As Beijing and the SAR governments expedited the “improvement” of the Hong Kong electoral system, the pro-democracy camp is still discussing whether or not the pan-democratic camp should run in the election, my take on this question is actually rather simple. First of all, the “improved” system has been announced. Whether it is constitutional and legal, and whether it is recognized, there are objective principles served as basis for criticism. Whether individual pro-democracy organizations or person runs has no impact on this, nor is there the need to dwell on the dilemma of “participation is an endorsement of this system.” To run or not should be decided on the consideration of goals and efficacy.
The goals of the Beijing regime are very clear and reasonable according to their logic. They have full confidence that the “improved” system would allow for full control of the legislative council. If suitable pro-democracy camp members participate in the election, it would help to convince the international world that the “improved” system still allows democratic participation. As for the potential that accommodating these democrats could bring some trouble to the legislative procedures, it is definitely a price they can afford to pay.
What about the democrats? They should also first clarify the goals for running, ways to achieve the goals, the chances of success, and the price to pay – never think that there is no price to pay. Analyze carefully, when it makes sense, explain to the voters and discuss how much support there is. Although “keep fighting no matter what” is one way to do it, simply empty and wishful thinking of “speaking for the Hongkongers” is not a good reason, but rather an excuse to convince oneself.
You don’t need a reason not to run in the election, for it is personal freedom. But please don’t engage in the so-called “shadow council” game, for it is the worst of both worlds.
Bundled with the question of participation is whether or not political parties should be disbanded. For me, what exactly does whether or not the Civic Party disband has to do with anyone else? It is an internal matter for the members of the Civic Party. The questions to consider are also very simple. To sustain a party requires a lot of hard work, time, energy, and resources. If there are a great number of good reasons and enough people willing to take it on, keep it; otherwise there is really no need to keep it for the sake of keeping it. I do not agree that without a seat in the legislature equates the “death” of the party, without members to run in the election equates not having a purpose for existence, nor that a small party that has been established for ten something years must be kept alive no matter what. In my humble opinion, in fact, letting the controversy of winning seats in the legislative council get in the heads of everyone is already a sign of going astray from the core of the issue. In the absence of a democratic political system, the biggest goal of the establishment of a democratic party should be to strengthen democratic consciousness in society, to garner democratic forces, and allow like-minded people to have an inspiring place to gather and inspire each other. A seat in the council is the most direct way to demonstrate the democratic spirit and power, but if the democratic movement is forgotten in the process of winning seats, I find it to be utterly foolish.
There are a plethora of things that need to be done, can be done, and should be done! Hongkongers have just been baptized by fire, and democratic ideologies are currently being forged. As the movement suffers blows and attacks, so many people are feeling lost and need to be comforted; so many vague concepts require clarification and deliberation; so many people have been arrested and thrown behind bars and need support; the legal system is directly on the verge of the slaughter of the authoritarian regime and requires vigilance and guarding; so many citizens of all ages from every corner of society are spinning under drastic political and economic changes and need to find a way out; when government officials are busy covering their behinds, how is it that civil society cannot strive to bolster more lively self-help power? With so many new grounds to cover and develop, how is it that we have time to indulge in the minor matter of running or not in the election, and disbanding or not of a political party?
Written on May 7, 2021
(Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee is a barrister, writer and columnist in Hong Kong. She was a member of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong from 1995-1997; 1998-2012.)
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