One-time chief executive wannabe Alan Leong Kah-kit was caught off guard when his radio hosts asked him whether he would accept anti-subversion legislation in exchange for full democracy.
Since there isn't any negotiation or even backroom chatter between the government, the pan-democratic camp and Beijing over the matter, you kind of feel sorry for the Civic Party leader for having to make an off-the-cuff reply about something that is hypothetical but extremely controversial. He said he could accept implementing the anti-subversion Article 23 if there was universal suffrage.
Of course, the two are key goals to be achieved under the Basic Law, which says it is Hong Kong's duty to legislate Article 23 just as it says its ultimate aim is to introduce universal suffrage.
One of the many great pan-dem myths is that Beijing is always pressuring Hong Kong to implement Article 23 while actively deferring or even undermining democratic reforms. If that were true, you would expect Beijing to demand a schedule for the article's enactment while being forever vague about the timing for introducing universal suffrage.
Yet the exact opposite is true. Since 2003, when half a million demonstrators hit the streets against implementing Article 23, the government and Beijing have been vague about any plan to legislate it, insisting there is no urgent need to do so.
Meanwhile, the Standing Committee of the nation's parliament has cleared the way for universal suffrage in the 2017 chief executive election and the 2020 Legislative Council election or thereafter. Beijing, in other words, has been far more liberal and forthright than the pan-dems would have the world believe.
Thankfully, several democratic elders are now trying to steer the movement away from its nihilistic fringes. Emily Lau Wai-hing of the Democratic Party says it is ready to negotiate with Beijing over democratic reform, subject to conditions. Anson Chan Fang On-sang, the former chief secretary and ex-lawmaker, has urged fellow pan-dems to focus on the reform and ease off on fruitless obstructionism such as trying to impeach the chief executive - which has zero chance of success.
Maybe there is hope yet for the pan-dems - and Hong Kong.