Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Democracy or Diversion?

"I elected them to represent me, not to resign."
Words of wisdom from one who, I suspect, echoes the feelings of many Hong Kong people over the resignation today of five pro-democracy legislators to force what they claim will be a de facto referendum on democratic reform.

I an personally quite peeved by this action. I don't want to do anything that could be perceived by the government as indicating a lack of public support for immediate universal suffrage. But neither do I want to cast my vote for Leung Kwok-Hung, better known as Longhair, the democratic candidate in my constituency. I feel he's never made the mental leap from being a street agitator to becoming an effective legislator, and his party's attention-grabbing antics in LegCo all too often divert attention from the causes they aim to promote rather than furthering them.

This is only the latest in a whole series of mistakes made by the pan-democrats, however. The previous electoral reform proposals in 2005 were voted down, yet it would in retrospect have been wiser to abstain from voting (as one member did) rather than voting against them. A small step towards democracy may not seem much, but Beijing calls the shots, and they are clearly concerned that full democracy will bring about the kind of social chaos that they most fear. Each move towards democracy that is seen not to destabilise Hong Kong reassures them and makes them more ready to grant us a little more next time around. If the price for that is living with some role for the fundamentally undemocratic functional constituencies a little longer, then so be it.

Another mistake, particularly for the League of Social Denocrats, was to overplay the fuss over Donald Tsnag's alleged favouritism towards his family members in the last budget. The Chief Executive - in my view a competent administrator who has neither the vision nor the charisma to be a true leader - may have made an error in not realising that the proposal to subsidise energy-saving light bulbs woiuld indirectly benefit a relative, but nothing in his history or what we know of his character suggests that he is corrupt. Far better to oppose his real failures - on democracy, health care, and numerous other issues.

So - how to vote in the coming by-election? That's if there is one, with the pro-Beijing parties threatening to boycott the whole exercise. Wait and see.

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