Civic Party and league to act as rivals step up the pressure
Gary Cheung and Ambrose Leung
The Civic Party and the League of Social Democrats will issue a new document this week to clarify the meaning and strategy of their de facto referendum on universal suffrage following mounting pressure from government allies.
The move comes as the Beijing-friendly Federation of Trade Unions decided yesterday not to take part in the by-elections triggered by resignations of pan-democratic lawmakers. Its close ally, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said on Tuesday it was boycotting the polls.
Five lawmakers - three from the league and two from the Civic Party - have resigned to trigger by-elections, which the groups view as a de facto referendum on the pace of democratisation in the city.
Andrew To Kwan-hang, chairman of the league, said the aim of the document was to renew discourse between the two groups. 'Our present assessment is that although the leftists will not openly send people to fight against us, they will send someone disguised as independents. In light of the latest situation, we need to step up our propaganda campaign,' To said.
Kenneth Chan Ka-lok, secretary general of the Civic Party, said the two groups were in full agreement. He denied any spilt over strategy.
Earlier, they had decided that they would admit defeat if they polled fewer votes than their main rivals in the by-elections and the turnout was more than 50 per cent. Only under these circumstances would they accept the result and vote for the government's constitutional reform proposal, which they have criticised as being undemocratic.
Speaking after a meeting yesterday during which the federation decided not to run, vice-president Wong Kwok-kin said he hoped the government would lodge a separate funding application for the by-elections, rather than including the extra funding in its forthcoming budget.
Federation president Cheng Yiu-tong, an executive councillor, said a growing number of its members opposed contesting the polls because the two groups were using slogans such as 'people rise up' and 'liberate Hong Kong'. Asked if the federation would urge its supporters to stay away from the ballot box, Cheng said it was up to voters to decide.
Responding to a question on whether the federation would boycott the 2012 Legco elections if pan-democrats used slogans such as 'people rise up' in the campaign, Wong said: 'Let's see whether we will run if that scenario happens.'
Dr Ma Ngok, a political scientist at Chinese University, said turnout for the by-elections could drop by 6 percentage points if both the DAB and the federation urged their supporters not to vote. The two Beijing-friendly groups polled a total of 433,684 votes in the 2008 Legco elections, when turnout was 45.2 per cent.
Ma said: 'I believe about 200,000 hardcore supporters of the DAB and FTU will heed their call for a boycott. If that happens, voter turnout could plunge by 6 percentage points.'