My Take

Divided pan-dems risk societal rift

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 February, 2014, 3:10am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 February, 2014, 3:10am

The pro-Beijing crowd no doubt watched with glee the pan-democrats turning on each other on Wednesday over Occupy Central. While Democratic Party chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing and former chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan led a group of supporters to take an oath to join the civil disobedience movement, dozens of members of People Power jeered and booed.

A scuffle broke out, in which various objects, including, allegedly, a chair, a balloon and a wet towel - yuck! - were thrown at Ho and Lau. The pair had to be escorted by police to safety. The People Power crowd was protesting the would-be protesters for universal suffrage because the Democrats voted for the government's political reform package in 2010. You would think all that was water under the bridge among the pan-dems but the more extreme and uncompromising of the lot forget nothing - and of course, learn nothing either.

But the real reason is that the democrats, wisely, have not joined the other pan-democratic groups under the Alliance for True Democracy in demanding public nomination as the be-all-and-end-all for universal suffrage. For them, it's just one of several options. In other words, they are holding the door open for negotiations with the government and Beijing. The other pan-dems are now afraid the Democrats may be ready to do another deal with the government on the Legislative Council election and the chief executive vote in 2016 and 2017.

The deep division and growing internal animosity among the pan-dems may delight some people but we should all be worried. Even if you don't support them, for negotiations and compromises to work, you need leaders who have the prestige and influence to represent and carry their movement. Not only has the pan-democratic camp not had a credible leader for some time now, it's so divided it may no longer be considered a single coherent movement. The division started in 2010 but became even more bitter and extreme recently.

The danger is that the most uncompromising and loudest people could hijack the movement, making a deal difficult, if not impossible. If there is no settlement on full suffrage, Hong Kong society will only become more acrimonious and divisive.