Pan-democrats must own up to mistakes behind election losses

Albert Cheng says the Democratic Party, in particular, should accept blame for its 2010 backroom deal on political reform, and not point fingers

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 September, 2012, 8:03am

Following the Legislative Council election, I wrote a commentary evaluating the outcome, calling it a manipulated affair.

From the results of the so-called super seats in the district council functional constituency, I detected the hand of the central government and suggested that Lau Kong-wah, vice-president of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, was "sacrificed" to make way for the Democratic Party's Albert Ho Chun-yan. I said it was a way of rewarding the Democrats for their "ice-breaking" talks with the central government's liaison office two years ago to resolve their differences over the political reform package.

No doubt Beijing would have regarded it as a fair trade-off, especially after Ho gave up his seat in New Territories West, making it easier for the DAB to get three members elected there. One unpopular Lau for three seats in Legco is definitely a good deal, while it also means Beijing has better prospects of good future relations with the Democratic Party.

Of course, some people disagreed with my analysis. Most disappointing was the reaction of Ho and his party, which has pledged to boycott DBC Radio, which I founded. They accused me of smearing the reputation of Ho and his party because I was at war with the liaison office. Acting chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing demanded that I apologise and retract what I said. I invited key members of the party - including Lau - to come on my radio talk show to discuss the issue; I have so far received no reply.

The Democratic Party is all about facilitating communication and giving a voice to the voiceless. Yet, their actions go against the fundamental principle of their party. It shows party veterans are out of touch.

It's obvious that the Democrats sold out the people of Hong Kong by accepting a modified model of democratic reform. They are now pointing an accusatory finger at me because I am not afraid to expose the party's ugly underbelly.

It's no big deal that the party reached a compromise deal with the central government over Hong Kong's democratic reform. But conducting backroom politics is totally different. They did that, so they shouldn't blame others for criticising their conduct. And the Democrats have only themselves to blame for their unimpressive performance at the election.

By contrast, the Civic Party did fairly well in the election - winning one seat in each of the five geographical constituencies and the legal functional constituency seat. They did far better than the Democratic Party. Judging from the way it's going, I wouldn't be surprised if the Civic Party one day replaced the Democratic Party as the leader of the pan-democratic camp.

However, the Civic Party might have deployed the wrong election strategy by placing two names each on the Hong Kong Island and New Territories West tickets. As a result, they not only lost two voices in Legco, they also hurt the democratic cause by weakening the power of the pan-democrats in the legislature.

Yet, party chief Alan Leong Kah-kit refused to accept that they had used the wrong tactics and claimed it wouldn't have been feasible to run one name on each ticket. How ridiculous.

I am certain that its two political stars, Audrey Eu Yuet-mee and Tanya Chan, would have won if the party had deployed that strategy. What they did was utterly disappointing to their supporters. In any election, the ultimate goal is to win as many seats as possible, and not be content with a limited outcome.

This was not the first time they have disappointed their supporters. On the issue of the proposed bridge to Macau and Zhuhai, and on the controversy over residency for foreign domestic helpers, they initially stood on the side of public justice, but subsequently backed down under mounting pressure.

With the Democratic Party seemingly surrendering to the central government, the Civic Party has become Hong Kong's last hope in realising full democracy.

Here's my advice, for what it's worth. To win voters' trust and support, the party must have the courage to own up to its mistakes and stand by its principles and beliefs, no matter how unpopular they are. With it, there is at least a glimmer of hope; it must not let the people and Hong Kong down.

People Power legislator Wong Yuk-man was spot on when commenting on the impending universal suffrage for Hong Kong. For the pan-democrats to unite over this issue, he said, they must first agree on two key demands - the 2017 chief executive election must not be a filtered form of universal suffrage, and the Legco election in 2016 must see all functional seats abolished.

Wong has certainly given all pan-democrats some food for thought.

Albert Cheng King-hon is a political commentator.