The nomination process for the chief executive election will kick off in two weeks’ time.
Carrie Lam appears confident of obtaining more than the required 150 nominations from the pro-Beijing camp to qualify as a candidate, while other aspirants may still be struggling to gather enough support from election committee members to be able to join the race.
While Beijing loyalists appear to be backing Lam at John Tsang’s expense, the opposition members in the election committee seem divided.
That’s not what many ordinary Hong Kong people expect from the pan-democrats. They want their representatives in the electoral panel to use their 300 votes well by supporting Tsang or any of the other candidates to make the decidedly small-circle election more competitive.
They don’t want Lam to become Hong Kong’s next leader without even breaking a sweat.
However, some democrats such as legislator Eddie Chu are against nominating any of the four aspirants, preferring instead that their representatives in the election committee cast blank ballots to register their anger over an election where the true voice of the people is ignored.
But is boycotting the nomination and election process a good way to advance the cause of democracy?
On Thursday a coordinator for strategy of the more than 300 pan-democrats in the election committee said there’s a big chance the bloc will nominate former financial secretary John Tsang or retired judge Woo Kwok-hing as a candidate in next month’s chief executive election.
Civic Party lawmaker Dennis Kwok said Tsang and Woo hold views that are closer to the values and beliefs espoused by the pan-democratic camp, compared with former chief secretary Carrie Lam and New People’s Party chair Regina Ip.
Kwok said he hopes the two could join the race to make it more competitive. Pan-democratic members of the election committee have yet to meet the chief executive contenders before coming to a final decision.
He said any candidate the group nominates should either satisfy or at least not violate three principles – someone who could unite Hong Kong, protect the core values of the SAR and restart the political reform process outside of Beijing’s Aug. 31, 2014 framework.
With more than 300 votes in the committee, the pan-democrats should be able to nominate their own candidates and spur establishment candidates to focus on key issues, such as how to push forward Hong Kong democracy and how to stop the disqualification of democratically elected lawmakers.
But should the pro-Beijing camp focus their awesome nominating power of more than 600 votes on Lam, other aspirants would have less chances of making a good showing in the electoral fight.
To ensure that Lam will face a tough election, the pan-democrats have the responsibility to send either John Tsang or Woo Kwok-hing, or both, to the race.
Such a situation would prompt the candidates, including those supported by the pro-Beijing camp, to be more aware of what the Hong Kong people expect of them, and to seek their support.
In fact, several pan-democratic members of the election committee, who are pushing for genuine universal suffrage, have made it clear that they wouldn’t support an aspirant who will accept Beijing’s political reform proposal.
They insist that candidates who don’t oppose the Aug. 31, 2014 roadmap have no right to join the race.
These electors still remember their experience in the 79-day Occupy Movement of 2014, and believe that the people’s sacrifices in those protests should not just go to waste.
However, the fact remains that the candidates could not just ignore Beijing’s roadmap as the central government is ultimately ruling Hong Kong.
If the pro-democracy electors could not accept this reality, they might as well quit the committee and not participate in the election at all.
In fact, the pan-democrats have been debating whether to adopt a “lesser evil” approach and nominate a candidate whose values and beliefs are closer to theirs, or simply cast blank ballots and thus abandon their right to nominate a candidate.
Based on the chief executive hopefuls’ track records, it could be said that both Tsang and Woo are preferable to Lam and Ip.
One point worth mentioning is that Tsang’s suggestion of developing land in the New Territories both for the village houses of indigenous people and flats under the government’s home ownership scheme originated from lawmaker Edward Yiu, who is opposed to the “lesser evil” approach.
Writing in his blog, commentator Martin Oei said Tsang is the only candidate who has adopted some policy initiatives from the democratic camp as part of his campaign platform.
That being the case, shouldn’t Tsang be considered a better chief executive material than Lam and Ip?
The democrats, in fact, can listen to their supporters’ views via a “public nomination” process initiated by Benny Tai of the University of Hong Kong, which will be held from Feb. 7 to 22.
That could be the best way to engage the public in this small-circle election. And the democrats will have no choice but to abide by the results.
If most of their supporters cast blank ballots during the nomination, then they should abandon their nominating right.
But if their supporters signify their preference for a candidate or more than one candidate, then they should follow the people’s choice.
The democrats in the election committee should understand the rules of the game.
They are participating in a small-circle election not to show that they have the moral high ground but to show their strength to fight the combined forces of the Liaison Office and the Beijing loyalists.
Let’s be clear about that matter.
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