It's time for Hong Kong's politicians to bridge divide

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 June, 2015, 1:17am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 June, 2015, 8:35am

As the dust settles from the ill-fated effort to pass the government's electoral reform package, soul-searching across the political spectrum has begun. Lawmaker Ronny Tong Ka-wah yesterday shone the spotlight on the disunity within the pan-democratic camp as he announced his decision to quit the legislature and the Civic Party. Meanwhile, the blame game among pro-establishment lawmakers continues, after their botched walkout from Legco left only eight votes in favour of the reform package.

Tong's advocacy for a moderate approach towards politics was always going to be a hard sell in a city so divided. He revealed that he first considered quitting the party five years ago, when it supported the much-criticised plan for legislators from five geographical constituencies to resign so as to trigger city-wide by-elections that they tried to sell as a "referendum" on democracy. Recently, he set up a think tank to pursue the so-called third road in a bid to end the political impasse.

Tong's resignation from the party should not come as too big a surprise. But his decision to quit Legco altogether has provided more food for thought. Like many in society, the moderate-minded barrister does not support the tiresome, confrontational tactics adopted by some pan-democrats. Tong was speaking the truth when he lamented that he could not make a difference in the legislature. His disappointment with the legislature is shared by the wider community.

The pan-democrats now face the challenge of agreeing on a single candidate for the by-election to fill Tong's seat. But more importantly, the Civic Party and others have to reflect on the reasons behind Tong's move. The public is increasingly put off by constant tension and disputes. There is nothing to be gained from antagonising Beijing, as shown in the Occupy protests and the outcome of the vote on electoral reform.

The pro-establishment lawmakers must also share the blame. Whether the camp needs a strong cross-party leader will continue to be the talk in the corridors of power. But the public has yet to hear any constructive views on how to improve coordination and cooperation. This is not helped when those caught in the walkout farce quickly rushed to the central government's liaison office to explain the blunder, followed by finger-pointing and tears in front of TV cameras. The city cannot move on unless the players find a way to bridge the divide.