No one who expects to win an election wants it postponed

July 27, 2020 08:02
Photo: HK government

It is becoming increasingly clear that preparations are underway to stall this September’s Legco elections. There can be no question why this is so, it is because the pro-China camp are afraid of losing.

They talk big about how a so called ‘silent majority’ is supporting them but they dare not put this claim to the test. It is no coincidence that Junius Ho, who was shunned by voters in last year’s District Council election, is leading the charge for postponing the election. He is well aware that if the poll goes ahead the electorate is highly likely to reject him again.

Meanwhile Rita Fan, the almost forgotten Madame Mao or Jiang Ching of Hong Kong politics has been careless enough to reveal an even deeper motive for postponement. She favours the creation of a provisional legislature, just like the one she chaired in 1997 which was entirely devoid of opposition members and simply rubber stamped whatever came before it.

Naturally the political motives for postponement are being avidly denied and dressed up as arising over concern for polling at a time of the coronavirus.
However, as elections in a great many other jurisdictions are around the world have shown, it is entirely possible to conduct the poll in a safe manner.

Last year, ahead of the District Council election, the pro-China camp also contemplated trying to defer the poll on health grounds. In the end they convinced themselves that they could win and that it would not be necessary to delay. Now, despite brandishing a highly dubious petition containing an alleged 3 million signatures in support of the National Security Law, they are even more nervous about facing the electorate.

The only way that the enemies of democracy will contemplate an election is one in which a substantial number of their opponents are disqualified before the polls begin. Ideally they would like to extend this purge to find a way of charging democrats with offenses under the National Security Law that can be evoked because the law is so wide ranging and non-specific.
It would help, in these circumstances, if the democrats were a bit smarter in dealing with this problem. Effectively volunteering for disqualification by refusing to sign a pledge to support the Basic Law provides the pro-China camp with a priceless gift.

Of course this pledge was designed with political motives and was introduced with the aim of establishing a trap for the democrats. Why anyone should volunteer to fall into this trap is a mystery.

However refusing to sign has become a matter of high principle. Yet what principle is actually being served here? A declaration of supporting the law does not preclude the prospect of changing the law as it has indeed been changed by rulings from the National People’s Congress Standing Committee. Like all constitutions the Basic Law is amenable to change, it would however be better achieved under a democratic process.

Then there is the matter of escalating arrests of demonstrators on the smallest of pretexts, targeting likely candidates for the elections. Anyone who is not blind can see what is going on here. The order has gone out to achieve disqualification on grounds of a criminal record. Why those wishing to take part in the election should be so obliging as to provide these grounds is another mystery.

Politics should be about principle but it should also be about tactics. Literally millions of people are yearning for an opportunity to peacefully cast their votes for democratic candidates. For once the democrats have had the good sense to organise primaries to eliminate defeat by virtue of unwarranted competition among themselves.

It is therefore highly irresponsible to deny those wanting to support the democracy camp the opportunity to do so.

Meanwhile the anti-democrats have to think very carefully what signal will be sent by postponing the elections. It will confirm that they are afraid of the people’s verdict and do not even support the most peaceful means of self-expression for Hongkongers which entails allowing them to vote.
How long do they think it will be possible to postpone and do they really think that when postponement is no longer feasible, people will suddenly have warmed to the idea of voting for the very people who tried to stop them voting in the first place?

On both sides of the political divide some very careful thought is required, whether it will happen is entirely another matter.

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Hong Kong-based journalist, broadcaster and book author