Elections may lead to 'tyranny of majority', Legco president says

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 May, 2010, 12:00am

Tsang Yok-sing, already at the centre of controversy for his readiness to resign as Legislative Council president in order to vote in favour of the government's electoral reform package, warned yesterday that democracy is not a panacea.

Speaking at a youth forum that he hoped would stir thoughts on democracy, Tsang said elections could lead to a 'tyranny of the majority'.

As Hong Kong faces another crossroads on the path to democracy, Tsang stressed that he, like the general public, was striving for democracy, but he also hoped for more in-depth discussion over its pros and cons. He said he wanted to respond to those who say Hong Kong's social ills are due to the lack of universal suffrage.

'So I want to ask them, if there is democracy ... are the property prices going to go down?' he said.

Tsang also said so-called democratic countries still had serious social ills, citing the problems experienced by Thailand and the Philippines and even the United States.

'If you ask me whether a system of elections can lead to the minority being suppressed by the majority, or the 'tyranny of the majority' ... it can be,' he said.

Tsang is already at the centre of controversy after he indicated that he was prepared to resign as Legco president in order to cast a deciding vote in support of the government's political reform proposals for the 2012 elections.

Speaking after the forum, Tsang said that while an official had discussed the reform package with him, he did not think this was a lobbying attempt, nor did they discuss the issue of resigning to vote.

As the founding chairman of the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, Tsang was a controversial candidate for Legco president.

Tsang pledged at the time that he would neither vote nor comment on public affairs issues that might cause controversy among lawmakers, nor would he express opinions that might lead to further debate in order to maintain impartiality.

Regarding the merit of democracy, Tsang said: 'There are certainly places where you find what you call the 'tyranny of the majority'. The important thing is we bear this in mind, we make sure we do not make the same mistakes as we see in other places.'

In a letter sent to lawmakers yesterday, Tsang said: 'I believe every lawmaker will also understand that I, as a directly elected lawmaker, a representative of the people, must also be responsible to the people.

'When I feel that, because of the absence of my vote the interests of the wider society will be severely damaged, then I have the responsibility to discharge my duty to the people and cast my vote.'