Is there a point to Hong Kong’s pan-democrat camp? Only if it can unite and regain the veto power in Legco
Albert Cheng says having lost the power to block government bills in the Legislative Council, the pan-democrats must find a way to convince the public they are still relevant. First, they must apologise for their mistakes
The democracy campaign in Hong Kong has arguably come to a standstill. Ever since the failure of the last political reform, Hongkongers have gone silent on universal suffrage as they have lost faith in the unrealistic ideal.
Under the governance of Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who is absolutely submissive to the Beijing government, “Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong” is apparently in name only. However, Lam must always be aware that one day she will also be abandoned when she is no longer of the use to the central government.
Now that the core political foundation of Hong Kong, “one country, two systems”, has been shaken, political reform will not be relaunched any time soon. It is time for the pro-democracy camp to rethink seriously and carefully about where the democracy campaign is going and how.
It has been 21 years since the handover, and although the pan-democrats have achieved nothing significant, the general public continues to support the camp so that the veto power in the Legislative Council is retained.
The political reform proposal has to be passed by a two-thirds majority of the members present; members’ motions and amendments of the Rules of Procedures have to be passed by a simple majority of members present.
In such a council setting, as long as the pro-democracy camp secures 18 seats in the geographical constituencies, they can at least delay the deforming of the city’s political environment. Voters are discerning – at critical moments, they vote for any pan-democrat regardless of their political inclination.
In the 2016 Legislative Council election, the pro-democracy camp managed to survive some tough battles and retain its veto power. However, two foolish and improper young lawmakers, Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching, triggered the disqualification saga which caused four other lawmakers to lose their seats.
The led to the pan-democrats losing the veto power, which is probably the last function the camp serves.
Yes, it is true that the government has been oppressing the opposition. But, if we take a step back, the pan-democrats are fully accountable for the current disadvantageous situation. Leung and Yau’s stupidity and ego let their supporters down. Some pan-democrats tried to stage political shows in the Legislative Council, but these backfired in the end.
That Hong Kong people still vote for the pro-democracy camp does not mean that they approve of the lawmakers’ ignorant and impulsive behaviour. Many of them reluctantly cast their votes for the camp only because they believe the veto power is the last battlefront that is worth defending.
No one should ever take voters’ support for granted. The defeat of Edward Yiu Chung-yim in the by-election in March was indeed alarming. If the pan-democrats fail to address their mistakes and inadequacy, eventually, Hong Kong people will turn their backs on them in the upcoming elections.
Watch: Four more Hong Kong lawmakers disqualified over oath-taking saga
In fact, voters are smart enough to realise that it is close to impossible to win back the veto power. With the first defeat of the pro-democracy camp in the last by-election, the Legislative Council has officially become a puppet statutory body. The Rules of Procedure have been amended to prohibit filibustering, and any government motions and bills can be passed in a split second without being challenged. It seems to a lot of Hong Kong people that the situation cannot be reversed.
People are drained and if the pro-democracy camp is incapable of mapping out a clear political vision, it would be difficult to retain voters’ support. Hence, in this upcoming by-election, the pan-democrats should aim to reignite hope among Hong Kong people and gather support to regain the veto power. This is not a political opportunity for individuals, but a full-scale battle that requires collective effort.
First things first, before any election campaigns commence, the pan-democrats should openly apologise for the mistakes they have made and the disappointment they have brought. This is the key to winning back people’s heart.
Albert Cheng King-hon is a political commentator. [email protected]