My Take

Occupy Central referendum won't represent Hong Kong's electorate

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 May, 2014, 3:37am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 May, 2014, 5:36am

Occupy Central was originally designed to be an exercise in radical democracy.

Through a series of "deliberation" meetings, people would design and vote on their own democratic models from the ground up, the most popular of which would be chosen by the people to be the official position of the pro-democracy movement. So far, so good - on paper.

Unfortunately, idealism flounders on the rocks of reality. Academics like Dr Benny Tai Yiu-ting and Dr Chan Kin-man read about such experiments in foreign books and decided to use us all as guinea pigs in a political experiment. It turns out it is just an exercise in self-selection, confirmation bias and the silencing of rivals.

However the so-called referendum turns out next month, the outcome is no different or any more democratically representative than if Tai and his supporters just come out and demand public nomination as their be-all and end-all position.

Occupy hired a group of so-called international experts to filter out practically all election reform proposals that supposedly failed to meet international standards, presumably as stated in the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

But while any reform proposal that has any realistic hope of gaining passage in the legislature must include some elements in those rejected proposals as stipulated by Beijing, Tai and Company effectively make sure only pan-democratic proposals get an airing.

Next, out of the 15 mostly pan-democratic proposals already pre-selected, they had some 2,000 hardcore supporters of Occupy Central yesterday choose three to put forward for their online "referendum" next month. Are these people representative of Hong Kong's 3.5 million electorate or just an extremely small, self-selecting sample group that constitutes the most extreme and uncompromising elements within the pan-democratic camp?

After next month, there is no doubt Tai and Chan will claim the proposal they now endorse has all the legitimacy it needs as if it were chosen in a real referendum. But they would be wrong. Not only that, but misguided as only ivory-tower scholars who try to play real politics can be.