All change again: now Lee backs resignations

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 December, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 December, 2009, 12:00am

Former Democratic Party chairman Martin Lee Chu-ming last night made his second U-turn in three weeks over the pan-democrats' plans to resign in the fight for universal suffrage.

His second change of heart came a day after former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang supported a plan for pan-democrats to resign from five directly elected seats to force a de facto referendum on universal suffrage for 2012.

Lee, who originally backed the resignations plan, had a change of heart late last month when he said he had been too rash in pushing for the move. But last night, he said the Democratic Party would only make itself 'look like an idiot' if its members voted down the proposal.

Lee said he had come to the conclusion that his party would have no choice but to join its allies in supporting the plan for one pan-democrat to resign from each of the five geographical constituencies and contest the ensuing by-elections.

'Not participating in the resignation plan will make the party look like an idiot,' Lee said. 'The survival of the party is at stake - working together with our allies is the only logical conclusion for damage control.'

The resignation plan is being spearheaded by the Civic Party and the League of Social Democrats. Lee had called for dialogue between all sides when a dispute erupted between his party and its allies last month.

The Democratic Party leadership has strongly opposed the resignations plan, which it fears would see the camp lose seats, as well as losing the agenda in its fight for a road map for universal suffrage to be included in the government's reform proposal, which is being consulted publicly.

'I acknowledge our supporters are split between backing the resignation plan and opposing it. Our party will be condemned if we are not participating, and the Civic Party and the league will no doubt suffer a major defeat without our help.

'Those who are opposed to it are worried that we will lose seats. That's why they will come out and vote us back in if we participate. Not only will the party win the seats, we can save the day for the whole camp,' Lee said.

But Democrat lawmaker Cheung Man-kwong said the party was resolved to oppose the plan. 'Different people have different ways to fight for democracy - we have learned to respect our differences.'

The party has promised to lend canvassing support even if none of its lawmakers resign.

Meanwhile, nine younger politicians from various parties in the pan-democratic camp issued an open letter, calling on pan-democrat leaders to back the plan and achieve unity.

'We understand different parties have different views on how to further democracy,' the statement said. 'But no matter what strategy is to be taken, the biggest principle in the pro-democracy camp is to trust the people and inter-party unity.'