Political state doesn’t brook democrats running for office|Lau Sai-leung

Published (HKT): 2021.04.20 10:15

Former pro-democracy figure Tik Chi-yuen said in an interview given to a media outlet that in the upcoming term of office in the Legislative Council(LegCo), the room for lawmakers to pursue radical and “lam chau”(mutual assured destruction) means is extraordinarily limited, and that they can bring into play merely “pragmaticism and rationalism” in deliberations over political and administrative affairs. He is also of the opinion that if the pro-democracy figures “cooperate and hang together”, it will be possible for them to gain 15 to 16 seats in the LegCo out of the total of 90. He elaborated: “They would be the minority that has quite some clout.” He also firmly believes that even though the number of seats available to the pro-democracy camp has been reduced from nearly 30 out of 70 to a little more than 10, they “could still influentially speak up for the populace, which is very politically mobilizing”.

In 1991, non-establishment figures occupied 20 seats among the total of 60 in the LegCo. 30 years on, after the “perfection” of the electoral arrangement by the Chinese Communist Party(CCP), there are only 15 seats available to the non-establishment camp at most, which is tantamount to 1/3 substantially reduced to 1/6 in terms of proportion. Which primary student is unable to grasp the arithmetic? What can they do with only 1/6 of the total number of seats? Panels of different sizes, Bills Committees, the Finance Committee and Establishment Subcommittee are under direct control of the CCP. The most significant change has been the administration turning into a dictatorial one over the past decade, being arrogant, oblivious to what is happening outside, disrespectful towards the minority, and even blowing trivial things out of proportion at every turn. Under the distorted political system in Hong Kong, directly elected LegCo members are genuine representatives of public opinion, but they are always the opposition camp repressed by the administrative authority in the establishment.

The elected are unable stand up for public opinion

During the two terms of office of the LegCo members in ’91 and ’95 in the British colony, the then governor, knowing pretty well that the directly elected lawmakers were supported by public opinion, tasked David Ford, then Chief Secretary, and secretaries of different levels with ostensibly having negotiations with the directly elected councilors, yet actually relying on the pro-establishment camp and conservatives in daily administration, which is a knack of the British for engaging in politics. The pro-democracy camp had a sham sense of participation, calling up Ford or Anson Chan Fang On-sang whenever necessary, while the government zeroed in on dealing with thorny district issues. Both sides shared a reciprocal relationship. In the colonial era, it was not necessary for the pro-democracy camp to break up in discord with the government, for the major conflicts lied in the areas of resources allocation - retirement protection, comprehensive social security assistance, selling of public housing, policies towards well-off tenants living in public housing and public health care system, all of which had nothing to do with divergence in principles, and allowed of room for bargaining.

The pro-democracy camp had extensive clout in the society, not because of RTHK, Apple Daily and “fake news”, but support from public opinion. With the GDP per capita top-ranked, the people well-educated in general, the civil society having developed for more than 50 years since the ’70s, it is hardly possible for a civilized and mature society not to understand the stagnation and unfairness of the polity in Hong Kong. Hong Kong people checked and balanced the dictatorial authorities by showing support for the directly elected representatives, especially when they were getting aware that the SAR government officials, who were not held responsible for striving for the interests of Hong Kong people anymore, became stooges of the central government. So, even though the pro-democracy lawmakers had various deficiencies, they were supported by the mainstream public opinion. Whenever it came to critical moments, the civil society would be mobilized to back up the pro-democracy camp.

However, since July 2020, Hong Kong has been thrown in a polity aimed at maintaining stability and safeguarding national security, with the majority of pro-democracy leaders and lawmakers arrested, prosecuted, and put behind bars, the civil society thoroughly suppressed, RTHK overhauled, and Apple Daily to be closed upon government orders anytime. Will the pro-democracy camp still be able to call the society into action to check and balance the government? After the round-up of activists for the primaries, everyone engaging in politics has a “sword named national security” dangle from above their heads. Under such political circumstances, who can still stand upon his/her dignity? Tik Chi-yuen said the pro-democracy camp is able to get nominated, which I do not query. So long as the central government nods at it, they will surely be able to cross the threshold. The real issue has nothing to do with getting nominated or elected, but a dissenting vote they cast with a joint effort after being elected in violation of the National Security Law. It means they will be vulnerable to being disqualified from their seats, and asked to refund their salaries, hence broke.

After “one country, two systems” ended from stem to stern, there is no room for survival of the pro-democracy camp in Hong Kong anymore. Even if they get nominated by fair means or foul, they will not be able to stand up straight to be a standard representative of public opinion. Will Hong Kong people still support the pro-democracy camp in the LegCo as they used to? In the past few years, wasn’t Tik Chi-yuen a portraiture of what the pro-democracy figures will be in the days to come?

(Lau Sai-leung, political commentator)

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