Hong Kong's pro-establishment camp is ready to move on after political reform fiasco - are the pan-democrats?

Holden Chow says with the DAB ready to focus on livelihood issues, the pan-democrats must start cooperating, too, to get Hong Kong back on its feet

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 July, 2015, 4:45pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 July, 2015, 4:45pm

The political reform walkout fiasco at the Legislative Council has dealt a blow to the pro-establishment camp. Leaders of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong have made a number of sincere public apologies for the inadvertent failure.

The gaffe left people disappointed, but the DAB admitted its responsibility and did not attempt to heap recriminations on others. After all, turning against allies would do no good or alter the facts. On the contrary, accusations flying around in the pro-establishment camp would shatter the alliance and eventually cause dire consequences for the camp.

The recent leak of WhatsApp messages made things even more complicated. The public began to second-guess who might have leaked the chats. They caused considerable harm to Legco president, Jasper Tsang Yok-sing, who joined the pro-establishment camp's chat group during the voting proceedings. As a result of the leaks, some people now doubt Tsang's neutrality as Legco president. He made a public apology immediately and promised to quit the chat group forthwith.

Over the years, Tsang has built a reputation in chairing Legco proceedings in a fair and unbiased manner. This is evident by the praise he has received from pan-democrats, as well. In retrospect, some pro-establishment members have often lamented that he is biased towards the pan-democrats, claiming he is too lenient in penalising those who fail to observe the rules. For instance, time and again, he has allowed filibustering in the chamber, neglecting the demand by some pro-establishment lawmakers to dismiss the filibuster at the outset.

True, Tsang took the view that as long as the filibuster was done in accordance with the rules of procedure, he should abide by those rules and endorse the filibuster. His decision did infuriate some in the pro-establishment camp; nevertheless, he has insisted on following the rules of procedure, which testifies to his neutrality.

Given his longstanding credibility and ability to earn the trust of both the pro-Beijing and pan-democrat camps, it would certainly be a loss to Hong Kong society if he were compelled to resign because of the WhatsApp incident. I believe that view is also shared by the public.

Even if he does quit, I doubt that anyone, at this current moment, could name a person who would be an appropriate replacement.

The central government has urged the pro-establishment camp not to find out who leaked the chats, but to move on and focus on livelihood issues. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying held out an olive branch to the pan-democrats by putting a series of livelihood issues at the top of the Legco agenda in the hope of reuniting the city.

On the other hand, pan-democrats, with a focus on political issues as usual, have begun to urge the central government to relaunch the political reform. However, I am sure Beijing will not do so any earlier than at the end of the current government's term. Having experienced the fierce quarrels between the two sides, many are fed up with the political disputes. We should go forward and seek to avert such controversy. Therefore, the DAB would also object to relaunching the political reform in the near future.

Now the ball is in the court of the pan-democrats. Whether we can get Hong Kong back on its feet very much hinges on their conduct. Over the past two years, the lack of cooperation among some pan-democrats has blocked the government from dealing with various livelihood issues. We must face controversial issues in the near future, including the joint checkpoint for the high-speed railway connecting Hong Kong and the mainland, and the third runway. These are important infrastructure projects to maintain the city's competitiveness, and the jobs related to them are the bread and butter of many. Should the pan-democrats maintain their staunch uncooperative attitude when dealing with these issues, then Hong Kong's economy will suffer and head downhill.

Holden Chow is vice-chairman of the DAB