Pan-democrats get ready for 2017
Lau Nai-keung says attacks on the government are part of the game plan
To quote Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, things are getting curiouser and curiouser. Many people, while shaking their heads in despair, are beginning to ask why, and for how much longer. The "why" question is easy to answer; for 15 years, good people haven't been helped, bad people haven't been bashed - the only law in town is the law of the jungle.
As for how long, no one can tell. One thing we know for sure is that the final showdown will take place in 2017, probably in March when for the first time we elect our chief executive through universal suffrage as promised in the Basic Law and by the National People's Congress in 2007. Every weird incident we witness today is leading up to that earth-shattering event, but whether the saga will end there is a billion-dollar question.
Before that "E-Day", there will be two territory-wide elections, one for district council seats in 2015 and the Legislative Council poll in 2016. The mode of election for Legco has to be decided beforehand. Since it would be highly inflammatory in the current political climate to have the consultation taking place in 2015 - an election year - this decision has to be made at the latest in 2014. That means the debate on constitutional development will have to take place by early 2014.
There are basically only two issues in this tug of war over the constitution.
For the Legco election, the central issue is the abolition of functional constituency seats. The general expectation is that there will be 10 more seats - five directly elected geographical seats, and another five "super district councillor" seats.
Under this arrangement, when the next round of political reform comes round, it would be easy to amass a two-thirds majority in the chamber to abolish all functional seats in the 2020 Legco election.
Public views on this issue make this almost a foregone conclusion. The only catch is that universal suffrage in the Legco election must take place after a direct election of the chief executive, according to the NPC decision.
The vital issue in the 2017 chief executive election will be how the candidates are to be chosen by a nomination committee.
The pan-democratic camp argues that, because in each of the previous "small circle" chief executive elections there was one candidate from its camp, there is no reason why in a more democratic election in 2017, its candidate should be excluded. Thus, the pan-democrats are likely to veto any proposal put forward by the government that enables such an exclusion.
In the current make-up of the legislature, the pro-establishment camp does not hold a two-thirds majority. The government will need to find five more votes to have its constitutional development bill passed in 2014. From past experience, this won't be achieved by trying to get the votes one by one; they will have to come from a block.
The Democrats now hold six seats in the assembly, but their bitter experience of supporting the government's reform proposal in 2010 is likely to dissuade them from backing a government plan again. So the only way to move forward is to lower the nomination threshold to ensure that at least one dissident candidate is present in the 2017 election.
The declared objective of the dissidents and their backers is to seize power in the 2017 election through universal suffrage. To achieve this, they will have to make sure that, first of all, incumbent Leung Chun-ying is highly unpopular so there is no chance he will be elected. That explains the unceasing attacks on him and his government.
Second, any remotely possible candidate from the pro-establishment camp will receive similar treatment, to destroy his or her electability. This is also happening now.
Lau Nai-keung is a member of the Basic Law Committee of the NPC Standing Committee, and also a member of the Commission on Strategic Development