Occupy Central

Occupy Central's unofficial referendum hasn't eased pan-democrat conflict

Weakened by pullout of Democrats, alliance unlikely to be able to press its proposal

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 July, 2014, 4:03am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 July, 2014, 6:47pm

Occupy Central's unofficial plebiscite on electoral reform may not have been expected to do much to resolve the debate over how to elect the next chief executive. But it also appears to have done little to resolve conflict within the pan-democratic camp.

Nearly 800,000 people voted, and more than 700,000 of them favoured one of three proposals, all of which included a right for the public to nominate candidates, which Beijing rejects.

While participants voted narrowly in favour of a proposal by the Alliance for True Democracy, comprising all but one pan-democratic lawmaker, over a proposal by student groups, it is clear the vote has not smoothed the path for veteran democrats to promote the winning plan.

The first cracks emerged as the results were being announced.

The leader of student group Scholarism, Joshua Wong Chi-fung, publicly challenged the alliance's proposal, which would allow a candidate to contest the election if they were put forward by a nominating committee, by 1 per cent of registered voters, or by a party that secured at least 5 per cent of votes in the last Legislative Council election.

"Does the alliance consider public nomination as indispensable?" Wong asked.

He said the votes for the alliance's plan were less than the combined votes for the students' proposal and that of People Power, and that these therefore outweighed the alliance plan.

"It proved that granting the public the nominating right is a must," said Wong.

A day later the alliance was weakened when the Democratic Party - at odds with radical elements - confirmed it would quit the grouping. On Wednesday former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang, whose Hong Kong 2020 is pushing a moderate proposal not including public nomination, further complicated the issue.

She said the results of the poll "reflect there is still room for negotiation" as the alliance had never insisted all its three nomination methods were essential.

That prompted alliance convenor Professor Joseph Cheng Yu-shek to say the plan would not be complete if any element was removed.

Civic Party lawmaker Ronny Tong Ka-wah, a moderate, said he did not see a future for the alliance's proposal. "What the alliance has to do after the referendum is to sell the proposal to the central government, not Hongkongers. However, I cannot see it has any intention of doing so," he said.

The high turnout for the Occupy poll may have increased the alliance's bargaining power. But Chinese University political scientist Ivan Choy Chi-keung said Beijing still held the initiative on whether to start a dialogue.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Party is in a better position to fight for a democratic reform model after leaving the alliance.

"We have our own interpretation of the three-track proposal … and now we do not have to follow the interpretation by Cheng," party veteran Cheung Man-kwong said.