22 February 2019
If the pro-democracy camp wants to root for John Tsang, they may have to give up their stance against “831 Resolution”.  Photo: Xinhua
If the pro-democracy camp wants to root for John Tsang, they may have to give up their stance against “831 Resolution”. Photo: Xinhua

Democracy is an end in itself

The race for city’s top job is about to hit the home stretch with former chief secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and ex-financial secretary John Tsang Chun-wah as the front-runners.

While morale remains high in both camps, the pan-democrats seem to be at a loss, wavering between sticking to their pledge that they would only support candidates who agree to overrule the so-called 831 Resolution and throwing their weight behind Tsang.

In fact, members of the pro-democracy camp are split over whether to compromise on their opposition to the “831 Resolution”, which refers to the Aug. 31, 2014 decision of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee on political reform in Hong Kong, and endorse Tsang in order to prevent Carrie Lam, whom they believe is Beijing’s choice for the next chief executive, from winning.

It is because endorsing Tsang and sticking to their stance against the “831 Resolution” are mutually exclusive, as the former financial chief is unlikely to challenge Beijing’s decision if elected.

To a certain extent, the present predicament of the pan-democrats highlights a conflict between two political concepts: “democracy” and “good governance”.

Although democracy is now a universal value embraced by the entire world, the way people understand or interpret the idea varies a lot among different societies.

For some people, particularly those in the East, democracy is merely a means to an end, which is, social harmony and good governance.

And since from their point of view democracy is just a tool to achieve good governance, as long as their government is able to deliver prosperity and take good care of them, it often doesn’t bother them if prosperity and a decent life are achieved in the absence of democracy.

One striking example is Singapore, where meritocracy reigns supreme and the state is taking care of its people from cradle to grave, while democracy is simply a formality because the entire election system in the country is tilted overwhelmingly in favor of the ruling People’s Action Party.

In Hong Kong, many people, including many in the pro-democracy camp, share the same view.

For years, members of the pro-democracy camp have been stressing the causal relationship between democracy and good governance.

For example, they say the credibility and popularity of the SAR government have continued to deteriorate since the handover because our entire political system is undemocratic.

In order to put things right, they say, we must introduce universal suffrage because democracy is the only proven way to achieve good governance.

As such, for many pan-democrats, democracy remains just a tool through which we can achieve the ultimate goal of good governance.

The pan-democrats’ notion of democracy can explain why they remain undecided over whether to stick to their stance against the “831 Resolution” or to endorse Tsang.

It is because if Tsang can deliver good governance, as they believe, then why still insist on overruling “831 Resolution”?

However, in my opinion, democracy is not just a means. Rather, it is an end in itself, and therefore must be upheld and defended at all costs.

The reason why we have to fight for genuine democracy is not because it can bring about good governance, but because democracy itself is the cornerstone of any free and civilized society.

That said, I strongly urge the 325 pro-democracy members in the Election Committee not to compromise on their democratic principles.

It is almost certain that Tsang will gain the endorsement of at least 150 Election Committee members and become an official candidate, with or without the support of the pan-democrats.

Given that, what’s the point of giving up your own beliefs and principles to root for someone who doesn’t even need your support in order to join the race?

Besides, how could the pan-democrats justify betraying their own ideals when hundreds of thousands of pro-democracy citizens are looking to them to at least enforce a measure of democracy in this small-circle election?

If the pan-democrats could give up their democratic principles so easily out of political expediency, then it would be a case of the pot calling the kettle black whenever they criticize the pro-Beijing camp for betraying the people of Hong Kong in the days ahead because they themselves have done exactly the same thing!

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan. 26

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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