Mob politics has no place in society

Updated: 2013-03-12 05:33

By Hoi Tai (HK Edition)

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An unusual phenomenon has emerged lately with some scholars coming out of the ivory tower and publicly urging people to engage in radical politics. Chung Ting-yiu, head of the University of Hong Kong's Public Opinion Program, has joined forces with Chung Chin-wah of Polytechnic University to create a "civil referendum" platform, while Chan Kin-man, a political commentator from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, has also suddenly veered into the radical lane. These developments appear unrelated on the surface but, in fact, are all part of an offensive against the next stage of the government's constitutional reform plan, which includes new ways of choosing the Chief Executive in 2017 and Legislative Council (LegCo) members in 2020. One can already see smoke rising even before the government begins public consultation on the new political reform plan.

There are signs that the opposition camp has adopted a three-pronged offensive to destroy the new constitutional reform plan - the main battlefield will be public domain instead of the LegCo auditorium; opposition parties will be replaced by scholars with the same political belief as the leading gunners; and the objective will be to hijack rather than derail constitutional reform. Their ultimate goal is to seize power through the Chief Executive election in 2017.

By waging its offensive in public, the opposition camp no doubt intends to take Hong Kong residents hostage. In a newspaper commentary published on Jan 16, University of Hong Kong Law Professor Tai Yiu-ting called for mob politics and a mass protest rally by at least 10,000 people to paralyze Central for as long as necessary after the constitutional reform plan is published. The likely damage would be unimaginable if Central - the seat of the HKSAR government and major financial institutions - comes under siege. That is why Tai's rhetoric presents a direct challenge to the rule of law and is a bomb aimed at destroying Hong Kong's prosperity and stability. Eight days later, the opposition pulled off another trick featuring public opinion "guru" Chung Ting-yiu, who said he had joined hands with Chung Chin-wah to establish a "civil referendum" platform on such issues as the legislation of Article 23 of the Basic Law (regarding national security), constitutional reform and impeachment of principal officials. "Civil referendum" is unconstitutional in Hong Kong by virtue of its political status. If the "Occupy Central" movement advocated by Tai constitutes a challenge to the rule of law, "civil referendum" is a provocation of the "One Country, Two Systems" principle. Such political grenades are aimed at thwarting the constitutional reform plan the government is working on.

The "Occupy Central" and "civil referendum" plans are actually two sides of a coin, or two components of a sinister weapon for that matter. On what is Tai's call to paralyze Central based? What is his excuse for advocating disorderly conduct on a massive scale? Look no further than Chung's "civil referendum" move. It's common knowledge that public opinion polls and referendums can be used to mislead the public and incite civil unrest. The opposition camp only needs to create a "referendum" result showing more than half of the "voters" are against the government's constitutional reform plan to justify the "Occupy Central" movement. In other words, a "civil referendum" will serve as the fuse to set off destructive campaigns such as "Occupy Central", or "weapons of mass disruption" to force Beijing and the HKSAR government to give in to their version of constitutional reform. The opposition had tried this in 2010 after the HKSAR government put forward its plan for selecting the city's Chief Executive in 2012. Ultimately, five opposition lawmakers resigned to force a by-election which they called a "referendum" but to no avail. Now, they are taking the battle from LegCo to the streets so as to use social stability as a bargaining chip. This means they no longer intend to negotiate with the government. They are not seeking democracy but destroying it.

It's surprising that some of those who openly advocate mob politics are scholars teaching at universities. This is most likely part of the opposition's new strategy to let innocent-looking intellectuals act as an "expendable front" and the parties operate behind the scenes. The rationale behind this maneuver is quite simple - their academic titles should make it easier for them to win popular support. "Occupy Central" is aimed at paralyzing Hong Kong's administrative and financial nerve center and throwing the city into chaos. It's not only unethical but also against the law, which is why the opposition is hoping these scholars would make the campaign look more tolerable than if fronted by political parties, which suffered a popularity slump lately.

After several failed attempts to block the government's constitutional reform plan in recent years, the opposition camp has now opted for a different game. They will try to force the government to meet their demands by hijacking the constitutional reform train instead of derailing it, using public interest as a bargaining chip to wrest power from the government. For Hong Kong residents, who do not want to see the opposition succeed at their expense, the best way to defeat this despicable bunch is to reject mob politics, including "civil referendum" and "Occupy Central".

The author is a current affairs commentator. This is translated from an article published in the latest edition of Bauhinia Magazine.

(HK Edition 03/12/2013 page1)