Forget reconciliation in the Hong Kong legislature, expect total war
Despite there being moderates in both rival political camps, talk of building bridges between the two is considered bad faith and a trick
“The opposition will never do things the same way as the pro-establishment camp. So-called reconciliation may be no more than a delaying tactic. I feel it’s more like sugar-coating a poison pill. When they are in full force, they will attack you.”
Let’s play a guessing game: who do you think made the above statement?
Sounds like something a pan-democrat would say? Actually, I took the quote from Chan Kin-por, chairman of the Legislative Council’s powerful Finance Committee and a key establishment figure, during a TVB interview. He was referring to new proposals to restrict the ability of the opposition to carry out filibustering and other delaying tactics, but was also commenting on the bigger political scene. But you are not entirely wrong. Several opposition politicians have said similar things. In other words, both sides basically agree that any talk of reconciliation across the political divide is just bad faith, a trick.
I have no doubt that many on either side want nothing better than to destroy or at least discredit the other side. But there are also moderates who want some kind of accommodation. For them, on policies and programmes that can win over the public without having to challenge fundamental principles, both sides should indeed work together.
But, if this is the definition of moderation, then I am afraid extremism will win out. For those moderates in both camps are like suspects in the famous prisoner’s dilemma. Both suspects know they will be better off if they don’t rat on each other, but they end up doing it anyway.
As the new Legco session opens, two new battles have already started, with many more to come. Rewriting procedures to restrict filibustering include limiting the number of non-binding motions proposed by each lawmaker on an agenda item to one; banning lawmakers from requesting an adjournment of both the meeting and the discussion of an item; and/or barring lawmakers expelled by the chairman for inappropriate behaviour from joining the next session on the same day.
With six opposition lawmakers disqualified, a simple pro-government majority can be easily obtained to force through the new rules. Meanwhile, the opposition is set to go all out against the proposed joint customs and immigration clearance at the upcoming cross-border express rail terminus in West Kowloon.
Grand reconciliation? Expect total war.