Ineffective pan-democratic movement has to grow up for sake of the people

Albert Cheng says forum invitation to pro-Beijing speaker to discuss Occupy Central was an ill-advised move that exposed a worrying naivety

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 May, 2013, 2:58am
UPDATED : Friday, 10 May, 2013, 4:51am

If you are involved in a people’s movement, you must first believe in the people. The Alliance for True Democracy, a coalition of the pan-democrats to fight for true universal suffrage, held a forum on political reform on Sunday.

A similar event last month had to be called off when government supporters disrupted proceedings. But this time the organisers held firm despite heckling from members of the pro-government Caring Hong Kong Power.

To ensure the event had an overtly balanced representation, organisers invited outspoken pro-Beijing businessman Lew Mon-hung, a former member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, to speak. Of course, the focus of discussion was Occupy Central, planned for July next year.

It takes no effort to guess what Lew would say; his overly protective stance towards Beijing and the establishment is well-reported.

Not only would his points be predictable and uninspiring – Lew himself is currently being investigated by the Independent Commission Against Corruption on suspicion of perverting the course of justice. It was utterly inappropriate to have invited him to the forum.

Having Lew present not only tainted the integrity of the event, but also gave him an opportunity to blow his own trumpet and raise his political status.

As expected, his views against the Occupy Central movement were prominently reported in some papers, especially in the pro-Beijing Wen Wei Po. At the forum, he bashed the movement as a premeditated illegal act to challenge the law and claimed that it would be equivalent to a violent assault on the way of life of the Hong Kong people and the well-founded system.

In a radio interview, the convenor of the alliance, Joseph Cheng Yu-shek, defended the decision to invite Lew, saying no one else from the proestablishment camp was willing to appear at the forum.

In fact, there was no need to invite anyone from the proBeijing camp, even if more respectable characters such as Elsie Leung Oi-sie had shown any interest to speak at the forum, because their antidemocracy stance and views are widely known and providing a platform for them to speak nonsense would be a total waste of time.

I suspect the motive was to attract media attention and boost coverage of the forum.

The incident, however, exposed one sad reality, which should concern us all. The pandemocrats are simple and naive, even after having been involved in the democratic movement for so many years. They are conservative and lack the ability to think outside the box.

We have been fighting for democracy for decades and the movement has now reached a critical stage. It’s painful to see that we still embrace these ineffective tactics in a bid to gain publicity and engage the public.

Political forums are definitely necessary, but it’s more important to conduct them in the community to bring the political message directly to the people.

The majority of our mainstream media have already sided with the administration and thus we shouldn’t hold out any hope that they will help promote democracy. It’s now up to the pan-democrats to do the work and deliver the truth to the Hong Kong public.

I have strongly supported the Occupy Central movement from the outset. It is imperative the pan-democrats move with the times in the way they conduct public campaigns to promote democracy. Their current practice is not only obstructive, but promotes elitism.

With regard to Occupy Central, I have never heard of any people movement organisers putting up so many hurdles to discourage participation. The movement is restricted to people of middle age and above and participants are required to formally take a pledge, as they are being forewarned that they could be arrested or jailed and as a result they could lose their professional status if found guilty by a court.

The organisers and people who support democracy should stop pouring cold water over the movement. With all the warnings regarding arrest and criminal convictions, I’m afraid many people would not be too keen to put themselves in such a grim situation.

But in fact many Hong Kong people who have been involved in many public movements know full well the consequences. They know what they are getting themselves into and are willing to shoulder the ultimate responsibilities.

We are not talking about selfsacrifice. The true meaning of democracy is to let the people take charge of their own fate.

If we genuinely believe Hong Kong and its people are ready for democracy, we should let them decide for themselves what role they want to play in the process and how much involvement they want.

It is their future, so we must trust them and let them play a part in shaping it.

Albert Cheng King-hon is a political commentator.