The Hong Kong Democrats' Stratagem

All sixty members of the Hong Kong Legislative Council have been invited to visit Guangdong province to meet with the Guangdong governor and the Communist Party secretary.  This was considered to be a breakthrough step because some of those legislators are not ordinarily permitted to enter China.  In this comment, I noted how the Legislative Council members had been polled by the Hong Kong newspapers with respect to whether they will bring up the subject of June 4 and universal suffrage for Hong Kong in 2007/2008.  These subjects are not necessarily meaningful for the level of these two provincial officials.  However, the same situation arises when Vice-Premier Zeng Qinghong, who is in charge of Hong Kong affairs at the State Council, visits Hong Kong for the grand opening of Disneyland and will meet all the members of the Legislative Council.

The following is a translation by columnist Li Yi in Apple Daily.  Please remember that this is the newspaper most identified with the pro-democracy camp in Hong Kong.

The democratic legislators have suddenly changed their minds about not bringing up the vindication of June 4 when they visit Guangdong.  They will prepare two opinion documents, one for Vice-Premier Zeng Qinghong and another for Guangdong Party Secretary Zhang Dejiang.  Both documents will mention the vindication of June 4 and universal suffrage in 2007/2008.

Over the past few days, the democrats have gone forth and back on this, and looked to be unsteady.  Democratic Party chairman Lee Wing-tat denied that the inclusion of the vindication of June 4 had anything to do with senior Democratic Party member Szeto Wah's comment that the original decision was "stupid" (戇 居).  But any clear-sighted person could see that is not only related, but it was also a misinterpretation of what Szeto Wah meant.  What Szeto Wah only meant that it was inappropriate to tell people that "they don't intend to bring up vindication of June 4."  His true intent was that "if there is a chance to bring it up, then do it by all means; but if there is no opportunity, then let it pass."  But the democrats took it to mean that it must be brought up whether the opportunity exists or not.

The goal of the democrats is to fulfill democracy in Hong Kong, and that would come through getting direct elections.  This is the principle of the democrats.  But a politician who holds on to a principle must also consider flexibility in achieving the goal.  As everybody knows by now, the realization of democracy in Hong Kong cannot not just be achieved by "calling the people to come out."  That would be what a revolutionary might do.  Three years ago, half a million people were called to go out but the central government shut down 2007/2008 direct elections with an "interpretation of the law."

To realize the goal of direct elections, the most important thing is for the democrats to get the chance to communicate with the central government.  The democrats must let the central government understand that the direct elections will not damage the final say-so of the central government and that the democrats have no intention of working on Hong Kong independence.  It cannot be denied that one reason why the central government did not allow the direct elections was due to the lack of communication between the democrats and the central government.

Once this is understood, then communication with the central government must be an important means of achieving universal suffrage.  Most citizens actually want the democrats to communicate with the mainland officials and the central government.  At the end of September, all the legislators will be visiting Guangdong.  The principal players are obviously the democrats.  All other legislators are merely backdrop because they can go to Beijing any time and they have plenty of opportunities to communicate with central government officials.  Therefore, these others will not the focus of the media.

In the past, Beijing would not let certain democrats come to mainland.  That is obviously unreasonable.  But there are plenty of unreasonable things in China, including not vindicating June 4.  With the miniscule power of the Hong Kong democrats, how can they hope to change the basic attitudes of this strong and powerful political entity?  Therefore, the democrats are not being asked to abandon the basic principle of the vindication of June 4 and they are not being asked to abandon the fight for universal suffrage.  Instead, under the political reality of "One Country, Two Systems", one must hope that the democrats will try to build up communication with the central government . If they want to communicate, then they must value the opportunity of meeting with Zeng Qinghong in Hong Kong.  They must also value the opportunity of being able to enter the Pearl River Delta.  This is the flexibility that is required to achieve the principle, and this is how a political party or person act in an open society.  If they insist on holding onto the principle and be totally inflexible by shouting slogans and waving banners on every occasion, then they are revolutionaries and not democrats.

To tell Zeng Qinghong and Zhang Dejiang about the vindication of June 4 and universal suffrage in 2007/2008 cannot help the vindication of June 4 nor bring about universal suffrage in 2007/2008.  It will also damage the opportunity to communicate with mainland officials and the central government.

(Wen Wei Po)  September 7, 2005.

The Hong Kong Research Association interviewed 959 citizens by telephone between September 2 and 5.

Do you support this inspection tour?
83%: Yes
  4%: No

Which do you think is the most important result of this inspection tour?
33%: increase trust and communication between the central government and the Hong Kong legislators
19%: improve food safety inspection between Hong Kong-Guangdong
  9%: reflect Hong Kong citizens' opinions about political reforms to the central government.

How do you think this inspection tour will for increasing trust and communication?
18%: very useful
40%: somewhat useful
32%: not very useful
  3%: not use at all

Should the democrats bring up the demand to vindicate June 4?
55%: do not support
19%: support

Do you support protests and demonstrations during the trip?
74%: do not support

Do you hope that the relationship between the democratic legislators and the central government will warm up?
78%: Yes
  8%: No

How has your impression of the central government changed after their invitation to the Hong Kong legislators?
43%: better
37%: the same
  4%: worse

How has your impression of HK SAR Chief Executive Donald Tsang changed as a result?
39%: better
43%: the same
  6%: worse