Hong Kong democrats’ flip-flop on political reform raises questions about their integrity

Tik Chi-Yuen and Chan Ka Wai say their refusal to compromise on political reform is far from principled, as they adopt such a stance only when it suits them

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 April, 2017, 4:09pm
UPDATED : Friday, 07 April, 2017, 4:19pm

The pan-democrats have set two preconditions in response to Hong Kong chief executive-elect Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s call for reconciliation: restart political reform, and repeal the National People’s Congress2014 decision setting limits on the city’s electoral progress. Without this, they say, reconciliation is impossible.

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Their demands – a change of tune from the recent past – are puzzling and frustrating.

During the chief executive election campaign, the pan-democrats supported John Tsang Chun-wah even though he did not promise to overturn the NPC decision. In fact, Tsang went further: he said he would initiate Article 23 legislation if elected, though not during his first term.

Despite this, the pan-democrats supported Tsang, arguing that their prime goal was to stop Lam – who they deride as “C.Y. 2.0” – from being elected. Never mind fighting the NPC ruling, they said, the more important goal was to prevent the election of someone who would be as dictatorial as the incumbent, Leung Chun-ying.

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The irony is that, by setting such demands, they are pushing Lam to follow Leung’s ways. It’s a matter of public knowledge that there is no way Lam could agree to these preconditions under the existing constitutional and political constraints. The pan-democrats’ hard line will only push Lam closer to Leung’s antagonistic style of governance. That should not be what they wish to see.

Rather, they should seek to cooperate with Lam to establish an inclusive and transparent government, to move society forward. That is the best way to ensure a more conciliatory style of governance for Hong Kong.

Good politicians should be principled yet flexible

The pan-democrats’ inconsistency is especially galling. Why was rejecting a supposed “C.Y. 2.0” more important than the abolishment of the NPC decision, which they had regarded as a core issue? After they set it aside, why did the issue become crucial again after the election?

The pan-democrats may argue that different tactics are needed at different times. But the fact that they could set aside their demand for political reform showed that the NPC decision need not be a sticking point.

Good politicians should be principled yet flexible. Sometimes, they should bravely give up long-held principles that no longer meet the needs of the time.

The pan-democrats changed their mind about the NPC ruling during the election, only to resurrect it again when it suited them. This raises a question about their integrity. Their inconsistency is disappointing.

Tik Chi-Yuen is chairperson, and Chan Ka Wai chief executive, of the Third Side political party