Universal suffrage in Hong Kong

Albert Ho urges pan-democrats to be 'more pragmatic' in suffrage debate

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 January, 2014, 11:12am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 January, 2014, 11:12am

Former Democratic Party chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan urged warring pan-democrats to be “more pragmatic” amid debates on universal suffrage in 2017, insisting the bottom line was that any proposal must conform to international requirements.

The pan-democratic camp remains split over whether registered voters must be given the right to nominate candidates for the chief executive race in 2017.

“Some places allow public nomination, which is a good thing, and I hope Hong Kong will have it, too,” Ho said, but stressed this was not the only path to democracy.

Ho, who ran for chief executive in 2012, said the party’s bottom line on reform was that the proposal must “in essence” fulfil international requirements for universal suffrage.

“This is the final battle: we would definitely not accept any proposal that involves a mechanism to screen out candidates. This is non-negotiable,” he said.

The Democratic Party in 2010 came under attack for supporting the government’s reform package for the 2012 elections – and old accusations of being too moderate have been bandied against them once more by radical democrats.

Ho rejected such claims, explaining that a proposal on reform had to be judged by its outcome, or whether it succeeded in enabling people of various political colours to compete fairly.

“Politicians should have a sense of responsibility but must not simply claim the moral high ground. You might need to take the high ground sometimes, but in the long term … you have to take social responsibility into account and what it means to society to actually achieve reform,” he said.

“Sometimes if a chance is missed, it will be gone forever.”

Ho also swatted criticism that the party was only using a populist stance to get its candidates in the chief executive race.

“As long as we have an election without screening, it is never too late for people to establish new parties to run in the race,” he said. “It is not only for the pan-democrats.”

Ho said it was very unlikely for the party to again find itself the only pan-democratic faction that supported a government proposal on reform.

This time round, he said it would be voting according to the result of the Occupy Central “referendum” in June in which Hongkongers would get to choose their preferred proposal.

“If society as a whole endorses the [government’s] proposal, then not only us but other pan-democrats would vote for it, too,” he said.

However, if the proposal fails to secure Hongkongers’ endorsement, Ho said the party would have no choice but to veto it – even if it did meet international standards of universal suffrage.

“It would be a pity [in that case] for the public to reject it, but we couldn’t violate the will of the people,” Ho said.

He added that the Democratic Party was determined to support the civil disobedience action if the government failed to offer a proposal that Hongkongers were satisfied with. “This is the deal-breaker,” he said.