Fairy-tale world of pan-democrats

Mike Rowse says a starry-eyed view of politics won't hasten democracy

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 June, 2013, 11:43am

When our children are young, we allow them to believe in a whole range of harmless myths. Probably the most popular is Father Christmas, who brings presents for youngsters, provided they have behaved themselves during the year.

The Tooth Fairy will replace a dislodged milk tooth left under the pillow with a shiny coin, to soften the discomfort of the growing adult tooth. The Easter Bunny leaves chocolate eggs hidden around the house or garden, to be found by diligent searchers, and so on.

To this pantheon of mythical creatures we can now, thanks to the members of the People Power party, add a new one: the Democracy Fairy.

Regular readers of this column will know that I am a strong supporter of greater democracy for Hong Kong. Our people are mature and politically savvy. The vast majority will not run amok; rather, they can be relied on to exercise their votes responsibly.

A major task for our government, our political parties - indeed, our whole community - over the next seven years is to make the 2017 target for direct election of the chief executive, and the 2020 target for direct election of all legislative councillors, a reality.

So the best course of action for our pan-democrats is to work out how to cajole the current chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, into coming up with meaningful reform packages for the next round of elections starting in 2016.

While Leung has made some missteps in his first six months, he has also got some important policy issues right. Moreover, short of a disaster, he is going to remain our leader for the next five years. He has no intention of resigning and Beijing has no intention of firing him.

Yet, instead of finding ways to work with him, the pan-democrats seem to be using all their energy to try to drive him from office.

For some time, many must have been bursting to find out why they are behaving like this. Luckily, during a recent discussion on RTHK's Backchat programme, we got the opportunity to put the question directly to one of the strongest advocates of the "Leung must go" movement.

The answer was surreal: if Leung can be forced out soon, his argument went, then Beijing will be obliged to advance the democracy programme and allow direct elections for his successor immediately.

So there you have it straight from the horse's mouth: the game plan is to force the central government to reverse course, fire the person they appointed just a few months ago, and open the doors wide to unknown outcomes.

To be fair to Albert Chan Wai-yip - for it was he who gave the answer - the same strategic objective and logic was repeated by one of the organisers of this year's January 1 march.

Any neutral reading of the way Beijing has handled the issue of Hong Kong's future over the past 50 years suggests that this outcome is unlikely to the point of impossibility. It is a fairy story on a par with the best fables from history. How experienced politicians could bring themselves to believe that this is a feasible option - indeed the best option for Hong Kong - is a mystery.

Surely the descent into chaos would make Beijing more wary of democracy, more likely to pull back from "premature" moves in this direction? You can almost hear the conservatives in the central government and their allies in Hong Kong gearing up their propaganda machine to argue that we are not ready.

Are the pan-democrats right? Is there really a Democracy Fairy ready to cast a spell over the State Council and deliver up democracy for us on a platter?

As our children grow older, their belief in fairy stories fades. It is time some of our pan-democrats grew up, too.

Mike Rowse is the search director of Stanton Chase International and an adjunct professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. mike@rowse.com.hk