Universal suffrage in Hong Kong

Let wisdom prevail as opposing sides meet on Hong Kong's electoral reform

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 May, 2015, 3:34am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 May, 2015, 8:53am

The saying, "A week is a long time in politics", suggests a lot can happen within a short period of time in the political world. But this is not the case with our democratic reform process. The proposal for the 2017 chief executive election was unveiled more than four weeks ago but is apparently going nowhere. Efforts by the government to shore up public support for the package are not yielding much, either. Neither Beijing nor the pan-democrats are willing to make compromises at this stage. Even when there is a chance for them to meet directly, hopes of a breakthrough are not high.

Despite that, both sides should engage in serious dialogue. In what is said to be a goodwill gesture by Beijing, all 70 lawmakers have been invited to talks with mainland officials in Shenzhen on Sunday. This will be the first time Beijing and the pan-democrats have the chance to meet since the detailed reform proposal was released. This may also be the only meeting before the package is put to a vote in the Legislative Council next month. That there is still no sign of a breakthrough is regrettable. Some pan-democrats say they are not optimistic about the outcome, but will attend the meeting anyway to avoid accusations that they are not making efforts to find a solution to the impasse. Others are not even prepared to join the meeting, citing various reasons. The signal from north of the border is also not reassuring. It has been suggested that officials may only warn of the consequences should the reform proposal be voted down in Legco.

The prevailing pessimism owes much to the long standing divide between the pan-democrats and Beijing. The former are adamant that the framework is too restrictive and would not give the public a genuine choice. But Beijing insists that the top post should be filled by someone it can trust and that its framework cannot be changed.

We have spent years fighting for one person, one vote to elect the chief executive. Admittedly, the proposal is not ideal. But it is in the city's interest to first approve it. Sunday's meeting is a good opportunity for both sides to try to narrow their differences. It will not help if they only reiterate their stance without taking on board the views of the other side. What the people want is consensus, not another political show. Such consensus depends on the wisdom and will of those who have the power to shape the outcome. The public awaits the display of such qualities in the upcoming talks.