On the very day that it unveiled its political reform package for the 2017 chief executive election, the Leung Chun-ying administration kicked off what appears to be a well-planned, well-coordinated and well-funded campaign to promote its “one man, one vote” proposal to the Hong Kong people.
The pan-democratic camp, on the other hand, is in disarray.
When Chief Secretary Carrie Lam announced the plan before the Legislative Council last week, pan-democrat lawmakers staged a walkout. A couple of them stayed at the chamber and listened to her speech.
As the days wore on, some of the supposedly enlightened legislators chose to shy away from the limelight, suggesting that they may be vacillating and could later change their stance.
Meanwhile, the pro-establishment camp appears confident, knowing that they only need four votes from the pan-democrats to get two-thirds of Legco to approve the proposal. They continue to claim that 60 percent of the people support the government plan, and urge the pan-democrats to heed the voice of the majority.
But the latest public opinion poll shows that everything is still in a state of flux. Neither side could claim that they have the support of the majority of the people, and a big portion of the electorate remains undecided.
According to the latest survey conducted by the University of Hong Kong, Chinese University of Hong Kong and Hong Kong Polytechnic University and sponsored by now News, 47 percent of the 1,167 respondents support the government proposal, 38 percent oppose it, while about 16 percent are still undecided.
Hong Kong’s top three television stations, namely Television Broadcasts (TVB), Cable TV and now TV, conducted their own polls after the government announced the electoral reform plan last week.
According to the results, support for the proposal was in the range of 47 to 50.9 percent, while opposition was quite stable at around 38 percent.
That means the government needs to work harder to convince the so-called silent group and bring the support rate to more than 60 percent. And the pan-democratic group appears to have a bigger task in this regard.
Of course, the pan-democrats only need to present a united front at Legco to veto the proposal. But considering that their vote should reflect the wish of their constituents, they should exert extra effort to convince the public that a veto of the government package is the only rational action in the interest of Hong Kong and its people.
They should go out in the streets and compete with the government in winning the hearts and minds of the people. In fact, they started doing that last Sunday, delivering speeches and distributing pamphlets to explain their position.
But in the face of the sustained government campaign to promote its electoral reform plan, the opposition should do more.
Following the Occupy protests late last year, relations between the student group Scholarism and the Democratic Party appear to have frayed. The two sides failed to reach a consensus on the proposed resignation of lawmaker Albert Ho to trigger a de facto referendum on the political reform plan via a by-election.
On Tuesday Scholarism issued a statement saying that they would not join the decision-making body for the proposed de facto referendum because they wanted to distance themselves from pan-democrats who they said were wavering over the issue of political reform.
The student group said they will continue to monitor the pan-democrats ahead of the vote on the political reform package, and they are willing to donate HK$200,000 to the campaign.
Ho initially planned to resign after the Legco vote on the electoral reform proposal, but the student group said the timing was wrong. Scholarism said Ho should resign before the vote to show the latest public opinion to the 70 lawmakers. But Ho argued that he needed to cast his vote to help prevent an easy victory for the pro-Beijing camp.
Disagreements between the two sides didn’t start there. Pro-democracy students have long been wary of the Democratic Party since the group walked into the central government’s Liaison Office in 2010 to clinch a deal with Beijing on the 2011 electoral reform package. Since then, many young activists have considered the Democratic Party as a pro-Beijing group.
Nonetheless, the pro-democracy camp cannot afford to be disunited or disorganized at this point of the campaign against the government’s political reform proposal.
The youth are a vital component of the struggle for genuine universal suffrage. An analysis of the now TV survey will show that 63 percent of the respondents aged 18 to 29 oppose the reform package. And 55 percent of the respondents with tertiary education or above also oppose the plan.
This shows that the youth and the educated sectors comprise the core group of the opposition to the Beijing plan.
Pan-democrats should set aside their differences, get their act together and look at the campaign against the political reform plan as a struggle for genuine universal suffrage, and not an occasion to gauge their popularity among the electorate.
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