24 March 2019
Lawmaker Leung Ka-lau (right) joins the July 1 demonstration to voice out the medical sector’s concerns over the Medical Registration (Amendment) Bill. Photo: HKEJ
Lawmaker Leung Ka-lau (right) joins the July 1 demonstration to voice out the medical sector’s concerns over the Medical Registration (Amendment) Bill. Photo: HKEJ

As disunity besets democrats, pro-establishment camp regroups

The main theme of this year’s July 1 demonstration was “squaring off against 689” (a disdainful moniker given to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying), with the aim of preventing him from seeking re-election.

Although the Civil Human Rights Front, the event’s organizer, said 110,000 people had taken part in the demonstration, figures provided by the police and several independent academics suggested that the turnout was far lower than that.

In fact, I am not surprised by the continued decline in the number of people participating in the July 1 march. 

In the wake of the Occupy Movement, the appeal of the old-school pan-democrats to the public, particularly among young people, has been quickly eroded.

Their power to mobilize the public just keeps deteriorating, hence the continued decline in the number of people joining the June 4 candlelit vigil and the July 1 demonstration.

However, even though the turnout for the July 1 event was below satisfactory, many fledgling political organizations spearheaded by the so-called “paratroopers”, or young social activists arising from the Occupy Movement, did make their debut and raise funds during the event.

Among them were Demosistō, formerly known as Scholarism, Hong Kong National Party, Hong Kong Indigenous and Youngspiration.

As I have mentioned previously, the entire pro-democracy camp has undergone fragmentation from within after the Occupy Movement, and the differences between the traditional pan-democrats and newly arising young activists over ideologies and “approaches to revolution” have continued to deepen over the past two years, resulting in a period of chaos, disunity and lack of leadership among them.

The futile attempt by People Power, the Social Democrats and Demosistō to storm the Government House after the demonstration last Friday night in the face of police reinforcement and heated arguments in front of media between the Social Democrats and members of the student union of the Chinese University over what to do next spoke volumes about how disunited and disoriented the pro-democracy camp has become.

On the other hand, the pro-establishment camp seems to be much more organized and united compared with their pan-democratic opponents who are split seriously over basically everything.

After having suffered from a series of scandals, members of the pro-establishment camp have been keeping a relatively low profile recently.

It appears to me that they might be regrouping and recharging their batteries in preparation for the upcoming election campaign for the Legislative Council, where the real battle begins.

In the meantime, another battle is in full swing at Legco. On Wednesday last week, a Legco meeting was adjourned for lack of quorum, and as a result, the resumption of the debate on the controversial Medical Registration (Amendment) Bill 2016 had to be postponed until this Wednesday.

The administration was caught completely off guard by the dogged perseverance of lawmaker Leung Ka-lau, who represents the medical sector, in trying to stall this bill, which he did brilliantly entirely on his own.

The bill is generating such a controversy because the government, through this proposed amendment, is seeking to appoint more lay members to the Medical Council.

It has argued that the involvement of more lay people is essential to the integrity of any process of ethical review in medicine, and can enhance the representativeness of the Medical Council.

However, many doctors and members of the public suspect that it could just be another attempt by CY Leung to extend his political influence into another professional body, just like what he did to the Hong Kong University Council.

Besides, there is growing concern among the public that the bill could be part of the chief executive’s plot to allow unqualified mainland doctors to practice in Hong Kong.

Many believe that once the bill is passed, it is almost a foregone conclusion that Leung will appoint his proxies to the Medical Council, thereby giving him enough influence to lower the threshold for allowing overseas-trained doctors to practice in our city, including those trained in the mainland, eventually taking its toll on the quality of our public health service.

Given that Leung has been so eagerly giving priority to “One Country” over “Two Systems” to please Beijing, such fear is not totally unfounded.

Unless the government can convince the public that there is no secret agenda behind this bill, chances are this bill might not be able to pass Legco before the current term of our legislature ends on July 15.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jul 4

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Columnist of Hong Kong Economic Journal

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