All things are possible in slow crawl to reform

Hong Kong is up to challenge of reconciling rival worldviews on its road to democracy

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 December, 2013, 4:17am
UPDATED : Friday, 13 December, 2013, 4:17am

On December 4, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-Ngor launched a consultation document on methods for forming the 2016 Legislative Council and for selecting the chief executive in 2017.

The title, cherry-picked for the document, has a Top of the Pops ring to it: "Let's talk and achieve universal suffrage."

Taking us through the intricate penta-rhythmic steps of political cha-cha-cha, the chief secretary, with her customary cool, summed up in Legco the five vital steps that must be followed for the selection of the chief executive for Hong Kong.

Perhaps not in so many words, she made it amply clear that any suggestions and ideas, no matter how brilliant, falling outside the provisions of the Basic Law would be proscribed.

Furthermore, under the Basic Law, it goes without saying that the chief executive must love his country and Hong Kong because that person will be accountable to both Hong Kong and Beijing.

Should the new rules for the constitutional changes not secure passage through Legco by a two-thirds majority, the city will have to mark time politically and suffer the consequences.

The government's sincerity in listening extensively to the views of the public is not in doubt. What is in doubt is whether the consultation is itself a genuine exercise, with so many hurdles to overcome.

One does not have to be very smart to realise that whatever falls outside the framework of our mini-constitution will be screened out.

It is therefore predictable that ahead of us lie months of tugs-of-war between those who oppose this screening and those who do not.

At the heart of this struggle are contrasting sets of values, of people power and the power of the authority.

These are very different, even irreconcilable views, and the struggle between them will have grave implications for all of us because ultimately it boils down to whose core values will govern our lives in the years to come.

But it must be realised that we hold the future in our hands. Hongkongers are known for our ingenuity and pragmatism. To many, a bird in hand is better than two in the bush.

I have no doubt that at the end of the day, some constitutional change will come about to take us forward, slowly and even painfully.

I also have no doubt that between the chinks and crevices of imagination and daring, some clever people will find provisions in the Basic Law, or through the formation of the new nominating committee for chief executive candidates, to narrow the gap between seemingly irreconcilable views.

Everything is within the bounds of possibility.

Let us not forget that when we showcase what is good about Hong Kong, we also showcase China, an emerging world power to which we in Hong Kong belong.

Elizabeth Wong Chien Chi-lien was secretary for health and welfare from 1990 to 1994 and a lawmaker from 1995 to 1997