Hong Kong's Democrats must pull themselves back from the edge
Tik Chi Yuen calls on one of the city's major parties to rediscover its flexibility and regain its status as a party of collaboration
Before the Umbrella Movement last year, the Democratic Party was still able to take the initiative and come up with alternative ways to improve the democratic ingredients of reform for the chief executive election. However, the party has been hijacked by extremists whose only strategy is one of combat. They have forced the party into a corner and set it on the sole path of rejection of any government proposal. Is the party becoming extreme? What is the way out?
Last June, the Democrats offered a wise "three-channel" proposal for constitutional reform. The first channel was civil nomination; the second, political party nomination. Neither was consistent with fundamental principles of the Basic Law, but they did satisfy the aggressive appetite of the extremists. The third proposal was to improve the representativeness of the nominating committee. This could be used as leverage for negotiations. Most importantly, no channel was indispensable.
Unfortunately, the third proposal and the Democrats' flexibility have been kidnapped by the extremists, who have been taking the party towards a cliff edge. One example is how they have tried to crush dissenting voices of moderates such as Law Chi-kwong, Nelson Wong Sing-chi and Fred Li Wah-ming.
In the case of Wong, they even suspended his party membership after he said he would launch a signature campaign to conditionally support the government's political reform package.
Such responses seem to stem from a fear within the party that the public could see these actions as a U-turn on the reform package. However, the suppression of moderate democrats will only bring more public criticism that the party is killing freedom of speech. This projects a very negative image.
The public expects the party to table constructive proposals, for the greater good, to resolve the crisis. The moderates have made realistic suggestions, which could have accomplished a win-win outcome if the party had endorsed them.
Does the party understand that merely repeating slogans won't break the deadlock?
Sadly, Democrat legislator Albert Ho Chun-yan said the party will not put forward any concrete proposals as he believed Beijing would have modified the government package if it wanted to see it endorsed. But why would Beijing do so if it could not be sure of an olive branch in response?
The party has become passive, if not lame. It needs to look within and be progressive, to move beyond the reform impasse, and regain its status as a party of collaboration. Only then can pan-democrats lead Hong Kong onto a pioneering path of greater democratic development.
Tik Chi Yuen is a member of the Democratic Party