Minister heckled as 'Victoria Park brothers' hold sway
Constitutional Affairs minister Stephen Lam Sui-lung was subjected to chants of 'Liar! Liar!' and 'Come out to vote!' when he appeared on RTHK's City Forum show yesterday.
But there was no repeat of the scenes in Victoria Park that led to the boycott of the show by 20 government-friendly lawmakers recently and guests left without being surrounded and subjected to abuse.
However, the rowdy crowd that has now come to dominate the public audience with its views on democratic reform sent a clear message: 'Speaker's Corner' is now the domain of the liberal 'Victoria Park brothers', not the reactionary 'Victoria Park elders'.
The 'park elders' who used to dominate the audience with their criticism of the pan-democrats were either drowned out or marginalised in the crowd yesterday.
And while the audience may have refrained from physical aggression they took the opportunity to vent their discontent at the slow pace of democratic change.
After a series of rowdy debates, which are filmed live every Sunday, 20 pro-government lawmakers had indicated they would boycott the show.
The crowd is most raucous when the debate involves political reform, with many young people in the audience openly urging support for the 'de facto referendum' plan instigated by the Civic Party and the League of Social Democrats. The parties want people to vote in May 16 by-elections to show support for early implementation of universal suffrage and the abolition of functional constituencies.
Yesterday's topic of debate - the government's updated reform package for 2012 - was always likely to spark controversy, especially with the participation of two Beijing loyalists: Maria Tam Wai-chu, a deputy to the National People's Congress, and Lew Mon-hung, a local deputy to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. After incidents in recent weeks in which pro-establishment figures, especially functional constituency lawmakers, were surrounded and heckled as they tried to leave, barriers were erected between the public zone and the area for panellists. And arrangements were made to escort them from the park at the end of the programme.
As a sign of a change in status in the park, 'Victoria Park brother' Edward Yum Liang Hsien - a frequent member of the audience and an increasingly media-savvy figure among the new generation of activists - was invited to speak first about the new arrangements. He urged his other 'brothers' to remain calm.
Yum began by thanking RTHK and the organisers of the show for 'preserving the freedom of expression' by continuing the live broadcasts.
He stressed that the young crowd had always behaved and expressed their views in a 'rational, reasonable, lawful, and logical' way. He said he hoped guests would nevertheless 'jump across those railings so you can truly face the people'.