Enough with politicians' childish antics

Alice Wu says whatever the reason for lawmakers' antics appearing to mirror the appalling weather of late, it isn't a lack of democracy

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 May, 2014, 3:43am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 May, 2014, 3:43am

Is it me or has the month of May been really depressing? It's partly because of the filibuster season that we in Hong Kong have come to expect to live with. Perhaps it's the perpetual rain. Or maybe it's this fixation by some to keep raining on someone's parade. The filibuster is, in fact, all about raining on Leung Chun-ying's parade. It's just part of our political weather system; another theatrical manifestation of obnoxious politicking.

We've seen the return, too, of hurling insults and objects at the chief executive - at last Thursday's question-and-answer session. Other than the fact that it marked the first time such a session had had to be aborted, nothing in the unfolding of the event was new.

Executive Council convenor Lam Woon-kwong said this latest political uproar signalled a critical tipping point in deteriorating executive-legislative relations. But actually this is not news. The bad blood has existed since Tung Chee-hwa's day. It has existed since personal attacks were mistaken for legitimate debate. That invisible line of "civility" was crossed long ago.

It has been a long time since the Legislative Council was a platform from which different views were expressed and heard, and compromises reached. Today, it's just a juvenile sandpit where throwing sand in the gears of politics is oh-so-convenient, and now oh-so-boring.

Many have argued that this is exactly the sort of thing "real/genuine democracy" would deliver us from. That sounds great, except it's really just wishful thinking. Our rowdy politicians have used our lack of "real/genuine democracy" as their excuse to act out, making them rebels with a cause. It's a convenient euphemism for bullying and smiting their foes. It's also a great way to escape the need to engage in the actual work of politicking. Because they're fighting for democracy, they can do whatever they want. It's the secret weapon. Even if democracy is no panacea for our political woes, fighting for it is supposed to justify any sort of behaviour.

Who knows, maybe it's not just the weather that's getting me down. Maybe, instead, I should blame the recent working-hours survey that confirms the perception that Hongkongers are overworked and stressed out.

With more than half of working Hongkongers putting in more than 44 hours a week, and almost a fifth doing more than 52 hours, it's a bit rich when our lawmakers spend hours, days and weeks nitpicking for the sole purpose of filibustering, triggering quorum bells, and playing the obnoxious game of one-upmanship. To think that they get the rest of the day off just by throwing buns and mouthing off gets the blood boiling.

So maybe the filibuster should have been allowed to continue - at least lawmakers would have to put in the hours, although they wouldn't be doing a whole lot.

Politicians who insist on embracing sophomoric humour as the tenor of their political life would like us to blame the lack of democracy. But maybe it's time to blame them.

Alice Wu is a political consultant and a former associate director of the Asia Pacific Media Network at UCLA