Hong Kong people's wishes must come first for legislators of all stripes

Mak Kwok Wah says the majority view must guide lawmakers' actions

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 May, 2015, 11:43am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 May, 2015, 11:43am

The pan-democrats have vowed to vote down the government's political reform package despite the slight lowering of the entry threshold for the first of two nominating stages. With the community having to put up with the status quo for the next two years at least, it is incumbent on all political parties to reflect on their strategies and prioritise the public's long-term interest, to meet the many challenges ahead.

Elections for the city's 18 district councils will begin in a few months, a prelude to the Legislative Council election next year and a litmus test of voter support for the respective political parties.

The 2016 Legco election will have long-term repercussions on our constitutional development. Assuming the pan-democrats retain their veto power in Legco, it's unlikely that the government would relaunch the same reform package that had been vetoed once.

Conversely, if the pan-democrats were to fare poorly and fail to secure at least a third of the 70 seats, it is only natural that the government may consider reintroducing the reform package in its present form, and nothing more.

Neither of these scenarios would benefit the pan-democrats; in fact, either would deprive them of the moral authority to persist with their obstructionism.

Their only salvation would be to try to win more public support by listening to the views of their constituents and acting accordingly.

From all indications, the majority view now is to accept the package first and continue to fight for a better deal in the next term. Common sense tells us that this is what a sensible person would do in a deadlock. Even the British government has given similar advice to the people of Hong Kong.

Ever since the Occupy Central movement, the pan-democrats have been defending their position against unfavourable public opinion by arguing that those survey findings could be used only as reference and that they have to vote according to their own principles. Such an argument sets a dangerous precedent in any democratic movement.

Elected legislators may deviate from the majority view of their voters only if they can support their decisions with sound argument and rational justification, which are missing so far in the reform debate.

Their argument that accepting the reform proposals now would foreclose a truly democratic election later has no basis under the Basic Law. The latter, in fact, has stipulated that the legal framework for our political system is to be fine-tuned to meet changing realities. It is intended as an ongoing process.

The two elections in Hong Kong will show whether ignoring public opinion does in fact violate the basic democratic principle of requiring elected officials to abide by the wishes of their constituencies.

Meanwhile, the pro-establishment camps, too, will need to justify to their constituents their support for the government. Pushing the "yes" button alone inside the council chamber will not satisfy the community that their decisions are the right ones.

Pro-establishment legislators must explain and justify their voting decisions. Their constituencies and even the government will expect them to come up with a full discourse in their support of government policies and decisions.

The success of the signature drives organised by the pro-establishment camps against the Occupy Central movement last year speaks volumes about the significance of public views, which cannot be found inside the council chambers. No politician can deny the basic principle of democracy, which is government by the people, especially the rule of the majority.

Mak Kwok Wah is a former assistant director in the Government Information Services