Pan-democrats need a history lesson

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 September, 2012, 2:19am

The more radical pan-democrats and their supporters have been busy rewriting recent history. It started well before the Legislative Council election earlier this month, but became more brazen as the Democratic Party did much worse than expected in the poll.

Within these circles, which include one or two of my fellow Post columnists, it has become an article of faith that the city's Democrats were sell-outs for compromising with Beijing and enabling the government to pass the 2010 electoral reform package. The Democrats thus paid a heavy price in the election as voters penalised them for their "betrayal".

The sad thing is that even long-time party steward James To Kun-sun - who won the most votes of all the "super seat" candidates - has in recent days come close to pleading mea culpa for his party's action in 2010.

The Democrats' pivotal decision was not a betrayal but was made on principled, moral and pragmatic grounds. With his dying breath the late Szeto Wah, surely no apologist for Beijing, pleaded for support for the reform package by stating an inconvertible truth: it's better to advance democracy even a little than not at all.

The reform created 10 more directly elected seats and enlarged the election committee from 800 members to 1,200. Coupled with Beijing's promise in 2007 to commit to key dates for achieving full suffrage - 2017 for the chief executive vote and 2020 at the earliest for Legco - the 2010 compromise amounted to a substantial advance for Hong Kong democracy.

Yet those who opposed it and claimed the moral high ground did so by demanding democracy now. This was and remains an unrealistic proposition, yet an effective way to attract the younger, more disaffected voters.

In other words, radical pan-democrats reap the benefits of the reforms, such as by winning new seats in the latest poll, while laying all the blame on the Democrats.

As public sentiment turns against all things mainland, it's becoming taboo in pan-democratic circles to think about compromise and negotiation with Beijing or its local allies. The 2010 decision was a model of prudence, responsibility and moderation, values that are sadly missing among many pan-democrats and their supporters.