Realistically, Hong Kong should start laying the groundwork for universal suffrage in 2022

Alice Wu says recognising the likelihood that universal suffrage will be delayed does not mean we can't demand engagement now

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 May, 2015, 9:01pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 May, 2015, 9:01pm

We Hongkongers have always been praised for our pragmatism, so let's practise it by assuming we will not see the passing of the government's electoral reform package. This isn't a defeatist assumption - it's being realistic. The one thing our politicians have in common seems to be their staunch support of sheer stubbornness.

Look, if we're going to call moderate pan-democrats "key suspects" and "defectors", then we must accept that we play a crucial part in cultivating a culture that gives little political incentive for persuasion and compromise.

There is little reason to assume that the "defector-suspects" would somehow be any less risk averse than their lawmaking colleagues.

Combine that with the fact that there are going to be four elections - not all of which are open to all voters - before the end of 2017 and we should brace ourselves for that expected "summer of discontent" to stay with us for a lot longer than many would care to admit.

Charles Mok, of the information technology sector, had already made it clear he would veto the reform package. Kenneth Leung, of the accountancy sector, called what is currently on offer a "pseudo-vote", and is already worrying about "the post-veto era". Also thinking "post-veto" is Dr Joseph Lee Kok-long, of the health services sector.

It's simple maths, really. How many pan-democrat moderates do we have left?

Why not go beyond the "post-veto era" to look deeper into our future? It looks pretty set anyway.

We shouldn't expect another reform opportunity until 2020. And, as such, the best-case scenario for electing the chief executive by universal suffrage is 2022. The age of universal suffrage in Hong Kong would begin, at the earliest, the same year we begin our countdown for the 25 remaining years of "one country, two systems".

We can resign ourselves to that fate or we can start making changes now, beginning with rejecting the use of labels like "defectors" and "suspects" for those who would actually consider leaving room for negotiation and be open to the possibility of compromise.

Instead of giving them the room they need, all the "friendly fire" - the pressure and attacks mounted against them by pan-democrats - is a way of politically ostracising them, ahead of election season. This is the sort of political play we must reject.

Combine that with the fact that the zero trust between the pan-democrats and Beijing will continue to be our "continuous present" that will intrude, interrupt and arrest the city's democratic development.

Without efforts to change that dynamic, we're fated to be permanently stuck in this time warp. Instead of attacking engagement, we must encourage it. And here's a radical idea, how about we demand it?

We must demand that this city's politics returns to the art of the possible. And we must demand that those who claim to be advocates of democracy recognise that compromise is the artistry of democracy.

Alice Wu is a political consultant and a former associate director of the Asia Pacific Media Network at UCLA