Push for convicted lawmakers to be ousted - for the sake of democracy

Albert Cheng urges pan-democrats not to block any bid to impeach radical legislators, so a by-election could be held as a form of referendum

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 June, 2015, 3:50pm

Radical lawmakers Wong Yuk-man and Albert Chan Wai-yip have been given suspended jail terms for unlawful assembly after a protest march two years ago. Immediately, the pro-establishment camp sees an opportunity to get rid of its opposition from the legislative assembly.

Article 79 of the Basic Law states that if a legislator is found guilty of a criminal offence and sentenced to a month or more in jail, he could be relieved of his duties by a motion passed by two-thirds of legislators present in the chamber.

Chiang’s bid could help launch the Occupy Central movement ahead of schedule

Citing this, Ann Chiang Lai-wan, vice-chairwoman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, sought the dismissal of the two lawmakers from the legislature. But Chiang was ill-prepared for her first strike and her impeachment bid was challenged on legal points. She said she would seek advice before deciding whether to table it again.

Previously, lawmaker "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung was given a two-month jail term and an impeachment bid was put forward by pro-establishment legislator Paul Tse Wai-chun. But that effort was eventually blocked by the pan-democrats.

Based on this precedent, the pro-establishment camp knows that an impeachment bid will go nowhere, yet they insist on pressing ahead. Their motive is clear; this is a political gesture and Chiang's intention is to embarrass the two radical lawmakers.

The pro-establishment camp claims that the impeachment motion is to safeguard the dignity of the council; how morally upright. Before they point their accusatory fingers, though, they should look closer to home, because the real embarrassment in the Legislative Council is people like Chiang - who make the most noise, but make no worthwhile contribution. They are the reason the majority of Hongkongers have lost respect for the council.

From a strategic perspective, I encourage Chiang to go ahead and impeach the pair. If they were removed from Legco, the two could possibly make a comeback through by-elections. That would be equivalent to a referendum and thus allow the public to use the power of the ballot. That would be an effective electoral exercise to advance our democratic cause.

The ultimate aim of Occupy Central is not just the occupation of Central in July next year - that is but one component of the movement. The plan, at least initially, was for legislator Albert Ho Chun-yan to resign, thus prompting a by-election and hence a form of referendum. This would allow the world to see the people's determination to fight for universal suffrage.

Now, Chiang's impeachment bid offers a golden opportunity to help launch the Occupy Central movement ahead of schedule.

If the pan-democrats are politically savvy, they should not block an impeachment bid. In fact, they should give the motion a push and vote for it. Once Wong and Chan were kicked out of Legco, the real battle would begin. The pan-democrats could turn the by-elections into a referendum to demand universal suffrage.

Sadly, the political and intellectual capacity of most of the pan-democratic lawmakers is just as inadequate as that of the pro-establishment legislators. They would not allow any such impeachment motion to pass - not because they support the pair, but because they fear voters who support democracy would turn against them, costing them dearly. They wouldn't risk this political gamble even though it could help pave the way to advance the city's democratisation.

In fact, for some reason, the plan for Ho to resign and prompt a by-election appears to have faded. Now there is an option for the public to take part in an electronic referendum, which will have far less impact as a political tool.

The sad reality is that our political parties and politicians are totally inadequate. Their only concern is their own political future and they are unwilling to take a gamble, let alone make personal sacrifices, to advance their political goals. It's no wonder that, after 25 years, we still have not advanced in our democratisation journey.

The pan-democrats and the pro-establishment camp are like two peas in a pod. They are only fighting for their own interests rather than for the public good. The biggest losers are the people.

With the central government quickly extending its influence in Hong Kong, the city's true voice will be muffled, sooner rather than later.

The dream of universal suffrage and democratisation will never be realised. All we will be left with is a nightmare scenario in which Hong Kong continues to be run by an administration staffed with political puppets.

And that's all down to the pan-democrats who are just as gutless and politically inadequate as their adversaries. We are doomed.

Albert Cheng King-hon is a political commentator. taipan@albertcheng.hk