Martin Lee Chu-ming said on Friday that psychological fatigue was to blame for his “wrong” decision to put forward a proposal for electoral change earlier in the week.
The founding chairman of the Democratic Party apologised again to his critics in the pan-democratic camp and called for Beijing to show sincerity by retracting earlier suggestions made by mainland officials that “confrontational” members of the opposition camp could not be candidates for chief executive in 2017.
Lee said such a retraction would make negotiations between the mainland officials and pan-democrats on the issue of universal suffrage and the chief executive election possible again.
Lee's proposal included the suggestion that a minimum of five candidates should be allowed to run in the 2017 race, making it possible for at least one pan-democrat to run in the election.
This would mean that pan-democrats would have to accept that the 1,200-strong nominating committee would screen all candidates and would satisfy the stipulation by Qiao Xiaoyang, chairman of the National People’s Congress Law Committee, that all candidates be nominated by the committee “as a whole”.
Lee’s proposal met with a lukewarm response from fellow pan-democrats and created a heated debate on the introduction of “genuine” universal suffrage.
Joseph Cheng Yu-shek, convenor of the Alliance for True Democracy, a coalition of all 27 pan-democratic lawmakers, said the proposal was unacceptable because it included a screening mechanism. Lee retracted the proposal on Thursday and first apologised then.
Speaking to radio interviewers on Friday morning, Lee said that he was wrong to put forward the proposal because he was technically bowing down to political reality and it went against his longstanding belief.
“I have been in politics and fighting for democracy for so long, and I have always stood firm on principles and ideals, so why would I bow to reality? I thought about that later on, and may be I was tired spiritually – [because] we have been fighting for so long, and we are still in a framework [such at the one suggested by Qiao],” Lee said.
Lee explained that he thought his original proposal could allow a pan-democrat to win the top job, even under Beijing’s strict screening process.
“I was thinking, [for pan-democratic allies,] at least I’ll stick my leg into the gap between the door [and the doorframe], I could only open the door by such means. But that was … realpolitik going first,” instead of adhering to principles, he said.