Why a third-way approach is better than confrontation

August 22, 2015 08:04
In a new book, Joseph Lau reflects on Hong Kong's social divisions, saying in order to achieve democracy, all stakeholders must be willing to compromise. Photo: HKEJ

Why do we often have to take sides?

Columnist Joseph Lau has a simple answer: Hong Kong people are split down the middle and they're having to defend whichever side they're on.

"Undoubtedly, it's important to maintain one’s integrity but there are different ways to achieve the same goal," Lau says.

"For instance, the Umbrella Movement emerged from attempts to introduce political reform, but I reckon there are many ways to handle reform.” 

Lau reflects on Hong Kong's deepening social divisions in a new book in which he argues that in order to achieve democracy, all stakeholders must be willing to compromise.

"No single group has everything," he says.

Lau offers a "third way" toward consensus to avoid the pitfalls of confrontational behavior.

It's a kind of two-way communication that is based on mutual trust.

Having a political stance is not everything but resolve is important in settling social conflict, Lau says.

Lau explains why he joined Path of Democracy, a think tank founded by former Civic Party lawmaker Ronny Tong.

“Tong’s philosophy resonates with me," Lau says, adding that the third-way approach Tong advocates will help heal social conflict in the aftermath of last year's democracy protests.

"It was getting worse when people started asking which side one was on. Yellow, Blue? Why?"

Lau became student of politics at an early age.

“Back then, we had to watch educational television programs at designated periods," he says.

"Instead of watching the program, our teacher showed us live news reports on the signing the Sino-British Joint Declaration. My teacher told us that although we were too young to understand, it was something important that we should know.”

He calls the experience a "moment of enlightenment" which he credits for his early political awakening.  

Years later, Lau has a master's degree in politics and public administration. 

He sees a bright future in young Hong Kong people whom he considers lucky for having information and knowledge at their fingertips.

But they are not worry-free.

"They often deal with issues with the same approach but I can't say if they're right or wrong," Lau says.

He is certain they're not provocative or violent as they're sometimes made out to be.

Lau's columns often speak to young people, offering them alternatives but not judging them.

But in the post-Umbrella Movement era, Lau says it's important that they remain engaged in the social debate about the future.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Aug. 19.

Translation by Darlie Yiu

[Chinese version中文版]

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Joseph Lau (left) has joined the think tank Path of Democracy founded by former Civic Party lawmaker Ronny Tong. Photo: HKEJ
Joseph Lau has myriad interests. Here, he is shown in play during his college days. Photo: HKEJ
Joseph Lau is joined by family members during his graduation in Britain. Lau poses with an elder sister (right). Photos: HKEJ
Joseph Lau is shown with his wife and children. He says young Hong Kong people are lucky for having information and knowledge at their fingertips. Photo: HKEJ
Joseph Lau has published a collection of his writings about last year's Umbrella Movement. He says no single group has everything. Photo: HKEJ

HKEJ writer