8th February, 2014
Occupy Central for True Universal Suffrage, What Causes the Split Amongst Pan-Democrats?
20 pan-democrats issued a joint statement on 7th February denouncing “Supporters of Occupy Central” for obstructing the Democratic Party’s “peaceful Occupy Central” pledging ceremony. At the ceremony, the Supporters of Occupy Central (SOC) members publicly criticised the Democratic Party and threw a towel at the party’s members. The pan-democrats who signed the joint statement think that what the SOC members did was an intentional attempt to disrupt the peaceful Occupy Central movement, and will mislead the public to think that the pan-democrats are divided. However, seven pan-democratic lawmakers did not sign the statement, which shows that fragmentation of the pan-democratic camp is already in place.
Occupy Central movement once united the 27 pan-democratic lawmakers, but what divide them at the end? We cannot simply be blamed on the “anti Occupy Central” camp or accuse those who criticise Democratic Party as the paid pro-China protestors. On the day of the pledging ceremony, according to Albert Ho Chun-yan, Martin Lee Chu-ming, founder of Democratic Party, was supposed to be at the ceremony but did not show up, Ho explained that Lee was too busy and could not make it to the ceremony. Although Lee agree with the pledge in principal, he does not agree with the stance Democratic Party has on civic nomination. Lee thinks that civic nomination is the nomination method that can best realise what is stated in the Basic Law, that is “broadly representative nominating committee”. Lee said that “what Democratic Party said means that they think that civic nomination is no necessary”. Lee also pointed out that if nomination of the Chief Executive candidates are confirmed after being nominated via civic nomination, political party nomination or the nomination committee nomination, the problem of “bypassing nomination committee” does not stand. Will this three-pronged nomination weakens the power of the nomination committee? Lee emphasised that if there are only two to three China-approved candidates left in the find round, “is it better to have the nomination committee or the people of Hong Kong to be a rubber stamp?”
The cause of the split between 27 pan-democratic lawmakers is their stance of civic nomination. Civic nomination was first proposed by Scholarism, which quickly gained support from 66% of the people. On 8th December 2013, Democratic Party’s meeting agreed to supporting the “three-pronged nomination proposal”, and recommended the proposal to Alliance for True Democracy (ATD). When ATD announced the pro-pronged proposal in January 2014 together with all the lawmakers in the Alliance, Joseph Yu-shek Cheng, convener of ATD, said that it is a complete proposal, “missing any element of this, it will no longer be ATD’s proposal”. Almost all of the media, including Apple Daily, described the proposal as a three-pronged proposal that all three nomination methods are indispensable. At the time, the public thinks that the pan-democrats have finally united. However, the Democratic Party said the next day that the “three-pronged” proposal does not mean that all three nomination methods are indispensable. Those who support Democratic Party and the public naturally had to question the Party’s stance: if there is no civic nomination in the political reform will the Democratic Party stand by the other pan-democrats and object the reform proposal? During a radio interview at D100’s Teacup in a Storm, when asked if the Democratic Party would support a reform proposal without civic nomination, Democratic Party’s Sin Chung Kai said “yes”! This is the source of how the unity of the pan-democratic camp was broken.
Pan-democratic supporters strive to secure civic nomination in the political reform, but Democratic Party, which supposed to be a key member of the camp, publicly said that they would support a reform that does not include civic nomination! Democratic Party refused to explain the reasons for their stance, but stressed that the “all three nomination methods are indispensable” was not stated in ATD’s meeting minutes. In another words, all media in Hong Kong have somehow misinterpreted or misunderstood the announcement ATD gave.
Albert Ho Chun-yan said that China government has completely shut all the doors that may allow civic nomination to be included in the reform, but has not finalised the constitution of the nomination committee. Ho emphasised that Democratic Party supports a real universal suffrage without any screening, and the bottom line is for people who are not liked by the China government to have a chance to run for election.
The reality is that Communist China has already had plan for the formulation of the nomination committee: Standing Committee of NPC said that the formulation method of the nomination committee “can reference” to that of the existing nomination committee, Elsie Leung Oi-sie however explained that “can reference” does not mean that “may or may not reference” to the existing method, instead it “should reference” to the existing method. The existing committee is the screening mechanism set up by the CCP and formulated base on the Standing Committee of NPC’s decisions. Civic nomination is the only nomination method that fulfills the Basic Law’s requirement (in accordance with democratic procedures) yet make the nomination committee as a procedural organisation instead of an organisation with absolute power. Only by including civic nomination in the nomination procedure, the people of Hong Kong will not be forced to become a rubber stamp that have to vote for the sake of voting for “the lesser of the two evil”.
A true universal suffrage means to establish a mechanism that the citizens have the right to elect and to be elected, but not demanding the CCP to “allow a couple of individuals with different political views to run in the election”.
Out of all the pan-democrats, why only Democratic Party had to pledge? Perhaps they have realised that they have lost the people’s trust because of their “not all three nomination methods are indispensable” stance.
In the Apple Daily news article printed on 17th March 2013, the public worries that the Occupy Central Movement would be hijacked by political parties. The article quoted Audrey Eu Yuet-mee from Civic Party that she believes that as long as members of different political parties participate in the movement as an individual, the movement would not be hijacked. Given Democratic Party pledged as a political party making it impossible for the members of the party to participate as individuals, the movement be hijacked by political parties for political interests?
What is an election without screening? What is a true universal suffrage? What we need are not empty discussions and definitely not accusing the others who question one’s own opinions for “having taken the CCP’s money”. This is a hooligan like Communist Party tactic – Martin Lee and Jimmy Lai Chee-Ying have been repeatedly been accused of being backed by “foreign power”. If the opposition power is practicing such tactic (groundless accusation) to blacken those who question them, it indeed symoblises the downfall of the pan-democrats.
Some lawmakers who signed the statement said that Peking stands firm about the screening candidates to run for Chief Executive and a united pan-democrats is the only way to fight for a true universal suffrage: the pan-democrats “are necessary to be united and stand no chance for being divided”. This is true as 27 pan-democrats can only marginally vote down a reform proposal that does not include all three nomination methods, as some said “calling it off if a truly democratic election cannot be secured”. If a few of these pan-democrats change their stance (i.e. not supporting the ATD “three-pronged proposal”), a true democratic election can never be achieved. If the pan-democrats cooperate reluctantly for the sake of “unity” but give up the persistence for protecting the political rights of the Hong Kong citizens, it is essentially surrendering to a totalitarian dictatorship for the entire population of Hong Kong.
By Lee Yee