The gutsy and gutless among pan-dems

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 May, 2013, 2:47am

Whatever you think about the four filibustering lawmakers, at least they took a principled stance. Not so their 20-plus pan-democratic colleagues in the legislature. They didn't want to alienate many of their core supporters for whom any antics that cause trouble or embarrassment for the government are welcome. Yet they also knew most people in Hong Kong thought the whole episode was a waste of time and public resources. So they sat on the fence, saying they didn't support the four so-called radicals. Yet they wasted no opportunity in rounding on Legislative Council President Jasper Tsang Yok-sing when he cut off the marathon sessions that lasted 11 days.

Even those four lawmakers had earlier agreed to shorten the filibustering - the ostensible purpose of which was to fight for a universal pension - because they knew they had little public support; rather much animosity.

Tsang has one of the most thankless jobs in local politics. I am puzzled as to what reasonable people think he could have done differently. He could have barred the filibuster from the start or allowed it to go on for another 50 days, the time estimated by the "radicals" to complete a shortened version of their manoeuvre. Since neither option was feasible, he let the filibuster run for 11 days. To debate all 710 amendments, the four estimated they needed 148 debate sessions, of which only 17 had been completed.

So all the great and good from the pan-democratic camp - Emily Lau Wai-hing, Cyd Ho Sau-lan, Alan Leong Kah-kit and Claudia Mo Man-ching - took turns to denounce Tsang, who has been accused of abusing his power, doing a hatchet job for the government and subverting the democratic process. Would the pan-dems feel better if Tsang let it go on for another 20 or 30 days? I bet it doesn't matter how long he let the filibustering run, in the end he would still have been denounced as a government stooge. The four radicals may be wrong-headed, but they have guts. More than ever, the pan-dems need to demonstrate they have the statue and statesmanlike quality in their fight for full democracy.

But the Civic Party's Ronny Tong Ka-wah has it exactly right this time: "I fear our popularity will decline because people will feel we are wasting time."