The more dialogue the better over democratisation in Hong Kong
Alice Wu says lunch and dinner events enabled much-needed dialogue on democracy but more serious talking will have to be done
Dialogue is essential if Hong Kong's democratisation process is to move forward. And the fact that Zhang Xiaoming , director of the central government's liaison office, was prepared to sit down to a Legco lunch last month with radicals such as "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung and Albert Chan Wai-yip means there may be hope.
It would seem that the Leung Chun-ying administration is ready to get the ball rolling too, after he hosted a dinner over a week ago for pan-democrats and academics, even as executive councillor Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fan and Exco convenor Lam Woon-kwong (albeit in a "personal capacity") separately met with Democratic Party members.
And even if the Legislative Council lunch and Government House dinner were said to be mere "social" events, they were nevertheless opportunities for dialogue and will, hopefully, lead to greater things. The biggest political elephant roaming the streets is finally getting the attention it deserves.
Despite the agreeable nature of both gatherings, the task of finding a democratic process that all parties can accept remains daunting.
And if political realities aren't faced, as Legco president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing - referring to the much-debated screening mechanism for the nomination of future chief executive candidates - called for Beijing to do and be ready to give Hong Kong real choices, stalemate is inevitable.
For one, it's going to take a lot of frank discussions. The government needs to get at least two-thirds of Legco and the central government to support its constitutional reform proposal. So change can only come if members of all three parties are resolved on finding solutions. It will take every ounce of political will from all to keep their minds open, allow room for latitude and be willing to compromise - a lot.
The nomination process is not the only point of contention. If we are serious about reforming our political and electoral systems, we're going to have to face some harsh political truths. How politics works here will need to be fundamentally changed.
A political system that ostracises the "opposition" from real power, real decision-making and meaningful political exchanges with Beijing is evident in the dysfunctional relationship between the executive and legislature. This situation only results in popular angst and growing frustration.
While it seems that these important conversations aren't happening in broad enough circles, we must allow for these "personal capacity" meetings and individual "sound-offs" to continue and take shape. They are necessary amid the complexity and challenges of "one country, two systems".
In the coming months, we can expect more issues to emerge. There will, no doubt, be an onslaught of differing views that will fuel the public debates necessary in a healthy democracy.
The momentum of goodwill must continue, because only that can bring substance to the public deliberations and the hope that a solution can be reached. And only then can our road to developing a liberal, mature and successful democracy begin.
Alice Wu is a political consultant and a former associate director of the Asia Pacific Media Network at UCLA