A third way in dealings with Beijing
Why did a Beijing emissary suddenly arrange a meeting with the Democratic Party? That has many people scratching their heads. Lau Siu-kai has a plausible answer.
The former Central Policy Unit chief thinks Beijing is trying to create what he calls a "loyal opposition" from the more moderate segments within the pan-democratic camp. Lau believes certain principles cannot be challenged, among which are "one country two systems", the political structure and its evolution as dictated by Beijing as well as the legitimacy of communist rule.
"[The opposition] can oppose many other issues," he said. "But they basically [have to] accept the current political structure. And they [have to] operate within the current structure to fight for reform."
He was commenting on the meeting held a week ago between Democratic Party chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing, four other Democrat leaders and Feng Wei, deputy director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office.
Since Professor Lau is often seen as a conduit into the latest thinking and positions of Beijing, what he says carries weight. Predictably, Emily Lau hit back, insisting she and her party would never compromise Hong Kong's autonomy and democratic rights under "one country two systems". Well, she needed to cover her flanks from attacks by the more uncompromising and crazy elements of the pan-democratic camp for whom any talks with Beijing amount to a betrayal. But if Emily Lau is uncomfortable with being a "loyal opposition", perhaps she can rephrase it differently - as a "diplomatic opposition".
This means in dealings with Beijing, you shouldn't needlessly turn things into a confrontation at every opportunity, but instead an exchange of views and an exploration of mutual interests. To be sure, trust is difficult at this moment, but people negotiate and cut deals all the time not because they trust each other but because they share certain interests and agendas.
Between subservience and resistance, there is a third way, a reasonable give-and-take, an astute assessment of mutual interests and an appropriate mutual giving of face. More and more moderate pan-dems are beginning to realise that.