Pan-democrats have no right to deny Hong Kong people the vote

John Chan says their argument defies logic and historical fact

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 May, 2015, 2:19pm
UPDATED : Monday, 04 May, 2015, 2:19pm

Pan-democrat lawmakers have repeatedly said that the reform package for the 2017 chief executive election, based on the National People's Congress Standing Committee's August 31 decision, is fake universal suffrage and have vowed to veto it.

Such a move would see Hong Kong's five million eligible voters deprived of the right to cast their vote to choose a leader, albeit with screened candidates, a right that hitherto has not existed.

It thus boils down to the question of the nature of the right of the five million - the fundamental right to vote given to all ordinary citizens of eligible age. This is a right no one can take away, no matter what reason he or she may come up with. It is certainly not up to 26 pan-democratic lawmakers to determine that it is "fake" universal suffrage and decide behind closed doors to deny five million eligible voters.

From a historical context, there is no such thing as "fake" or "genuine" universal suffrage, just degrees of universality at any given moment, something that changes over time - from when only men were allowed to vote to voting rights being extended to women; from only taxpayers to every citizen of an eligible age; from a voting age of 24 being lowered to 18; and, in some countries, even extending the right from citizens only to all residents.

History has shown the gradual but continuous expansion of voters' rights as well as rights as to the choice of candidates. With pre-screened candidates, the election package is far from perfect. No one would deny that.

However, one must draw a distinction between being perfect and being acceptable. While pan-democratic lawmakers may think that the package should be refused because it is not perfect, there are others who want to accept it, even with its imperfections.

An individual's right to vote is so important that it cannot be taken away simply because someone doesn't like the idea. Pan-democrat lawmakers have no justifiable basis whatsoever to veto this supreme right simply because they themselves think it is poisonous.

The evolution of our political system is a dynamic and ongoing process. Pan-democrat lawmakers' claim that accepting the election package will mean that we must "pocket it for life" lacks political sense, and is out of step with the political development of any country in the world. It also contradicts some of the pan-democratic politicians' and pro-democrat academics' own logic.

This assertion that "pocket it first" means "pocket for life" stems from their deep mistrust of and lack of faith towards the central government.

Civic Party lawmaker Dr Kenneth Chan Ka-lok asked whether anyone could imagine a day when the Chinese five-star red flag would cease to be hoisted. And Occupy Central co-organiser and Chinese University professor Dr Chan Kin-man was reported as saying that there "will surely be phenomenal changes in China within 10 years", saying that one-party rule may end with the break-up of the Communist Party, or even through peaceful and orderly reform initiated by Beijing.

If pan-democrat lawmakers' refusal to accept Beijing's August 31 decision is based on the wishful thinking that such changes would provide a chance for political reform in Hong Kong, then this is irresponsible, unacceptable, unethical and unbefitting of their position in society.

More importantly, it would also make their assertion that, once accepted, the election package would be "pocketed for life", with no chance of further revision, devoid of reason as it contradicts their own logic.

It is time for pan-democratic lawmakers and academics to come to their senses and stop contradicting themselves and misleading the people of Hong Kong.

John Chan is a practising solicitor and a founding member of the Democratic Party