My Take

A democracy protest worth joining

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 February, 2013, 4:12am

So it looks like we will have another Occupy Central. Only this time it will be for real, run by people who hopefully know what they are doing, as a campaign to press the government and Beijing for full democracy. This is the brainchild of Benny Tai Yiu-ting, a law professor at the University of Hong Kong. While I often find the antics of the pan-democrats unpalatable, even idiotic, I must confess I am tempted to join them on this one if they pull it off.

On the question of full democracy for Hong Kong, I believe it was settled when Beijing indicated we can have elections for the chief executive by universal suffrage in 2017 and for our legislature in 2020, at the earliest. It's no longer a question of if, but when and in what form.

Some senior pan-dems seem to be coming back to their senses as they realise total rejectionism will lead them nowhere. Or so I hope. Emily Lau Wai-hing has said the Democratic Party is willing to negotiate with the government over democratic reforms.

Civic Party chairwoman Audrey Eu Yuet-mee - who writes a naughty letter, published in today's letters page, rounding on me for rounding on her over freedom and responsibility of the press - has said her party will present its own democratic blueprints. This is indeed what I suggested many columns ago for the pan-dems, though perhaps Audrey didn't read that one. (By the way, it's OK about the other matter, Audrey. Enough said; we all do stupid things sometimes. I forgive you.)

In my dream, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, who now has nothing to lose as his popularity hits rock bottom, will present his own democratic reform plan - either under pressure from campaigns like Occupy Central 2.0 or on his own initiative. Hong Kong can then fight over the rival proposals and hopefully reach an agreement on the way forward.

Ours is already a free and democratic society. It is our government that is non-democratic, though still accountable. I believe most of today's political conflicts are at root a war of attrition between a democratic society and a non-democratic state. Since it is much easier to induce a regime change than to fundamentally alter the habits and outlooks of a developed and rich society, I think it's clear which side will win in the end.