Reform upheaval exposes rifts in political landscape

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 January, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 January, 2011, 12:00am

The past 12 months have been a year of upheaval in Hong Kong politics, resulting in a radically altered political landscape and changes to the dynamics of various political groups. One of the major factors has been the passage of the government's electoral reform proposal.

Only the pro-establishment Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong has managed to escape unscathed because it follows the guidance of the central government.

However, Michael Tien Puk-sun recently left the Liberal Party and joined the New People's Party because of disagreement with fellow member Tommy Cheung Yu-yan over the minimum wage. Following Tien's departure, party high-flier Christine Fong Kwok-shan also deserted the beleaguered political group. Many members believe the reform controversy has further weakened their party unity.

The Democratic Party is still in disarray because of the government-sponsored reform package; most mainstream party leaders supported it, while younger members opposed it and backed the de facto referendum to push for more democracy. The growing internal conflict has prompted many core members, such as Andrew Cheng Kar-foo, to resign.

The League of Social Democrats is even more deeply divided. Mounting disunity has seen former party chairman Wong Yuk-man launch an all-out attack on incumbent chairman Andrew To Kwan-hang and his cabinet. Wong and his party allies have also vowed not to work with the pan-democratic camp in the next district council and legislative council elections because of the Democratic Party's support for the government's reform package.

Even the relatively level-headed Civic Party has been affected by political infighting following its recent leadership reshuffle. Alan Leong Kah-kit has been elected as party leader unchallenged, but some top posts are being fiercely contested.

Conflicts, infighting and rifts are natural phenomena in any political party or democratic system. Competition is good for political development and the growth of fledgling political parties as long as it is conducted in a healthy and fair manner. The latest leadership controversy has somehow exposed the true colours of the Civic Party.

The fact that Leong teamed up with outgoing party leader Audrey Eu Yuet-mee and three members, who are vying for party positions, to draft a political manifesto shows the hypocrisy of the senior leadership and its double standards. Leong should never have shown favouritism towards a handful of members.

No one can deny that democracy is competitive politics and that political dissension is a natural by-product of party development. But, we must not forget that competition should be carried out openly and fairly, especially in a democratic system.

The forming of the alliance within the Civic Party at such a time was inappropriate; it not only goes against the spirit of democracy, but has also affected the party's image and reputation.

Democratic politics is vital to society and is everyone's concern; we must abide by its rules and principles to defend its integrity. The late political leader Szeto Wah was a highly respected democracy icon because of his commitment to upholding the tenets of democracy and insistence on openness and fairness in achieving it.

It is very disappointing to see the supposedly principle-minded Civic Party abandon its core principles and conduct small-circle elections to promote certain favoured members. Those in high political positions should command respect through their conduct.

Albert Cheng King-hon is a political commentator.