After the Umbrella Revolution, the Communist Party of China (CPC) didn’t budge an inch on political reform in Hong Kong. Undeniably, Hong Kong is now in a political turmoil.
Political factions from the far left to the extreme right, including both the pan-democrats and the pro-establishment camp, all claim they represent the most authentic and genuine public opinion, and what they do is in the best interest of the Hong Kong people.
However, these people seem to have forgotten one thing: the essence of true democracy is to allow voters to make their own choices when it comes to fundamental issues that concern their own future.
The pro-establishment camp and the pan-democrats have fought each other to claim the moral high ground. The struggle within the pan-democratic camp has become even fiercer.
The standoff among different factions has escalated since the end of the Umbrella Revolution. All of them believe they are the personification of truth and public interest.
There is one way to break the current political deadlock: through a referendum.
The referendums over the question of independence of Quebec in Canada and Scotland in the UK have demonstrated that it is a civilized and effective way to resolve political differences, and whatever the results, the opposing camps usually bear no grudge against each other, and society just moves on.
However, the people of Hong Kong are deprived of the right to hold a referendum on the pretext that it is unconstitutional under the Basic Law.
The fact is that both the CPC and the SAR government simply don’t have the guts to face real public opinion.
Dr. Robert Chung Ting-yiu had suggested in his personal capacity that the government political reform package be sent to a referendum in order to reflect public attitudes. But his proposal was immediately rejected.
The pro-establishment camp and the government accuse the pan-democrats of going against the wishes of the 5 million registered voters in Hong Kong over the 2017 political reform, but they themselves also have denied our fellow citizens the right to express their own views over the same issue.
Unfortunately, both the moderate and radical pan-democrats are no better. They claim they represent the people’s true will, but most of the time they are just paying lip service to the principle.
Most importantly, despite being the largest and most radical political movement ever to take place in the territory, with the number of participants surpassing 2 million, the Umbrella Movement was still unable to change the status quo.
Probably, the next option left is revolution. This will explain why pro-revolution and pro-independence activists do find an audience among the young and desperate members of the “Umbrella Generation”.
However, a revolution is not for the faint-hearted, and it takes far more than a few radical newspaper articles, some angry online outbursts, hot-headed anti-parallel trade protests, or even scuffles with mainlanders for it to succeed. Protesters should at least have targeted those rural tycoons who run grey-goods stores, shouldn’t they?
In fact, there is an existing and handy option which can truly reflect public opinion and put pressure on the CPC and the SAR government, and which is also fully in accordance with the Basic Law and the principle of non-violence.
That option is simple: just ask Leung Chun-ying to dissolve the Legislative Council after it has voted against the 2017 political reform package and call for an early election.
If the re-elected Legco continues to vote against the reform package, then Leung must resign from his office under Article 50 and 52 of the Basic Law.
This is a mechanism stipulated in the Basic Law, and the CPC, the SAR government and the pro-establishment camp will find no legal foundation to oppose it.
Calling for an early Legco election after it has been dissolved amounts to a real referendum, through which the genuine wishes of the people can be truly reflected.
Anyone who claims to be a representative of our fellow citizens should support this idea. Otherwise, they are just phoney opportunists who are afraid of facing the challenge of public opinion and standing the real political test.
This article first appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on March 18.
[Chinese version 中文版]
Translation by Alan Lee
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