A rethink is needed to bridge the political divide in Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 June, 2015, 11:34pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 June, 2015, 11:34pm

With electoral reform looking set to be voted down in the legislature, some politicians have already turned the focus on the need of rebuilding Hong Kong after the vote. The idea is worth supporting. Regardless of the outcome of the vote, the debate has already divided the community and strained our relations with Beijing. Efforts must be made to close the gap and put the relations back on track.

Credit goes to a group of moderate pan-democrats for coming forward at this critical juncture. Led by Civic Party legislator Ronny Tong Ka-wah, the Path of Democracy is seeking to provide the so-called "third road" on political reform in the future, referring to what he described as the antagonistic and passive approaches towards universal suffrage at present. The think tank also intends to do research to help advance democracy, governance and civil society.

Whether the group can make a difference in an increasingly divided society like Hong Kong remains to be seen. There is, after all, no shortage of think tanks here, many of which are led by prominent and influential figures. That said, these bodies sometimes provide useful policy advice and studies for government consideration. They are also a forum for grooming political talent. It is good that Tong can gather more moderate and rational voices and contribute to a meaningful course.

Tong's worries of "one country, two systems" being ruined by the reform's failure are probably shared by many in the community. Concerns are growing that Beijing may toughen its policy on Hong Kong and stop giving concessions as punishment for rejecting the electoral package, despite assurance by some pro-Beijing heavyweights that this will not be the case.

If recent surveys are any reference, public confidence in "one country, two systems" remains low. This is not helped when relations with the central government are strained by individual political controversies from time to time.

The need for reconciliation after the vote is obvious. However, this cannot be achieved without a change in relations between Beijing and the pan-democrats. For years, there has been little meaningful engagement between both sides. Dialogue and cooperation are replaced by hostility, antagonism and mistrust. Better efforts are needed to bridge the gap lest the divide will grow further.