By Chris Yeung —
Hong Kong’s pan-democrat legislators are caught between a rock and a hard place over whether to stay for one more year after their term expires by the end of this month following the postponement of the Legislative Council election to September next year.
Most of them, including the two major factions, namely the Democratic Party and the Civic Party, have said they want to stay. But a couple of vocal localists, including Chu Hoi-tik and Chan Chi-chuen, called for a boycott of the interim legislature.
Though mixed, views among supporters of the pro-democracy camp are likely to be slightly in favour of those “stayers.”
Results of a relevant poll currently conducted by the Public Opinion Research Institute founded by former University of Hong Kong pollster Robert Chung Ting-yiu are expected to be published soon.
It may help the pan-democrat camp reach a broad consensus on the decision on whether to join or to stay away from the legislature in the next 12 months. Judging from the stance of the pan-democrats and public opinion, most, if not all, of them are likely to stay.
But damages to unity look inevitable. How to heal the wounds in relations among various factions inflicted by the row will be an arduous task. Failure to do so could cause harm and uncertainty to the camp in their battle for seats in next year’s election.
This is simply because the unity of the pan-democrat force, if any, is built on sand. The Democrats and radical localists, for instance, have never been shy from talking about their rift. The deeply-rooted cleavages among the pan-democrats over political stance and strategy have been put under the sunshine again – no thanks to the government decision on election postponement.
The mainstream faction, composed of the Democrats and the Civic Party, cannot be faulted for being modest in their goal in the interim legislature, just to make the life of government and loyalists in Legco more difficult. The chance of them being able to abort any government plans is slim. Like it or not.
Nor the radical localists should be blamed for being dogmatic and unrealistic not to join the short-lived legislature whose legal status is questionable.
The two lines of thinking are clearly poles apart. They cannot possibly be bridged. Whether the pan-democrats will be able to agree to disagree and avoid infighting over the issue in the next 12 months is anybody’s guess. It is important nevertheless.
Their rival pro-establishment and the Government, meanwhile, seem to be keen to take advantage of the split of the pan-democrats.
Top officials including Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung and pro-Beijing heavyweights such as Tam Yiu-chung have made public appeal to the democrat legislators for them to stay. They also urged them to be a good boy to help the Government and community fight against Covid-19 pandemic.
The seemingly moderate gesture by the Government and the loyalists shown to the “stayers” is more like a kiss of death, putting the moderate democrats in a more embarrassing situation. By taking on the same side of the moderates on the issue, the pro-establishment camp was fanning the row between the stayers and the leavers in the pan-democrat camp.
The more serious and damaging the split the more likely the pro-establishment camp will be able to gain in next year’s election.
Amid Covid-19 pandemic scare, more than 610,000 pan-democrats came out in droves last month to cast their vote in a primary across the city. The higher-than-expected turnout in the unofficial vote was a big confidence booster to the pan-democrats’ target of winning over 35 seats in the next Legislative Council election, originally scheduled for September 6 this year, now for September 5 2021.
The Government cited the risk of cross infections of Covid-19 as the ground for postponing the election for one year, but many people are unconvinced and feel being cheated. Their anger over being cheated has made the question of “stay-or-leave” more emotional.
The election battle is now almost 13 months from now. The upcoming fight for the democrats is to get a consensus among themselves soon on whether to keep Legco as a battleground as they rethink a game plan for the election next year.
Chris Yeung, Chief Writer of CitizenNews, an online news platform, is a veteran journalist formerly worked with the South China Morning Post and the Hong Kong Economic Journal. He writes on Greater China issues.
This article was first published on Apple Daily website on August 19, 2020.