No big rush for democratie

Matthiew Murchie
Matthiew Murchie |

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By Matthiew Murchie, St Joseph's College

One has been nicknamed 'Long Hair' and the other 'Mad Dog'. They wear casual attire to formal meetings and are best known for opposing the government at every turn and also for tossing bananas at the Chief Executive.

Leung Kwok-hung and Wong Yuk-man are among five legislators who have resigned in protest over the government's refusal to introduce universal suffrage in 2012.

These five freedom fighters from the pan-democratic camp plan to take part in the by-elections brought about by their resignations, and subsequently get voted back into the Legislative Council. Being elected by the public, they claim, would constitute a 'de-facto referendum' that Beijing would not be able to ignore - it would demonstrate Hong Kong's whole-hearted support for early universal suffrage.

But why take such a drastic step? What justifies risking their careers and costing tax-payers HK$150 million needed to organise the by-elections? Most probably, they have exhausted all other avenues to realise their 'dream'. Over the past few years, radical pan-democrats have voiced their opinions through various means. These have ranged from holding peaceful demonstrations, to throwing bananas at meetings and hurling insults at anyone who opposes them.

Illustration: Matthiew Murchie

But the question is: will Beijing take the resignations seriously, or will they cause the central government to lose what little faith it had in implementing full democracy in Hong Kong?

The general consensus is, whatever happens, Beijing is unlikely to give in and allow us to have full democracy by 2012.

The fact is the mainland has already promised us democracy by 2017, so what's the big hurry?

The pan-democratic camp believes the central government is intent on delaying full democracy for Hong Kong, and if we don't fight for it now, we may never get it.

Another argument for early universal suffrage is that the government has not yet provided Hong Kong with a clear definition of what it means by 'democracy'. For example, pan-democrats want the functional constituencies to be abolished, but Beijing seems slow to respond to their questions.

The pan-democrats do have reasons for being impatient, and we all know that a healthy amount of criticism is vital in any political system. But let's not forget Hong Kong is, after all, part of the mainland. We have already been promised democracy in 2017, and that is already a huge step forwards.

It would also help if pan-democrats adopted a more refined approach, for example, not use slogans such as "uprising" to refer to their struggle for universal suffrage.

Perhaps it would be better to focus on preparing for democracy in 2017, rather than fighting for what most people already consider is a lost cause: democracy in 2012.

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