The opposition must stop sending out wrong signals

The opposition must stop sending out wrong signals
Political reform supporters shout slogans outside the Legislative Council in Hong Kong April 22, 2015.
PHOTO: Reuters

The opposition's veto of the Hong Kong government's historic electoral reform plans will change the face of Hong Kong society although the democracy development process remains intact.

It's nihil est toto, quod perstet, in orbe, (there's nothing in the whole world that remains unchanged), as ancient Roman poet Ovid once said.

Whatever one's view of the blueprint before the legislators went to the vote, whether one supported or opposed it, it was already quite evident that the Hong Kong society had been split into two rival camps that are not just politically irreconcilable but, for some of the principal players, actually hostile and contemptuous of each other.

The politicians' energy will likely continue to fritter away in arguing and fighting for whatever form of democracy each side deems to be appropriate, instead of being devoted to tackling more pressing social issues that have dogged Hong Kong for so many years - the sorry state of the housing problem, inequality in society, an aging population, how to maintain the city's relevance in a changing world environment and in relation to the mainland in particular.

From the vantage point of an ethnic Chinese living overseas, and after observing how the central government has been dealing with Hong Kong since the handover, it's obvious that Beijing doesn't want Hong Kong to be a failed society.

It wants Hong Kong to continue thriving to show Taiwan that it's possible to have one country with two systems so that Taiwan would willingly rejoin the motherland. The fear that Beijing might somehow bring its system to Hong Kong did not materialise.

But, it's also obvious that Beijing fears Hong Kong will be used as a base to subvert the mainland system.

Hong Kong opposition politicians should take heart from the fact that the central government has no intention whatsoever to impose its own system on the SAR and, at the same time, should assiduously send signals to Beijing that they are not embarking on any move to subvert the mainland system so as to protect Hong Kong's way of life and system.

But, some in the "pan-democratic" camp have failed to do that.

There are still people toying with the idea, as though it's their responsibility, of promoting "democratic advancement" on the mainland, and covertly seeking the help of some Western governments. They are sending out totally wrong signals.

With the reform proposals failing to get through the Legislative Council, coupled with the awkward way in which the pro-establishment lawmakers walked out of the LegCo chamber and brought the debate to an undignified close, what could be expected of Beijing's reaction?

Would Beijing soften up and open a dialogue with the "pan-democratic" camp? That's perhaps just an optimistic way of looking at the picture.

As I had argued in a previous article, Hong Kong's way of life is safeguarded by more than just a democratically elected leader.

It is protected by the Common Law, separation of the three branches of government, trial by jury and the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

These institutions of government are as important, if not even more so, in preserving Hong Kong's cherished uniqueness.

It's worth remembering that Hitler came to power by the ballot box, and universal suffrage is not an absolute guarantee of freedom and democratic rights.

Under the British colonial government, Hong Kong had enjoyed peace, prosperity and plenty of freedom, including freedom to criticise the government.

What happened in LegCo has made everybody a loser.

To make everybody a winner again, and to use that tired hackneyed phrase, to turn it into a "win-win" situation, there must be more trust all round.

How about getting it started by sending a very clear signal to Beijing that Hong Kong is not going to be a base for subversion, and that Hong Kong politicians are only interested in bettering the lives of Hong Kong people, and not in mainland politics.

The author is a former Hong Kong resident and presently a naturalised Singaporean and practicing hematologist.

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