussions and planned actions are calculated tactical manoeuvres of gain and loss, with each side trying to up the ante.

These two separate paths simply cannot, and will not, converge. There will be only confrontation, not dialogue, and no compromise.

The most probable result of the current consultation is going to be another veto by the dissident lawmakers, another deadlock, and the same old election methods for the 2012 chief executive and Legislative Council elections. Both sides will then try their utmost to blame the other, but every stakeholder will be a loser.

The subsequent squabbling will not last long though, as the media will soon get tired of it, and the politicians will be busy preparing for the 2011 district council elections, and the two elections in 2012. On the face of it, life will go on as usual, and the pledge from the central government for universal suffrage for the chief executive election in 2017, and for all of Legco in 2020, will still be valid.

The fact of the matter is that if the current proposal - which is an improved version of the 2005 offering, incorporating most of the demands of the dissidents - were to be vetoed again, it would be the last straw. It will break down the little remaining rapport within our society, as well as that which exists between the Hong Kong and central governments.

The basic rationale will be completely altered and this sea change is likely to bring about another new game and set of rules.

Some reporters have pressed me on whether the 'principle of gradual and orderly progress', as stipulated in the Basic Law and by the 2007 National People's Congress Standing Committee, can be fulfilled if we do not take any step forward again.

I am not in a position to give an authoritative answer, but it is obvious that there is a lot of uncertainty. Contrary to what the dissidents have been propagating in recent months, the uncertainty does not lie in Beijing, because the Standing Committee resolution is a solemn one, and will remain valid.

But with a total breakdown of mutual trust here in Hong Kong, there are bound to be challenges regarding the 'principle of gradual and orderly progress', and any proposal for universal suffrage in 2017 could easily be vetoed by a one-third minority in Legco.

According to the Standing Committee resolution, if there is no amendment to election methods, the old methods will continue to apply. That is to say, we will continue to elect our chief executive and lawmakers the same way we did in 2002 and 2004.

I raised publicly the following question 18 months ago, and I am going to raise it again here: compared to a complete stop since 2002, how bad can it possibly be if we move just an inch forward to pave the way for the immediate step of universal suffrage in 2017?

I never got a satisfactory answer from the self-proclaimed democrats. And that is why I insist on calling them dissidents, because that is what they are.

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