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One protester holds an anti-Baggio Leung sign. Photo: K. Y. Cheng

Hong Kong pan-democrats’ division and inaction comes to the fore as pro-Beijing anger rages

Day of drama does bring short-lived show of unity in fraught camp

Two weeks into the oath-taking saga, those in the pro-democracy camp appeared ambivalent about matching their words of fury with adequate action.

Supporters will be wondering why the camp had not organised a single rally or march to protest the ruling of Legislative Council president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen even as they lashed out at him for blatantly depriving two localist lawmakers of their constitutional rights.

Pan-democrats’ inaction stood in stark contrast to the crowd of nearly 10,000 mobilised by Beijing-friendly groups outside the legislature on Wednesday, demanding that the Youngspiration pair Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching quit Legco. About the only other group in the same area pointing fingers at Andrew Leung was the League of Social Democrats.

Pro-Beijing groups gathered nearly 10,000 people outside the legislature. Photo: K. Y. Cheng

But on Wednesday there was a show of unity, albeit briefly, among pan-democrats and localists.

Eight pan-democrats escorted Yau and Baggio Leung, whom Andrew Leung had banned from joining the meeting, into the chamber. The pair openly expressed gratitude for their help.

That show of strength in numbers, however, did not extend to the entire pro-democracy camp.

At a press conference held by the democratic caucus soon after, Democratic Party lawmaker Helena Wong Pik-wan made a candid statement that raised eyebrows.

“I want to point out that none of the seven Democrat lawmakers took part in escorting the duo,” she said. “We do not agree with the remarks made by them [in their oaths].”

Leung and Yau used the term “Chee-na”, a variation of the derogatory term “Shina” used by Japan during the second world war.

Yau Wai-ching and Baggio Leung sparked anger with their oaths. Photo: Sam Tsang

Their remarks angered not just the pro-establishment camp. Many supporters of the Democratic Party, which has never advocated separatism or nationalism, were also offended, Wong’s colleague Lam Cheuk-ting said.

“Andrew Leung was definitely wrong in destroying the system, but we think the Youngspiration pair were also responsible for causing the situation today. It would not have happened if they did not take their oaths that way,” said Lam.

The Civic Party’s Dennis Kwok echoed that sentiment. He said the duo’s “irresponsible act” had forced all Hongkongers to pay for the mess they had created.

The rift between the traditional pan-democrats and localists, and their lack of mutual trust, were the key reasons why the camp had failed to mobilise public support in the past weeks, several members of the camp said.

Helena Wong said her party did not agree with the pair’s actions. Photo: Sam Tsang

At previous election forums, Yau had blamed Wong and her allies for achieving nothing over the past years, while Wong accused Yau of being a spy from the pro-establishment camp.

Independent lawmakers such as social welfare sector representative Shiu Ka-chun and Eddie Chu Hoi-dick, as well as Demosisto’s Nathan Law Kwun-chung, had been trying hard to bring pan-democrats and localists together in the preceding two days.

It took Law, the youngest of Hong Kong’s lawmakers and a former Occupy student leader, to call on the camp to use the opportunity of crisis to stay united.

Lam Cheuk-ting said many supporters of the Democratic Party were also angered by the oaths. Photo: Sam Tsang

“We should stop the fight between different factions [within the democratic camp],” the 23-year-old said. “Those who want self-determination must now defend the rule of law.”

But Shiu remained pessimistic that it would help unite the camp in the long run.

“Such collaboration might only happen on an ad hoc basis,” he said.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: pan-dem division pulled to the fore