22 October 2018
A banner that reads "I Want Genuine Universal Suffrage" flies outside the Central Government Offices in Admiralty. Photo: Bloomberg
A banner that reads "I Want Genuine Universal Suffrage" flies outside the Central Government Offices in Admiralty. Photo: Bloomberg

Help Hong Kong start anew after the veto

As they say, fear incompetent teammates more than your enemies.

The pro-establishment camp has become the laughing stock in the city after Thursday’s drama in the Legislative Council.

The saga of 31 Beijing-friendly lawmakers who walked out of the chamber during the vote is a vivid testimony to the well-said truth that sometimes it is your friends, not your foes, who will ruin the game.

The landslide veto of the government’s political reform proposal (28-8) sustains the perception that the Beijing-decreed package is utterly unwelcome as it has been dumped in such a glaring fashion.

The voting result will remain on the record.

How did it happen?

Three minutes after Legco President Jasper Tsang Yok-sing called for a vote, Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung, vice-president of the pro-Beijing Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong, asked for a suspension; Tsang turned down the request as the voting is already in progress.

Then, in a dilatory tactic, Lam and Ip Kwok-him, a member of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, led their colleagues in a walkout, thinking their boycott could deny a quorum and make time for the tardy Lau Wong-fat, a veteran Beijing loyalist who has been under the weather, to arrive and vote.

Unfortunately the strategy failed due to miscommunication and the lack of team spirit: 37 lawmakers, including 28 democrats, or more than half of the total headcount, remained in their seats.

And one of the remaining pro-Beijing legislators didn’t cast his vote.

The result was a lopsided victory for the democrats, who all voted against the bill just as they had vowed.

Although the government had anticipated the defeat of the bill, Beijing still wanted a face-saving majority support for the political reform package despite the pan-democrats’ critical minority vetoing power.

However, the actual outcome turned out to be the complete opposite. The 28 noes formed the overwhelming majority of those who stayed to vote.

It’s just so humiliating for Beijing, the SAR government and the pro-government camp.

Although there was no chance for the bill to pass as they could not convince their opponents to switch sides, they still hoped they could hold their heads high for trying.

Before the vote, Beijing’s top envoy in the territory Zhang Xiaoming (張曉明) warned that those who veto the bill will be voted out in next year’s Legco election.

Now people are thinking that because of the pro-government lawmakers’ collective walkout — others are calling it a “betrayal” — at such a crucial juncture, some of their supporters may want to vote them out of office next year.

The positive side of the drama is that it has dissolved much of the tension resulting from the highly charged political atmosphere in the city, and after the vote, no clashes were reported between the two feuding camps outside the Legco complex as previously feared.

As a result of the vote, the next chief executive can only be selected in the old way, and Hong Kong may see renewed bickering and infighting on constitutional reform in the years to come.

We appeal that, rather than stirring up more bitterness in the blame game that may follow, members of the public ask themselves who they can trust as their upright representatives in the run-up to District Council elections later this year and the Legco election next fall.

These two elections, we hope, will provide opportunities to reshuffle Hong Kong’s political sphere and allow society to start afresh.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 19.

Translation by Frank Chen 

[Chinese version中文版]

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Grim-faced Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying (center) and other top officials hold a news conference after the Legco vote on Thursday. Photo: Bloomberg

Hong Kong Economic Journal

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