My Take

Advocating violent confrontation in Hong Kong will only force Beijing to take a harder line

So-called localists should give compromise a chance, just as the Democratic Party did in 2010 that helped expand the electorate to 3.2 million voters

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 February, 2016, 12:40am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 February, 2016, 11:43am

It’s a central belief among localists and not a few pan-democrats that communicating and compromising with Beijing over the years has got Hong Kong nowhere. Instead, they believe, it only makes things worse for us.

This viewpoint was best summarised this week during a televised debate on the Legislative Council by-election in New Territories East. During the debate, candidate Nelson Wong Sing-chi, deputy convener of the centrist Third Side party, questioned rival candidate Edward Leung Tin-kei, a core member of the radical localist party Hong Kong Indigenous, about his advocacy of violence. Leung – who is on bail after having been charged with participating in the Mong Kok riot – said “the middle way” had never yielded any success and nothing tangible ever came from attempts to communicate with the central government in the past three decades.

READ MORE: Defenders of Mong Kok riot now turn their wrath on journalists

Let’s call one camp the confrontationists and the other the appeasers. Since Munich, appeasement has become a byword for capitulation. But that may be due more to our historical ignorance than anything else. Politics, after all, is all about compromise, which is just another word for appeasement.

It is willful ignorance to deny no results have ever been achieved. I still regard the Democratic Party’s compromise with Beijing in 2010 over the 2012 Legco election as a singular achievement. It expanded the franchise to 3.2 million voters by creating five “super seats” in Legco. I know of no other instance in Chinese communist history that allows for an electoral expansion, unless you also count the rejected government plan for political reform last year.

But just for argument’s sake, let’s say trying to work with Beijing has yielded zero results. What then is the alternative? We must then confront Beijing. I have no problem with that. The peaceful mass rally in 2003 was also a singular achievement that forced Beijing and the government to shelve Article 23 national security legislation for years to come. So I would argue that reasonable compromise and peaceful “confrontation” have both produced results, so the jury is still out as to which way is better.

But escalating confrontation to the level of violence and riot as Leung has advocated is counterproductive. It will not force Beijing to yield, but with certainty make it take an even harder line.