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Hong Kong reform vote

No better time for Hong Kong's bullied moderates to unite as a political force

Alice Wu says after two years of having the political debate hijacked by impassioned critics of 'fake' democracy, the defeat of the reform plan offers moderates a chance to mobilise

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 June, 2015, 9:01pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 June, 2015, 9:01pm

Dare we breathe a sigh of relief now that the reform package has been voted down? I'm not sure. The completely absurd way this "historical vote" went down begs the questions: was it a "genuine" vote or a "fake" one? No matter; there is something we can all agree on - it's over, and it won't happen again until after 2017.

It's time to start the long and hard process of healing and reconciliation. And we must begin with some hard facts.

There was a flurry of predictions of Armageddon leading to the vote. It would be Armageddon should the reform package be passed; it would be Armageddon should it be rejected. Either way, Armageddon seemed inescapable.

The fact is that we didn't have to wait for Armageddon to happen; we are already in political hell, and we've been here for more than two years, ever since "fake democracy" first entered our political lexicon in early 2013.

The first popular use of those words - in a Chinese-language newspaper - marked the advent of a fatalistic idea that has come to dominate public debate. It began and ended as a self-fulfilling fallacy.

By the time the actual political reform package was rolled out, the political debate in Hong Kong had been consumed by the types and degrees of "fakeness" and all its various forms. It has been the cause of the poverty in our political discourse, obscuring any possibilities for change.

The repercussions of this presumption of fakeness are widespread, and we need not look too far back to see how far down we are now in the abyss of the absurd. When someone could claim he "made up" the HK$100 million figure for an alleged vote-buying attempt and still insisted he had not lied, as Leung Kwok-hung did, we know we are in hell.

In the name of "genuine" democracy, Hong Kong's democrats could apparently do things that are as undemocratic as they can get. They bundled votes in the legislature. They stifled dissent. The Democratic Party almost expelled Nelson Wong Sing-chi for having different views, for not adhering to the pan-democrats' restrictive view of the political landscape.

When Yan Jiaqi, an ideological godfather to the 1989 pro-democracy movement on the mainland, openly begged to differ from the pan-democrats, veteran democrat lawmaker and chairman of the Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, Albert Ho Chun-yan, responded by saying that he would "disregard" Yan, and he openly called Yan's "genuineness" into question. Whatever happened to respecting differences in opinion and agreeing to disagree?

Our party politics has degenerated into something simply unimaginable. We have an abundance of political parties but they disallow differing political views. Instead, they insist on using the same language and same mindset. These politicians have, themselves, robbed this city of "genuine" political choice.

Come election time, political parties that counted on support from moderate voters will suffer, because they gave in to extremism, and because they lacked the moral courage to stand up for dissent, beginning with those in their own ranks.

For moderates who have been bullied, or have had their hands tied in their own camps, there is no better time to leave where they are not welcome.

The only way Hong Kong can get itself out of this political hellhole is for moderates to unite, to organise themselves into a political force that the pan-democrats, the pro-establishment camp, the government, and Beijing must reckon with. Radicalism will only win if moderates remain silent.

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