My Take

Hysteria will not hasten democracy

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 March, 2013, 3:00am

So a Beijing-friendly figure had an off-the-record lunch with a bunch of hacks from Hong Kong in which he or she mentioned having "a screening mechanism", like a nominating committee, to pick candidates for the chief executive post in the 2017 election.

One hack - from Ming Pao - decided to spill the beans and report it. That was some scoop. I've lost count of the number of scoops I could have had if I reported on off-the-record meetings. Anyway, the Ming Pao story caused a storm, not over the paper's breach, but over Beijing. The pan-democrats, their media allies like Apple Daily and half of our local commentariat went into hysteria and screamed bloody murder.

I am sorry to tell you, but it's a non-story, a hurricane in a takeaway Starbucks coffee cup.

That Beijing wants a screening process to exclude people from the pan-democratic camp is no more shocking news than the pan-dems demanding one person, one vote in a direct election. Those are their opposite but maximum demands. That's why they are poles apart, perhaps even irreconcilable.

For Hong Kong to have any kind of meaningful universal suffrage, the two sides will have to move the poles closer. That will probably mean a nominating group broadly representative enough for the pan-dems to have a fighting chance to slip in one or more candidates. Likewise, the pan-dems will have to accept some "screening mechanism" for candidates. At the moment, that's not happening. Rather, the two sides are becoming more intransigent.

I hate to be quoting the Basic Law all the time - surely one of the most uninspiring constitutional documents in history. But it does stipulate "a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures" in Article 45. We have no more clarity today about how this committee would work than before the story broke, though everyone has his own interpretation. The story was more heat than light: the pro-Beijing person was saying no more than what our mini-constitution says.

Hong Kong people are surely ready for full democracy but you have to wonder about the political sense of those who claim to represent their democratic aspirations if their hysterical performance is anything to go by.