Forget political reform, let’s focus on making people’s lives better

We lack the political talent or leadership to address reform, instead it would be better to rein in the rich, grow the middle class and help the poor

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 December, 2016, 1:52am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 December, 2016, 2:15am

Woo Kwok-hing wants to relaunch political reform if he becomes the next chief executive. Henry Tang Ying-yen, the former chief secretary and loser in the last chief executive race, counsels against it. For once, Tang is right.

When there is no prospect of a compromise between two opposing sides, it’s time to let sleeping dogs lie. Few people believe Woo, a retired judge and so far the only declared candidate, has a real shot at the top job. His proposal to achieve universal suffrage is a non-starter.

He wants 10 years, or two chief executive terms, to achieve a kind of electoral college to include most voters as members. That’s too long for the pan-dems and too open for the central government.

Still, Woo has served a useful purpose by questioning what to do with democratic reform after the government’s failed reform package last year. It’s clear that so long as Xi Jinping remains president, the central government will take a hard line towards democratic development in Hong Kong. This means it will not depart significantly from the so-called 831 restrictive framework it has laid down for reform, one that has proved to be completely unacceptable to the pan-dems.

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We are, therefore, locked in a stalemate. Neither rolling in the tanks for Beijing nor starting a revolution for independence is a real option. Short of an existentially threatening crisis, the status quo, however unpleasant, looks set to continue. It behoves us to make the best of it.

So Tang is advising what outgoing Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying was trying to do until his administration became bogged down in the doomed political reform process in the past two years. That is to focus on the economy and livelihood issues. Leung had tried to delay dealing with the reform for as long as possible. But because the National People’s Congress had approved 2017 as a possible date for universal suffrage, he had to introduce a reform package, however flawed.

But we don’t have to deal with political reform anymore – not for a while anyway. Nor do we have the political talent or leadership from the pan-democratic and establishment camps to address it. Instead I would suggest: rein in the rich, grow the middle class and help the poor.

If not all three, two out of three ain’t bad.