Hong Kong people are further apart on most issues after the democratization process stalled with the crushing defeat of the political reform proposal last year.
Mounting social grievances have already taken their toll on our society.
Alarmed by this development, a number of political heavyweights including some of the frontrunners in next year’s chief executive election such as Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam and Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying want to restart the reform process.
They say the cause of social tensions is widespread public discontent with our political system which most people think is undemocratic and unjust.
Only by reintroducing political reform and strengthening our democratic institutions can the grievances of the public be truly addressed and social harmony restored.
Although they may have a point here, the problem is, unless Beijing is willing to ditch the so-called “831 resolution” and allow us true universal suffrage and genuine election without screening, I don’t see any prospect of a concrete agreement in the days ahead.
If the more moderate and pragmatic pan-democrats rejected the “pocket-it-first” proposal last year, why would the indigenous camp, which is far more radical and anti-communist and which is now calling the shots in the pro-democracy movement, settle for anything less or similar?
Given that our society is seriously split over how our future political system should be shaped, any attempt at political reform by the present government or the next is likely to reignite conflict.
It might trigger an even bigger and more violent civil disobedience movement.
If that happened, the government might not be able to ride it out this time as it did in 2014.
Instead of relaunching political reform, which is unlikely to prosper under the current social atmosphere, the government should tackle the most urgent task before us — restoring people’s confidence in “one country, two systems”.
The biggest failure of this administration is not the loss of the battle over political reform; it is Leung Chun-ying’s inability and reluctance to defend our core values such as rule of law and civil liberties in face of pressure from Beijing.
The main reason Leung’s approval rating continues to plummet is not only that he has failed to defend our core values but also because he is seen by many as a destroyer of those values.
One example is the recent barring of pro-independence candidates from running in the Legco elections without proper explanation.
Today the biggest threat to Hong Kong is not the denial of universal suffrage by Beijing but rather the continued erosion of our core values, civil liberties and rule of law, the very cornerstone of our stability and prosperity for the past 150 years.
I hope that our next chief executive can truly address these issues and work aggressively to restore our faith in government.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Aug. 17
Translation by Alan Lee with additional reporting
[Chinese version 中文版]
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