Universal suffrage in Hong Kong

By-elections can show Beijing we're serious about democracy

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 April, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 April, 2010, 12:00am

The democratic movement in Hong Kong has arrived at a critical juncture regarding universal suffrage. The National People's Congress Standing Committee's pledges on democracy in 2017 and 2020 appear to be empty promises. It merely talks of universal suffrage for Hong Kong, but this may not mean genuine democracy.

Beijing will be able to control pro-establishment forces here and they can vote down, in the legislature, any proposals for full democracy, The pro-Beijing groups can easily maintain the majority they need in the chamber given that half of the seats comprise the functional constituencies.

Some pan-democrats, such as the Alliance for Universal Suffrage, pretend to be pragmatic, but do not have a realistic strategy. They are playing into the hands of the central government, which has made it clear that a road map for universal suffrage cannot be mapped out until after 2012.

Therefore, the pan-democrats are faced with a dilemma. Should they stick to their tactics of the past 25 years, or throw their support behind the movement backing the de facto referendum?

I am certain of one thing. Without next month's by-elections having turned into a referendum, the mild wing of the pan-democrats would have no chance of talks with the pro-Beijing forces. Without public support we cannot have a mature, democratic culture.

We must back this de facto referendum because it can help to educate Hongkongers. It will help them to become more aware of the importance of democracy in their lives.

If this 'referendum' tactic fails, it will expose Hong Kong people as being too short-sighted and of focusing on immediate economic gains rather than looking at the long-term benefits democracy can bring. We should be grateful to the Civic Party and the League of Social Democrats for giving us the chance to make our opinions known on the crucially important issue of democracy.

Stephen C. K. Chan, Lai Chi Kok