My Take

Like democracy, keep national security law on back burner, too

We have the same constitutional duty to work on the issues but have failed spectacularly on both fronts; let’s move on to what we can achieve

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 April, 2017, 12:02am
UPDATED : Monday, 24 April, 2017, 12:01am

The city’s political blogosphere and social media were set ablaze when the central government’s liaison office’s legal chief, Wang Zhenmin, said at the weekend that Hong Kong would not have democracy in the coming decade.

As if having timed their incendiary comments, Wang Junli, the former deputy head of the People’s Liberation Army garrison in Hong Kong, compared the city’s situation to Taiwan, Tibet, Xinjiang and the South China Sea, meaning the introduction of a national security law under Article 23 of the Basic Law was urgent.

Their remarks made good newspaper headlines, but were not saying anything we didn’t know already. After pan-democratic lawmakers voted down the government’s electoral reform in 2015, there was in fact no further prospect for universal suffrage anytime soon. You can blame the central government for imposing the restrictive framework on the reform. Or you can blame the pan-democrats and their allies for undermining it for Hong Kong people. But it is what it is; and Wang Zhenmin is just spelling it out.

However, he is probably not commenting on democracy as such, but rather telling chief executive-elect Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor what to do. That’s what the legal chief meant when he said: “[Hong Kong] cannot afford to dedicate energy to political reform in the next five or 10 years, but not to housing, people’s livelihoods and the economy.” That will pretty much cover the period of Lam’s first term, and perhaps her second as well.

That should suit her just fine. If there is no prospect of success for democratic reform, she would be perfectly justified not to touch it with a 10-foot pole.

Of course, Wang Zhenmin’s quote is just as true if we substitute “political reform” with “Article 23”, which we also can’t afford to expend energy on over more pressing livelihood issues. Wang Junli’s claims notwithstanding, Hong Kong is no threat to the nation in any way, because our localist provocateurs are nothing but a joke.

Pan-democrats like to quote the Basic Law by saying we have a constitutional duty to establish full democracy. Well, we have the same constitutional duty for Article 23, too, so let’s not get on our high horses.

We have failed spectacularly trying to legislate political reform and a national security law. In the process, we have inflicted untold damage on our body politic. Let’s give both of them a rest, for now.