A slightly nostalgic Old Hong Kong moment, as veteran mild-mannered pan-democrat James To and veteran mild-mannered pro-Beijing apologist Lau Siu-kai discuss the prospects for political reform in an atmosphere of mutual respect. Back in the days before politically driven prosecutions, purges of lawmakers and plans to brainwash schoolkids, this sort of thing was quite normal.
Lau ventures to suggest that the Chinese Communist Party and the pro-democrats will never reach a consensus on universal suffrage in Hong Kong. To disagrees and accuses Lau of trying to pressure officials not to restart the reform process.
This is why the older mainstream pro-democrats are history. After 20 years of being strung along with offers of pseudo-reform, they still imagine that a Leninist one-party regime is going to allow the Hong Kong people to choose their own government.
Mostly lawyers, they have never ceased to have faith in Article 45 of the Basic Law. It promises ‘universal suffrage’ – but it is careful to specify a procedure allowing for a rigged election. That is what Beijing finally offered in 2014. The pan-dems can’t grasp that there is no more to come.
Their naivety would be amusing were it not depressing. They think, even in October 2017, that the Communist Party has the capacity to be nice and reasonable and make concessions. They assume that the Basic Law is a hard statement of rules and principles, when we all know that Beijing can ‘interpret’ the wording to mean whatever it pleases at any time (to the extent it distresses a former Secretary for Justice). They even seem to think the Hong Kong government is some sort of independent player, able to launch a new, different, better political reform process if it wants, although Beijing has clearly stated that it controls constitutional affairs.
A better strategy for the older pan-dems would be to stop the misreading: accept Beijing’s (often code-laden) statements, and distill and broadcast them.
“We reluctantly conclude,” they could announce, “that there will be no democracy in Hong Kong so long as the Communist Party is in power, because the regime is so insecure that it cannot permit any possible rival power centres. This is obvious from the Party’s obsessive control not only of government but courts, media, religion (etc, etc) in the Mainland, and the system’s paranoid logic dictates that this is the way Hong Kong must head.”
By delivering this new, impactful, coherent stance instead of morose whining, the older pan-dems could at least put their pro-Beijing tormentors on the defensive (not get pushed around by the likes of Lau Siu-kai). More to the point, they could expose the ambiguity officials currently get away with (on Hong Kong’s declining freedoms, for example). By sounding the warning overseas – on speaking tours in Taiwan, for example – they might even be taken seriously in Beijing for the first time. After all, if the CCP sees you as an enemy, you might as well be one.
I declare the weekend open by presenting the Eeewww Gratuitous Brown-Nose Shoe-Shine Kowtow-Grovel of the Day Award…