Calls to relaunch political reform process are fraught with danger
In theory, Ronny Tong and Regina Ip are right that this would be the best way to silence advocates of independence; in reality, it would only work in the most unlikely circumstances that Beijing loosens up or “loyalists” rule in Legco
Two prominent politicians across the ideological divide have counselled on the need to relaunch political reform if calls by radicals for Hong Kong’s independence are to be nipped in the bud.
They are probably right. But it’s also hard to see a viable way out of the current impasse.
On his return from Beijing on a semi-official visit, Ronny Tong Ka-wah, founder of the think tank Path of Democracy, said people resorted to extreme measures because they could not see any way forward.
“The solution should come from restarting constitutional reform,” said Tong, a former Civic Party lawmaker.
“If Hong Kong has political development, extreme ideologies won’t be accepted by most people.”
Commenting in a similar vein, former security chief and Executive Council member Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee said: “If Hong Kong reaches agreement on the chief executive election by universal suffrage, that would greatly strengthen Hong Kong people’s voice in ‘one country, two systems’ and strengthen confidence … and build consensus.”
But one key obstacle is that the parameters set by Beijing in the last failed round of reform make it very difficult to restart it. Another is the number of pan-democrats who will sit in the legislature after the elections in September.
Mainland officials made it clear last year that the same so-called five steps to launching reform would have to be followed, and that any new plan to be voted on by Hong Kong lawmakers would not be different from the one already sanctioned by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress.
In other words, the same sausage-making process will produce the same sausages, not different ones. If that’s the case, relaunching reform will only invite more controversy and confrontation.
Of course, Beijing may yet take a more liberal approach towards Hong Kong. But there is no sign of that at the moment.
Another workable scenario is that the pan-dems perform so badly in September that “loyalist” lawmakers make up the two-thirds majority needed to pass any Beijing-sanctioned reform package. That is highly unlikely, though. The pan-dems will probably hold the line in the next elections while one or more radical localists or “separatists” may even win seats.
Sadly, what Tong and Ip fear most is likely to transpire.