At the policy address debate on Wednesday, legislator Tsang Yok-sing spoke from a position of strength when he lashed out at the Democratic Party and the Article 45 Concern Group for failing to do what they preached in advancing party politics. The former school principal was the founding chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong. Amid an atmosphere of mistrust towards Beijing in the years leading up to Hong Kong's transition to Chinese rule, Mr Tsang built up the unashamedly pro-Beijing political party. When it was launched in 1992, it had only 56 members. In 2003, when he stepped down to take responsibility for the party's loss of a few seats in the district council elections, membership had grown to more than 3,000. Despite that loss, total party membership and representation on the councils had grown during his reign. Mr Tsang's speech struck at the heart of the problems that afflict the so-called pro-democracy camp. The Democratic Party's membership has been on the decline, and its number of elected councillors dwindling. On Sunday, veteran legislator Fred Li Wah-ming failed to win a seat on the Kwun Tong District Council in a by-election, losing to a largely unknown pro-Beijing novice. But instead of blaming themselves for their party's decline, both chairman Lee Wing-tat and former chairman Martin Lee Chu-ming said the government was responsible for failing to spur party politics by producing a road map for democracy. The barrister members of the Article 45 Concern Group rose to prominence on the back of opposition to the national security legislation in 2003. But they have been reluctant to build on their public support to become a political party. For 15 years after the Basic Law was promulgated in 1990, the pro-democracy camp's unifying goal has been to elect the chief executive in 2007 and all legislators in 2008 by popular elections. But these changes were ruled out by Beijing last year. Now, with the government's latest proposal offering an undemocratic way of increasing the democratic elements of the two elections, the pro-democracy camp is showing signs of floundering. While all 25 pro-democracy legislators have pledged to reject the proposal, some have indicated a willingness to compromise - earning them a sharp rebuke from fellow members. In Wednesday's debate, Albert Chan Wai-yip and 'Long Hair' Leung Kwok-hung warned their colleagues against betraying their conscience. The pro-democracy camp faces a huge challenge: its members need to get their act together under a new goal, and preferably a widely acclaimed leader. That will not be easy. It is sometimes said that the current electoral system, based on proportional representation, does not favour the growth of big political parties because it is easier for candidates to win by running on their own ticket. The argument is spurious, as the system has not stopped the DAB from growing. By arranging its candidates on split tickets, the party has returned an increasing number of its members to the councils and grown in stature. If the truth be told, the pro-democracy camp has too many 'leaders' who would rather be on their own, and one with the charisma to command the respect of all has yet to emerge. Belatedly, after Mr Tsang's critical remarks, the Article 45 Concern Group's Ronnie Tong Ka-wah has disclosed that he hopes the group will form a political party by next June in preparation for the 2007 district council elections. This would be a significant development for party politics in Hong Kong. Will the group grow at the expense of other members of the pro-democracy camp? Or will it become the leading light of the camp around which other members of the camp happily rally? Only time will tell. For now, the pro-democracy camp is at a crossroads. Its goal for full democracy remains crystal clear, but there is no consensus on the murky way forward.