My Take

Martin Lee falls foul of the pan-democrat ideologues

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 12 April, 2013, 3:12am

So, it has come down to this. Even the godfather of Hong Kong's democracy movement has to bow to the most ideologically rigid, uncompromising and extreme of the pan-democrats.

It's a sad day for Hong Kong when an honourable man can't even speak his mind without being cowered into giving a retraction and an abject apology.

So far, Lee has been the only democrat who has offered a concrete proposal for the chief executive election in 2017 to counter the bottom line being spelled out by a succession of senior mainland officials for the election. For this, he has been denounced and shouted down by his fellow pan-dem colleagues.

His ideas are clearly preliminary, subject to change and don't represent the larger pan-democratic movement such as the Alliance for True Democracy. But even if they were just his personal view, they offer a basis for discussion, adaptation and further refinement. After all, the rest of the pan-dem camp has been too busy denouncing mainland officials and agitating for mass demonstrations like Occupy Central 2.0 that it has neglected to come up with any alternative plan for universal suffrage. They have objected vociferously, but proposed nothing serious in return. Many are in danger of becoming true nihilists rather than democrats.

Lee proposes that at least five candidates run in the 2017 race, thereby increasing the odds of at least one being a pan-democrat. Whether the details of his plan are workable is less important than the attempt to find middle ground and move things forward.

Now, after being soundly disowned, Lee has retracted his plan, saying it has not been thought through and that he has let down the city's pro-democracy supporters. He has acknowledged the error of his ways after a colleague and friend told him since he is Martin Lee, what he says does not represent himself alone but the whole democratic movement.

In other word, the movement must speak as one or not at all. But since there is no consensus on the way forward among the 12 pan-democratic groups that make up the Alliance, Lee has no right to speak up on his own. This is the logic of party tyranny, a recipe for uncompromising extremism, presented as a united front. What tragic irony!