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Carrie Lam

Will Hong Kong’s Democrats see reason, or push the city towards futility?

Philip Yeung calls on party chair Wu Chi-wai to compromise, as his all-or-nothing stance with the incoming Hong Kong chief executive risks putting the city’s future on hold while the pan-democrats play politics

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 April, 2017, 12:06pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 April, 2017, 6:49pm

The Democratic Party has become the party of negativity. And, if the utterances of its chairman are anything to go by, it is destined to become the party of futility.

Shortly after the chief executive election, Wu Chi-wai appeared on a TV talk show along with former lawmaker Ronny Tong Ka-wah. When Tong pressed him on why his party supported John Tsang Chun-wah – given the former finance chief’s reputation for being evasive and unresponsive in debates, and that his financial policies represented everything the Democrats hated – Wu mumbled a non-answer.

We are witnessing the disappearance of the middle ground in our politics

This merely confirmed the perception that his party threw its weight behind Tsang simply because he was not Beijing’s preferred candidate.

Wu has flat out rejected any compromise with incoming chief executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, until she can deliver on his view of political reform. That means five more years of destructive politics, as his party exists to frustrate, delay and derail any government initiatives on livelihood issues. Wu is asking for the impossible, setting an unrealistic precondition that Lam first upend the NPC Standing Commitee’s 8.31 framework on constitutional reform. His insistence is squeezing his party into the politics of futility.

This is bad news. It means everything must be put on hold until the pan-democrats are done playing politics. The Democrats were once the conscience of the city and voice of its people. No longer – as the party practises its own brand of nihilistic politics. We now have a dwarfish party led by small-thinking people, weakened by defections and splintering.

Hong Kong won’t see universal suffrage without compromise. Do the pan-democrats realise this?

The once-mighty party of hope must not build its success on the next government’s failure

Under Wu’s leadership, the splintering is likely to deepen, as he forbids any member from joining the Lam administration, unless they first resign from his party. I see no future for a party under a leader who is impervious to reason.

We are witnessing the disappearance of the middle ground in our politics. The last Legislative Council election might have spooked the Democrats – with moderates failing to win a single seat. Wu is feeling the pressure from other fringe opposition groups, each more radical than the other.

Veteran Democrat Martin Lee sets next Hong Kong leader two conditions to get party on board

Politics is the art of the possible. Working with the government for our common good doesn’t have to mean co-optation. You don’t have to give Lam a political honeymoon. But you owe it those who elected you to make it a marriage of inconvenience. If compromise and collaboration can sweeten the lives of millions, the middle ground will have a chance and a market.

Wu cannot lead from behind. The once-mighty party of hope must not build its success on the next government’s failure.

Philip Yeung is a former speechwriter to the president of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. [email protected]