My Take

Signs that Hong Kong society is tearing at the seams

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 February, 2014, 2:46am
UPDATED : Monday, 10 February, 2014, 2:46am

If you survey the political landscape of Hong Kong today, terms like "splittists" and "splittism" may come to mind.

Apologies in advance for using such loaded words; they were first used by Maoists to denounce people whom the Great Helmsman deemed counter-revolutionary enemies of the Communist Party state. But they are useful and graphic descriptors of the Hong Kong political scene, where you find people splitting away from their once-mainstream and dominant political parties or associations, whether it's the pro-Beijing, pro-government or the pan-democratic camps. This is why such general terms - of which I am guilty as a columnist for using too much as shorthand terms - are no longer adequate.

You have seen how bullies from People Power assaulted leaders of the Democratic Party in Central last week. The divisions within the Alliance for True Democracy, an umbrella association of key pan-democratic groups, are well-known. But the traditional allies of the government are breaking away, too. The Liberal Party, much weakened and now needing to play the populist card, is no longer a pro-government party. In fact, as a proxy for the business and property sectors, it has been a frequent opponent of the Leung Chun-ying administration's policies, especially its anti-property-bubble measures. Among the property tycoons, Leung probably can only count on Ronnie Chan Chi-chung of Hang Lung Properties.

Despite being a member of the Executive Council, Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee and her New People's Party have proven to be unreliable. Even the Heung Yee Kuk - arguably Hong Kong's most powerful special-interest group, its lobbying being more effective than even the business and developer communities - is now divided over whether to form a new political party. Much of the split has been provoked by Leung, who is seen as inimical to those traditionally pro-government special interests. Ironically, the widespread antipathy that Leung has caused is one of the few factors that unites the pan-democratic groups. Had there been a more sympathetic chief executive, they may be even more divided.

The fight over democracy is not just about that; it's also a sign that our society is tearing at the seams.