This is hooliganism, not democracy, intones the Standard’s ‘Mary Ma’ editorial, lamenting the outbreak of highly emotional inter-tribal strife within Hong Kong’s opposition camp. To the purists among fighters for universal suffrage, the Democratic Party is a bunch of traitors for voting through the government’s electoral reform package last week. For the first time since 1949, arguably, the Chinese Communist Party made a concession to a rival political group – but they are not impressed. Just as the CCP’s sole reason for existence today is to keep itself in power, so the hardline pro-democrats’ only purpose is a perpetual struggle for a logical impossibility: full universal suffrage in a one-party state. The DP’s realism won it a major symbolic victory when Beijing made its compromise, and their more dogmatic cousins are so angry that they are even threatening to shunt the turncoats to the back of the annual pro-democracy march on July 1.
In fact, the pan-democrats – always a broad coalition of the free-to-disagree – should be reasonably happy. The radical League of Social Democrats are entrenching their position as home of the diehard militants and activists. The Civic Party can bask in the afterglow of Audrey Eu’s stomping of Donald Tsang in the Great Chief Executive Debate Slaughter of 2010. The DP, after years of dust-gathering and neglect, is suddenly, by Hong Kong opposition standards, a heavy hitter whose existence Beijing officials actually recognize. It is the pro-government parties who are looking despondent.
The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong look more than ever like the CCP’s local proxies everyone knows them to be. First they opposed the Democratic Party’s demand; then, when the Liaison Office phoned up with the latest version of the truth, they dutifully started to say it was OK. The crowds they attracted to their pro-government demonstrations got lunch boxes and tours of (there must be a reason) the Museum of Coastal Defence for their trouble, but what do the DAB’s senior leaders get in return for their unquestioning obedience? The satisfaction of loyally serving the patriotic cause by being made to look stupid by the Party – and pretending to enjoy not being allowed to complain about it.
At least the Liberals, the pro-inherited-wealth party, are free to whine. Which is what member and National People’s Congress deputy Michael Tien does in today’s South China Morning Post. When the Liberals proposed a slight opening up of functional constituencies, he grumbles, they were ignored. Yet when the Democrats did it, they got invited to tea with Beijing’s emissaries. Small pro-establishment parties (the ridiculous Economic Synergy group of ex-Liberals being the other) are being taken for granted, marginalized “in the eyes of the electorate” and starved of “the oxygen of public recognition and support,” Tien protests, in the wounded and rejected tone of a five-year-old whose parents are devoting more attention to a newly arrived sibling.
The reason for this, as the accompanying photo shows, is that Tien has a fantasy about winning in a real election in which real people can vote. Unlike his shallow brother James, Michael has a hankering for legitimacy as some sort of man of the people, which is rather touching for someone born into one of the Shanghainese families (Chief Secretary Henry Tang’s being another) that got rich simply by selling textiles quotas acquired for free from the colonial government. Touching, and also telling. Long Hair and Co may not get past the nomination process for future functional constituency seats; nor will the most fragrant and mellifluous Civic Party members, or even Beijing’s new best buddies in the Democratic Party. But people like Michael Tien will be able to sail through the screening mechanism and take part in a democratic-with-HK-characteristics election. And he’s already upset about not being noticed enough.