Rising star's fall shows a party in disarray

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 December, 2010, 12:00am

The case of Edward Yum Liang-hsien, a League of Social Democrats member who has been arrested on suspicion of rape and indecent assault, has been a hot news item for a couple of weeks.

There has been an obvious rise of news-related infotainment, with the print media today treating most news items as entertainment news to attract readers.

The most radical local political party, a political activist and a sex scandal are without doubt the most potent ingredients that can be used to cook up a sensational story. It is not difficult to understand why this story sells.

People who read these stories are usually not interested in the facts or the social and political implications behind the stories, as they treat them as entertainment news. Their attention spans are often short.

Yum's case has reminded us that certain rules must be observed by political parties and politicians in order to keep their political integrity intact.

It has further exposed the anomie that is affecting our young people - those of the so-called post-1980s generation - making them lack purpose and ethical values.

Our society is changing rapidly and, as it evolves, it will inevitably give rise to many different beliefs and values. We are no longer bound by traditional values.

In fact, we are confronted with a breakdown of social norms while the majority of society adapts to a different set of values.

With regards to Yum's case, if he is charged, we should let the courts decide. According to the common law, everyone charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed innocent until proven guilty. Although we are entitled to our opinions, it would be unfair to make personal judgments at this stage.

Before the scandal broke, Yum, the leader of a radical faction in his party, was seen as a rising league star, and many had high hopes that he would pick up the baton from the current leadership and run in the next district council or Legislative Council elections. The case has dealt a serious blow to his political career as the public has high expectations of politicians and public figures. No matter what the outcome, his political life may be more or less over.

Money and sex are often the causes of a politician's downfall. Yum and others allegedly involved in the scandal are all energetic young people willing to contribute to society. For the sake of their own good or their political future, politicians have to be sensitive to the feelings and expectations of members of the public, who typically hold conservative views on social and family issues. The new generation of young politicians would do well to remember this.

Many people may see Yum's case as just another controversy that is troubling the League of Social Democrats. Others fear its internal squabbles could give the impression that things are getting out of control. Political infighting and factional conflicts are inevitable in any democratic political system and they affect all political parties.

But, most unexpectedly, the league appears to have no sense of crisis in the way it is handling this scandal.

Top leaders Wong Yuk-man, 'Long Hair' Leung Kwok-hung and Albert Chan Wai-yip all seem unable to forge a united front, to stop members from spreading personal interpretations and rumours about the case.

Not long ago, the league emerged victorious following the de facto referendum to push for more democratic changes. Many had high hopes that it would play a major role in the local political scene and be able to snatch five geographical seats in the next Legco election.

But, most disappointingly, it has ruined its chances.

Albert Cheng King-hon is a political commentator. taipan@albertcheng.hk