Tuesday 8 November 2011

Why Beijing may be the best friend Hong Kong democrats have right now

Amid the gloom-and-doom of yesterday's rout of Hong Kong's pan-democrats in the district council elections, and their grey prospects for next year's LegCo (Legislative Council) elections, Big Lychee sees a (thin) silver lining for the pan-dems:

"Back in the mid-90s, pro-democrats swept the board in elections for directly elected Legco seats, thanks to the first-past-the-post voting system. In order to give the less popular pro-Beijing DAB a better chance, the post-handover regime established a complex proportional representation system, which gives seats to losers as well as winners. The whole idea was to benefit parties too unpopular to get 50% of the vote. Ironic or what?"

Big Lychee thinks the pan-dems were let down by their obsession with full suffrage - an issue on which Beijing is not likely to ever bend for very obvious reasons - and their ceaseless in-fighting. He would like them to concentrate on Hong Kong's growing economic inequality.

Me, I'm not so sure. It's hard to see what unites well-off, compromise oriented ex-lawyers like Albert Ho with Trotskyites like Leung Kwok-hung other than demands for full suffrage. It is also hard to believe that the more establishment (or ex-establishment) members of the pan-dem camp would be very convincing as crusaders for equality.

That said, just as in Taiwan with the independence/unification issue, the very fact that suffrage is unacheivable makes it essentially a non-issue. Concentrating on suffrage at the expense of other matters leaves Hong Kong's pan-dems open to accusations of either ignoring or working against the interests of the average Hong-Konger - this has especially been the case in the right-of-abode dispute.

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