22 February 2019
Carrie Lam (left) wants to resume the political reform process but Emily Lau (right) says it will be doomed to failure if Beijing insists on the “831 resolution”. Photo: HKEJ
Carrie Lam (left) wants to resume the political reform process but Emily Lau (right) says it will be doomed to failure if Beijing insists on the “831 resolution”. Photo: HKEJ

Political reforms are not a zero-sum game

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said in a public forum recently that she sincerely hopes the next government, which will be sworn in a year from now, will relaunch political reform and put it at the top of its agenda.

She stressed that only when the chief executive is elected by citizens through “one person, one vote” can the city’s top leader truly win the hearts and minds of the people of Hong Kong and rule with a clear mandate.

Her remarks have once again sparked speculation that she is eyeing the top job and is seeking a mandate to run.

Whether or not Lam is setting her sights on the office of chief executive next year, what she said did hit the nail on the head: resuming the political reform process is probably the only thing the people of Hong Kong can agree on unanimously.

It is also the only way to break the political deadlock in this city and to address the grievances of the people, because our fellow citizens are so deeply frustrated by the fact that the political reform process has ground to an indefinite halt since the defeat of the government’s proposal last year, and they are desperate to see real breakthroughs.

It would definitely be more difficult for the next government to rule if it failed to tackle this fundamental issue head on.

If Lam is really running for chief executive next year, we will be really glad to see her include the resumption of political reform in her election platform and show us a tangible roadmap to universal suffrage, under which our chief executive will be elected through “one person, one vote”.

However, the question is, how can we avoid another failure if the next government does reopen the subject of political reform?

Emily Lau Wai-hing, chairwoman of the Democratic Party, said that unless the new reform proposal put forward by the next administration can truly break free of the framework laid down by Beijing’s “831 resolution”, she doesn’t see any prospect of it getting approved by the people of Hong Kong.

In other words, if Beijing refuses to make any concessions, any initiative to reopen our political reform process will be doomed to failure.

Lau might have a point here.

However, if we look at it from another angle, would it also facilitate progress in political reform if the pan-democrats could learn how to compromise and be more flexible when it comes to cutting a deal with Beijing?

After all, the key to success is to convince Beijing that political reform in our city is not a zero-sum game, nor is it a confrontation between two archenemies: it can be a win-win situation for both Beijing and Hong Kong.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 5.

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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