HK needs vocal opposition in Legco

Albert Cheng says Beijing's growing say in local politics, unsurprising given its influence on the current administration, must be resisted

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 August, 2012, 3:27pm

With the Legislative Council election on September 9 fast approaching, campaign activities have moved into high gear as candidates pull out all the stops to garner public support.

To the majority of voters, the election seems to lack a single overarching theme. However, the latest opinion polls indicate that, despite this, voter turnout is expected to hit an all-time high.

Of course, opinion polls are not always dependable; some may be politically motivated or biased. Meanwhile, we are more likely to see different strategies of vote-rigging this year and, thus, the so-called 6:4 golden ratio - that is, for every 10 ballots cast, six go to pan-democrats and four to the pro-establishment candidates - may not hold true in this election.

We have witnessed a number of Legco elections since the handover 15 years ago. So far, this ratio has held in the battle between the pan-democrats and the pro-establishment camp.

In geographical constituencies, the pan-democrats tend to have the upper hand, winning a lot more seats in Legco than their opposition. So even if the pro-establishment camp manages to grab the majority in the functional constituencies, the pan-democrats can still play a critical minority role in the legislature.

In our executive-led government, this power structure can serve as effective checks and balances. The pan-democrats may not have the power to make things happen, but at least they can block undesirable policies such as the controversial national security legislation. But, we seem to be facing a different scenario this time around.

The distribution of power between the two main opposing forces doesn't appear to be as clear-cut and obvious as it was in the past. The internal competition among the pan-democrats and the pro-establishment candidates is just as brutal. This is a by-product of last year's constitutional reform. The passage of the reform package badly split the pan-democratic camp, and today the mainstream and radical democrats can't stand one another.

This year, all eyes are on the 10 new Legco seats - five for district councils and five in the geographical constituencies.

Many may not have noticed that since Leung Chun-ying took over as chief executive, local politics has undergone fundamental changes. We have seen a policy change in the way the central government manages Hong Kong.

It no longer wishes to depend on the business community and the civil service to run the city. Now, we have a closet communist as our chief executive, who takes orders only from the central government's liaison office in Hong Kong. In other words, we have to kiss goodbye to "one country, two systems" and "Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong". The harsh reality is that the autonomy of Hong Kong has been transferred to Western, where the liaison office is located.

Soon after Leung won the chief executive election, 15,000 people took to the streets in April calling for his resignation, according to the organisers of the march. On July 1, up to 400,000 marchers showed up for the annual rally to voice their discontent, and another 90,000 people turned up that same month to protest against the national education policy. It shows that this government seriously lacks a mandate from the people.

Unfortunately, Leung is here to stay no matter what, because he has apparently been tasked to realise four big political assignments for the central government - push through national education in Hong Kong, suppress freedom of expression, take over northeast New Territories on behalf of the Shenzhen government and win over the control of Legco in the coming election.

We would do well to remember what Vice-President Xi Jinping said on a visit to Hong Kong that he hoped to see the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the city work together for a better Hong Kong, This drew a response from the Bar Association reiterating the judiciary's independence. It is clear the underlying intention of Beijing is to have more control over Hong Kong; its overall policy for the city has shifted.

With this new policy mindset, we are certain that the central government's liaison office will do its utmost to control the outcome of this year's Legco election. But because of internal conflicts within the pro-government camp over rural land policy, there is still a chance that the outcome might not be under its absolute control.

If the pro-government camp could garner more than two-thirds majority in Legco, the administration would face little opposition to implementing national education in schools, force through Article 23, surrender part of the New Territories to Shenzhen as well as strip Hong Kong of its core values such as general freedoms and the rule of law.

For those of us who love Hong Kong, we have an intrinsic responsibility to safeguard "one country, two systems" and the principle of "Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong".

Voters need to be reminded that we do have one overarching theme in this Legco election. That is, Hong Kong people must stand together and support the opposition and resist Leung's political mission to force the executive, legislative and judicial branches to work together.

Albert Cheng King-hon is a political commentator.