Universal suffrage

‘Irrational’ pan-democrats blew it on reform fight, says Civic Party’s Ronny Tong

Civic Party lawmaker says allies did not fight for universal suffrage in a pragmatic manner

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 September, 2014, 10:05am
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 September, 2014, 3:10am

Civic Party lawmaker Ronny Tong Ka-wah lashed out at his pan-democratic allies yesterday, saying that while he was "very disappointed" with Beijing's decision on political reform, he was also disappointed that the pan-democrats did not take the opportunity to fight for universal suffrage in a "rational and pragmatic" manner.

Tong said the pan-democrats' stance in favour of public nomination of candidates and against Beijing screening candidates had given the central government the excuse it needed to circumvent genuine universal suffrage.

It is pointless to get involved [as we are going to veto it anyway]

"The Communist Party is not the most transparent party in the world, but it is very predictable," Tong said. "But while many people said they know the Communist Party [is inclined to bend] under a soft approach, rather than a hard one - they also said they would adopt a hard approach. This doesn't mean you have to give up on principles and values … and I am not saying that we have to kneel [to Beijing], but if there is another method to do this, then why not do it?"

On Sunday, the National People's Congress Standing Committee said only two or three candidates, with majority support from a 1,200-strong nominating committee, would be able to stand for chief executive in 2017 when the city picks its leader by "one man, one vote".

Tong feared the decision would encourage more radicals to run in the Legislative Council elections in 2016, but he declined to say if he would run for another term. He feared his absence may hinder his successor's chances in New Territories East. But he also said: "It is difficult to ask myself to persist endlessly unless there are politicians who vow to overcome the difficulties ahead."

Democratic Party lawmaker Helena Wong Pik-wan disagreed with Tong's assertion that there was a lack of "rational politicians" among the pan-democrats. "We had expected more talks after the Standing Committee meetings, but the stringent [decision] showed that Beijing, [instead of] listening to the pan-democrats … has chosen the most conservative reform blueprint," she said.

Meanwhile, former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang's Hong Kong 2020 group criticised the UK government for making a "shameful assertion that what has been mandated by Beijing amounts, in any sense, to universal suffrage". "The UK government has waited four days before commenting on the decisions by [Beijing]; it would frankly have been better for them to remain silent," a group statement said. "Hong Kong people … must now rely entirely on our own principles and determination to fight for the genuine democracy promised to us in the Basic Law."

On Thursday, the UK said it recognised Beijing's universal suffrage model would disappoint, but the people of Hong Kong have "a genuine choice".

In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang expressed "strong discontent" that London's statement "broke its promise about not interfering in Hong Kong's political reform".