More important than ever for Hong Kong to regain its moderate voice

Alice Wu says it's time to shun the radicalism dividing society and realise that open-minded politicians prepared to find common ground are not traitors, but our best hope of political progress

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 June, 2015, 12:43am
UPDATED : Monday, 08 June, 2015, 12:43am

There will be no surprises come June 17. Even with the government doing its last rounds of "spare no effort" lobbying, we all know what is going to, in fact, "happen". The electoral reform package will be vetoed.

It has happened before, and for all the blood and guts that have been spilled each time this city goes through the process, we have little progress to show for it.

Undoubtedly, there will be a lot of orchestrated shows of anguish - from all sides. But if we consider what was actually laid on the "negotiation" table - the pan-democrats' "all or nothing" and Beijing's "this or nothing" - it takes no stretch of the imagination to realise that "nothing" would be the most likely outcome.

It's unfortunate, but the impasse we have been stuck in stems not only from a dysfunctional political system, but from a dysfunctional Beijing-Hong Kong relationship. We haven't "pocketed" nothing - we have pocketed dysfunction.

Civic Party moderate Ronny Tong Ka-wah, after the May 31 meeting in Shenzhen, basically repeated his call to build trust between Beijing and pan-democrats if Hong Kong is to have any hope for democratisation. He penned the same message in an opinion piece published in this paper in April.

Across the political divide, Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing has been saying it for years. Bridging the growing gulf is the key to political reconciliation and finding our way forward.

These ideas aren't exactly groundbreaking or earth-shattering. They contain the sort of common sense that has gone missing in our political arena.

Other moderates have been increasingly vocal about the need to reject extremism, because it pins politicians into corners where there is little room for manoeuvring. The Democratic Party's Tik Chi Yuen laid out his worries for the future of his party on this page just last week.

These people have become outliers in their own camps and some have been threatened with being banished to some political wilderness.

And it is time that we take heed, and recognise that our fling with radicalism must end. Those who are open to possibilities, take risks and find common ground are not traitors or conformists. Extremists, on the other hand, exploit vulnerabilities to their benefit, at society's expense. Radicalism requires that we are shackled in their dogma and adopt a strictly binary way of seeing issues. It fans and feeds off mistrust, hate and discord.

It is time we, as a community, think about how we have allowed political radicalism to take root and become our dominate narrative, stifling the voices of the rational middle, and how we have allowed that to lead us down a road that has left us more divided and vulnerable than ever before. We have lost our anchor in the political art of the possible, making it impossible for dialogue, debate and, thus, progress.

What lies beyond June 17 is still pitch-darkness unless we recreate this city's political landscape, one that gives political moderates their rightful place. Moderates shouldn't be outliers. Those on the extreme ends of the political spectrum should be.

With election season coming up, and another one next year, it's going to take a lot of effort to block out all the noise that will come from the extreme ends and hear what this city's moderates have to say. But when those hyper-political times come, if we remember that the willingness and ability to cross aisles into "enemy territory", to build trust in order to get things done, are more important than having slogans to shout and outrage to feign, pragmatism may once again be our leading light.

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