Reform row makes one a quitter, others bitter

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 June, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 June, 2010, 12:00am

The looming vote for major political reform - the first in Hong Kong history - has split the pan-democratic camp, leading one lawmaker to apologise to voters, another to quit the party he helped form and others to trade personal attacks with friends.

Independent democrats and lawmakers from the Civic Party and League of Social Democrats say they will vote against electoral reform proposals put forward by the government and modified at the behest of the Democratic Party, while the latter will vote in favour.

Supporters of the reforms say they will make the Legislative Council more representative, dilute the influence of functional constituencies and show that retaining them under universal suffrage is untenable.

Opponents have expressed disbelief that the Democratic Party could agree to reforms that offer no guarantees on the implementation of universal suffrage and the abolition of functional constituencies - conditions all in the camp pledged were fundamental just two weeks ago.

A day of drama began with a tearful Andrew Cheng Kar-foo appearing on a radio programme to reminisce and to say how proud he was to have been a founding member of the Democratic Party. Later, in the Legco chamber, he announced he would quit the party, citing 'small, but critical differences of opinion' and saying he had to fulfil his election pledge to strive for universal suffrage in 2012, which prevented him from supporting the measures proposed.

He would never doubt the party's sincerity in striving for democracy, he said, and added: 'I urge [politicians] once again, especially those in the democratic camp, to stop these personal attacks ... and continue to pave the way to democracy.'

Unionist lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan was also in tears as he reflected on the bitter infighting among the pan-democrats.

'Despite being in politics, we cannot forget human relationships. How has Hong Kong come to this, where we are scolding our own friends? ... Why do people feel the Democratic Party is no longer one of us? I absolutely do not feel like this ... I absolutely cannot utter the words that they have 'betrayed the people'.'

Their pleas for unity went unheeded, with the league's Albert Chan Wai-yip accusing the Democrats of putting party interests above those of the people. 'If you distort, then you have misled. If you vote in contradiction to your election pledge, then you have betrayed the people,' he said. 'To strive for universal suffrage in 2012, that was your election pledge ... Even if you aren't able to achieve it, that doesn't mean you can support a beautified package which obviously goes nowhere close to achieving your pledge.'

League colleague Leung Kwok-hung said he was severing all ties with veteran activist Szeto Wah, with whom he has worked long and hard in the Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China. 'From now on, I no longer recognise him as a friend,' Leung said.

Emily Lau Wai-hing, once a firebrand but now preparing to vote for the government position, was unusually subdued. For the first time, she conceded she was effectively reneging on her election pledge. 'I want to apologise to all those who voted for me ... I accept the condemnation of the people,' she said.

What the reform proposals are

Chief executive

800 members of the Election Committee increases to 1,200

300 from professional sector

300 from industrial, commcerial and financial sectors

300 from labour, social services, religious and other sectors

300 split between lawmakers, district councillors, Heung Yee Kuk, National People's Congress deputies and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference delegates

A candidate needs 150 nominations to take part in the election

What happens next

Needs two-thirds support in Legco

Chief executive's consent

Approval of the National People's Congress Standing Committee

Amendments to the Chief Executive Election Ordinance

2011: ballot to form Election Committee

2012: election to be held


60 seats in the Legislative Council increases to 70

5 geographical constituencies (directly elected)

5 additional seats in the functional constituency for district councils, with candidates nominated by district councillors and voted on by 3.2 million voters who do not get a vote in functional constituency seats

What happens next

Needs two-thirds support in Legco

Chief executive's consent

Reporting to National People's Congress for record

Amendments to the Legislative Council Ordinance

2012: election to be held