The setting up of a new alliance among groups supporting the business sector in the Legislative Council will not bring about a dramatic change in our political environment. But it is a sensible step which will, hopefully, make Legco a little less fragmented and offer voters clearer choices. Three pro-business groups have joined forces in a bid to consolidate their political influence. They are the Liberal Party, Economic Synergy - a breakaway faction of the Liberals - the Professional Forum and an independent lawmaker. The forming of the 12-member alliance will help unite different factions which share similar views. It could also mean that Hong Kong political forces are loosely grouped into three distinct camps. Some may brush aside the realignment as a mere political gesture to enhance the bargaining power of the fragmented pro-business groups in Legco.
Certainly, so far as the Liberals and Economic Synergy are concerned, this amounts to a reunification of the rather odd political couple which split after the 2008 elections. But the move could mark the beginning of a significant development. The alliance brings together like-minded professionals and independent lawmakers. It has not ruled out the possibility of merging into a business party in the longer term. The government will, no doubt, hope that the joining together of these groups will make lobbying in Legco easier, even though the alliance will not bind members on how to vote. Co-operation when it comes to elections will, hopefully, offer voters a choice with a clearer political identity and more focused agenda.
Members say the idea of a united pro-business front has been prompted by growing radical and populist sentiment in society recently. But the alliance is also frank in admitting the reality that having a divided pro-business camp has weakened the various groups' bargaining power. Politics involves give and take. A bigger voting bloc will have greater influence over government policies. With next year's chief executive elections approaching, the forming of a united pro-business front can enhance the sector's bargaining position with the future leader.
It is imperative, however, for any political group to look beyond narrow sectoral interests. There are concerns that the pro-business lawmakers, mostly returned via the trade-based functional constituencies whose electoral size numbers around 200,000, may seek to entrench this system indefinitely. As Beijing has already ruled that universal suffrage for Legco elections can be implemented by 2020, it would be in the interests of the business sector to prepare for the change by broadening their political representation. They can best serve the public by fielding candidates in direct elections and using their expertise to offer resolutions to the problems Hong Kong faces.