Hong Kong's lawmakers should vote for electoral reform in the interests of all
Hong Kong's quest for democracy has reached a crucial juncture. In the final showdown over electoral reform, the Legislative Council will begin the debate today on the government's package for the 2017 chief executive poll. Regrettably, the prospect of the bill being passed remains remote. Unless some pan-democrats change their minds at the last minute and vote for the reform, the attempt to elect the next chief executive by a public vote for the first time looks doomed. Those who oppose the reform package may think there is nothing to lose by voting down the proposal. Some may even believe that by so doing, they can secure a better deal later. But the truth is that not only are we losing the opportunity to improve our electoral system, we are pushing Hong Kong into a great unknown. The reform process is unlikely to be relaunched by the chief executive in the remaining two years of his term. Even when the issue is taken up by the next administration, the electoral framework imposed by Beijing is to stay, according to mainland officials. There is, indeed, no guarantee of success even if we restart the process. It therefore makes sense to first implement the proposal at hand and only then strive to improve the system further.
Failing to pass the reform will also kill the opportunity to democratise the Legislative Council in 2020, as Beijing has ruled that universal suffrage for Legco must come after that for the chief executive election.
True, the proposed framework is not perfect. It is nonetheless in our interest to move forward. The city's leader is currently elected by 1,200 political elites. Until there is a successful revamp to change the status quo, the small-circle ballot is here to stay. It has to be wondered how a ballot of 1,200 voters is more democratic than one open to five million people.
The pan-democrats are worried that the restrictive framework will stay indefinitely once it has been approved. But that notion was dismissed by the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office chief yesterday.
Whether our D-day stands for democracy or doom depends on the wisdom and courage of our lawmakers. The 2017 goalpost has never been closer. We have spent decades fighting for a timetable. It would be a shame if we push it further into the future for no good reason. There is nothing to be gained by voting down the reform package. Worse, that would only push Hong Kong into greater uncertainty. We appeal to lawmakers to put Hong Kong's interest first and vote for the proposal.