Date
28 March 2017
Vice-Chancellor of CUHK Joseph Sung (left) and Legco President Jasper Tsang have enough credibility to play the role of a mediator between pan-democrats and Beijing officials in talks on Hong Kong political reform. Photo: EJ Insight
Vice-Chancellor of CUHK Joseph Sung (left) and Legco President Jasper Tsang have enough credibility to play the role of a mediator between pan-democrats and Beijing officials in talks on Hong Kong political reform. Photo: EJ Insight

What HK needs to break the political reform gridlock

Although Beijing officials and Hong Kong’s pan-democrats might want to explore the possibility of reaching a compromise on the political reform issue, they are unlikely to be candid with each other, given the current political environment.

Both sides will not let each other know where their lines are drawn, a reflection of the lack of mutual trust and intense political differences.

But I have always taken the view that Beijing’s insistence on the 831 resolution and the pan-democrats’ demand for a genuine election under which voters can have real choices are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

In order for both sides to find common ground under the current tense political atmosphere, it takes not only good faith, willingness and creativity, but also a better way to reconnect the two opposing sides.

In other words, what we need is a highly respected and impartial public figure to act as middleman to bridge the gap.

As renowned US arbitrator David Hoffman said in his article “Mediation and the Art of Shuttle Diplomacy”, an effective way to break the deadlock at a negotiation is to appoint a middleman, who then acts as a mediator and talks with the opposing sides separately to work things out together, and find out how their gap can be narrowed.

For a person to be qualified to act as a mediator, he or she must be a highly respectable and prominent public figure who is trusted by both sides.

Frankly, it is hard to find someone fit for this job in Hong Kong these days. But still, there are two potential candidates here. One of them is Legco President Jasper Tsang Yok-sing.

Although Tsang was the former chairman of DAB and a leading figure in the pro-establishment camp, and some might call into question his impartiality, his proven track record in leading and managing the Legco should be able to convince the public that he can fulfill the role as an impartial mediator.

Another candidate is the Vice-Chancellor of the Chinese University Joseph Sung Jao-yiu.

Sung hasn’t commented much on political reform nor has he been involved in local politics before, but his impartiality is beyond dispute.

Perhaps it would be in the best public interest if Tsang and Sung can join forces and act as co-mediators to help our city find its way out of the current political gridlock.

Under such arrangement, both Beijing and the pan-democrats can express their views and raise their suggestions freely with the mediator separately and privately.

A good mediation arrangement could also ensure that both parties adopt a more open attitude and look at the issue with a fresh perspective.

By gathering the opinions from both sides, hopefully the mediator can then work out a set of compromise proposals in order to narrow the gap.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May 21. [Chinese version 中文版]

Translation by Alan Lee

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RC

Associate Professor of Law at the University of Hong Kong

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