Date
17 August 2017
Graciously hear us: Democrats seek a dialogue with National People's Congress boss Zhang Dejiang. Photos: HKEJ, Xinhua
Graciously hear us: Democrats seek a dialogue with National People's Congress boss Zhang Dejiang. Photos: HKEJ, Xinhua

Beijing should talk directly with pan-democrats

Beijing officials should sit down and talk directly with the pan-democrats. That’s the only way to know each other’s bottom line on political reform. That’s the only way to arrive at the best solution that is acceptable to the Hong Kong people.

National People’s Congress chairman Zhang Dejiang was in Shenzhen the past few days to meet with Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and representatives of the pro-Beijing camp to get a grasp of the latest situation in Hong Kong. However, Zhang did not spare some time to meet with representatives of the pan-democratic camp as well as the founder of Occupy Central.

What’s wrong with talking with the opposition? Misunderstanding results from lack of direct communication between the two sides. Dialogue may not lead to agreement, but it can show the sincerity of both parties. It shows mutual desire to understand each other’s viewpoint, and this may result in mutual trust, which is a prerequisite to a consensus.

Based on the statements of pro-Beijing politicians after meeting with Zhang, Beijing has confirmed that public nomination is illegal and Beijing will not change its stance even if the Occupy Central civil disobedience campaign takes place. But these words did not come from Zhang’s mouth; they were spoken by others. Credibility is lost. That’s quite unfair for both Zhang and the Hong Kong people.

The Hong Kong government, which was supposed to serve as bridge between Beijing and the pan-democrats, failed to play its role appropriately. Leung poured cold water on the proposed dialogue, saying that “it’s not only based on your willingness, but also Beijing’s.”

The Hong Kong government has been taking a conservative stance during the public consultation on political reform. It has not been very willing to meet with supporters of the pan-democratic camp, which is why the call for public nomination of the candidates to the 2017 chief executive election has fallen on deaf ears. As a result, Beijing also cannot hear the people’s call.

Some radical members of the opposition say it is useless — perhaps even a sign of betrayal — to meet with Beijing officials as it will not break the political deadlock. But dialogue is normal and healthy in politics. The opposition can voice out their belief that civic nomination will not only improve relations between Hong Kong and Beijing, but also boost the city’s outlook. Beijing, on the other hand, can directly communicate with the so-called anti-China politicians, give them the real score rather course its messages through various channels. There is no reason why senior Communist Party officials can talk with supporters of Taiwan independence, but refuse to meet with Hong Kong pan-democrats.

It is obvious that Beijing still doesn’t accept the legitimacy of pan-democrats in the Hong Kong political landscape. It cannot acknowledge that they hold 26 directly elected seats in the geographical constituencies representing more than half of the votes counted in the Legislative Council election in 2012. But it should bear in mind that not all pan-democrats and their supporters are against communist rule in China. The Communist Party is keen on building a “united front”. Why not do so in Hong Kong?

Beijing should stop treating pan-democrats as enemies, and take the step to open lines of communication. It is time to clear the smog that is polluting the political atmosphere of Hong Kong. 

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SC/JP/CG

EJ Insight writer

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