My Take

Let voters decide on electoral reform

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 May, 2014, 5:05am
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 May, 2014, 6:21am

It's ironic that the Occupy Central pro-democracy movement has rejected scores of proposals for electoral reform while taking in only those it claims meet "international standards".

Occupy co-founder Dr Benny Tai Yiu-ting said more than 10 proposals by pro-Beijing groups were considered for an online "referendum", but all but one were rejected by a panel of international experts because they failed to meet democratic standards. Really?

This is beginning to sound like a bad joke. Tai's movement has become an echo chamber of his own making. Its activists accuse Beijing - not without reason - of trying to screen out election candidates, yet they themselves are disqualifying proposals from their ideological rivals.

If those proposals won't pass muster, it should be because they are not chosen in the referendum for registered voters that the Occupy movement is sponsoring next month. Let the people decide, not some so-called experts with their "sophisticated" understanding of the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights obviously way beyond the comprehension of ordinary people.

As for the 15 plans picked by Tai's experts, shouldn't any one of them do the trick for true democracy? Why bother with a referendum? Why not just let the experts pick and choose?

Tai and his fellow academic activist Dr Chan Kin-man are making not only a tactical mistake, but one of fundamental principle. If the people vote down, say, the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong's proposal rejected by Tai's experts, it would give ammunition to the pan-democrats and strengthen their position. But if they consider it viable, well, democratic principles dictate that it should be taken seriously. Since any DAB proposal is likely to reflect Beijing's wishes, it's just foolish not to let voters weigh in.

At a fundamental level, Tai and Chan believe there are absolute and universal standards of democracy and human rights, rather than practices that evolve and become institutionalised in society over time. Such standards may presumably be discovered through Tai's "deliberation gatherings", failing which his experts will guide the flock to the promised land of true democracy.