• Sat
  • Aug 23, 2014
  • Updated: 7:09am
PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 28 January, 2013, 3:04am

Pan-democrats' focus on democracy has let down Hongkongers

Michael Chugani says the pan-democrats' constant focus on democracy has been at the expense of livelihood issues such as housing

BIO

Michael Chugani is a Hong Kong-born American citizen who has worked for many years as a journalist in Hong Kong, the USA and London. Aside from being a South China Morning Post columnist he also hosts ATV’s Newsline show, a radio show and writes for two Chinese-language publications. He has published a number of books on politics which contain English and Chinese versions.
 

I have a confession to make. It didn't bother me one bit that Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying gave zero importance to political reforms in his policy speech. What did upset me was that he gave no immediate hope to aspiring home-owners and people like me, who are at the mercy of landlords.

I have now reached a point where I care far less about Hong Kong achieving universal suffrage than having to pay nearly half my income in rent. How can it possibly excite me to be able to vote for the chief executive in 2017 when, by that time, my rent could be gobbling up most of my income?

Leung threw aspiring home-owners to the wolves with a speech that offered nothing to tame the absurd property market. His silence sent prices to even more absurd levels. And he drove the last nail into the coffin of people like me when he made clear he opposed rent controls. That gave Hong Kong's vulture landlords the all-clear to demand even more in preposterous rents. Doesn't he know that even people in squalid subdivided flats are being squeezed dry of their measly income by slum landlords?

I have another confession to make. I am beginning to feel the so-called pan-democrats are more to blame than Leung for Hong Kong's dismal housing situation. Leung has been in office for only six months. He inherited the shameful housing legacy of past administrations. But the pan-democrats have played the role of opposition for years. They squandered all those years on the single issue of democracy at the expense of all other issues.

Have you ever seen the pan-democrats unite to fight passionately for better housing, cleaner air, or an end to elderly people hauling cardboard boxes to survive? I have not. They have tunnel vision.

Hong Kong is drowning in livelihood problems but Democratic Party leader Emily Lau Wai-hing used her allotted time during a Legislative Council session with Leung to scold him for saying nothing about democracy in his policy speech. Poll after poll shows Hongkongers now care less about democracy than livelihood issues such as rising poverty. When will the pan-democrats wake up to that fact?

As an opposition, they have failed the people. Their obsession with democracy meant past administrations never felt real pressure to fix other pressing issues. Pressure, ironically, came from mainland leaders who ordered our leaders to deal with deep-rooted problems.

Governments everywhere become complacent unless under pressure to act. It is the job of the opposition to exert that pressure. Where was that pressure during the rule of Donald Tsang Yam-kuen? Why didn't the pan-democrats unite as an opposition to demand an end to caged homes, subdivided flats, rising poverty, and the absurdity of the property market? Instead of speaking with one voice, they feuded over how best to achieve democracy.

If the pan-democrats had done their job properly, we may not be facing so many urgent livelihood issues today. But because we are, it gives Leung the legitimacy to say democracy can wait its turn. I don't mind waiting. A drop in my rent is more important right now.

Michael Chugani is a columnist and TV show host. mickchug@gmail.com

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This article is now closed to comments

Camel
Hear hear!!!!
that is the absolute truth. What did the so called "Pan-Democrates" have done so far???? nothing else than causing mayhem. you should fire them all those who just waste time and tax money!!!
pj91007179
It is true so-called democrats are looking for power. A handful of property developers and monopolists control the territory economically probably cornering economic benefits up to 90% of
our GDP. Yet democrats have never made any efforts to oppose their grip on the economic veins of our territory making the poor poorer. It is sad seeing elderly people doing all kinds of odd jobs to eke out a living.
cklc
I long for democracy. But it's time for the pan-democrats to come back to reality.
jkhleung
Hey man! Don't you know Democracy (Capital D) is a cure-all!! Give us Democracy and we'll live happily (in our owner occupied property!) ever after! If not, give us death!! If the pan-Dems can be trusted, pigs will fly! The only mission in the lives of the pan-Dems is to obstruct the Adminstration, pure and simple!
ykbc
How can the pro-establishment camp not be held responsible for allowing the previous administrations to ignore all the livelihood issues when the pan-democrats were merely the minority in the legislature?
maecheung
Yes, the pro-establishment camp should also be held responsible for allowing the previous administrations to ignore all the livelihood issues. The problem is that the pan-democrats, in minority never put up a fight on the livelihood issues.
Byebye
We can call the pan-democratic any names - morons, idiots, clowns etc... What are we going to do about them? They are obviously not up to scratch with their role and true purpose as Demoncrats, but a deterring factor that has affected the betterment of Hong Kong, shown in their obvious and obnoxious behaviour. Time to do a poll on their performance. Macau did a good job of refusing entry of Long Hair; well done Macau. It is time for people with hearts for Hong Kong to take over the Pan-Democratics.
maecheung
I'd like to see the academics, like the Chinese University, University of HK, etc. to do regular (once every 3 to 6 months) poll on the performance of all lawmakers, in addition to the CE, and the secretaries and with less frequency. There's just too frequent polls on the CE and company that they become numb and meaningless.
rvto
I can not agree always with Michael, but this time I total agree. Most of the so called pan-democratic parties looks one issue parties with as theme: away with the sitting CE. They not come with alternative plans for the government proposals or even propose own plans. If a "pan-democratic" party works with the government they are heavy criticized by the others. Basic of a democratic system is that you respect the majority, but also that the majority respect the minority. Both MUST work together for a better livelihood.
ianson
Shortsighted. The non-democratic system is at the very heart of the housing policy problem itself. The very plain fact that the CE and his crew are NOT currently accountable to the populace but, rather, are servants of the Communist Party in Beijing is the root cause of their nonchalance about the plight of the people. The Pan-Democrats have got it right and, if anything, need to up the pace on democratic reform.

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