Division in HK's political camps

Updated: 2013-09-04 06:44

By Zhou Bajun(HK Edition)

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The "pro-establishment" camp, also labeled as the "Love Nation, Love HK" camp, is splitting up. It is one of the significant features of recent political developments in the territory.

On Aug 25, James Tien Pei-chun, leader of the Liberal Party, openly commented in a local television program that he believed if the person with the "pan-democracy" camp was elected by universal suffrage, (he or she) would be appointed the Chief Executive by the central government and upon the person taking office of the Chief Executive, (he or she) would be given back the Mainland Travel Permit for Hong Kong and Macao Residents by the mainland authorities.

Only one day later, on Aug 26, the Convener of the Executive Council Eden Lam Woon-kwong, not only boldly asserted that the current SAR government had been in "paralysis" but also said, to a certain extent, the "Occupy Central" movement may have had educational effects.

No need to elucidate, everyone familiar with Hong Kong politics understands what Lam and Tien both said is the same as leaders of the "pan-democracy" camp. It is quite strange that Lam still holds his position in government and that the Chief Executive can tolerate him.

Since the fourth Chief Executive contest, the Liberal Party has obviously kept its political stance between the patriotic camp and the opposition. Before Tien publicly stood with the opposition on the issue of HK's constitutional development, and universal suffrage in particular, most local political commentators believed it was because the Liberal Party disliked Leung Chun-ying, who Tien and his colleagues have often criticized. But now, Tien is explicitly supporting the opinion of the opposition on universal suffrage, indicating the Liberal Party may leave the patriotic camp unless they return to their pre-2012 position.

Another phenomenon worth noting is Clifford Hart, the new US consul-general in Hong Kong, who paid his maiden visit to the New People's Party on Aug 20. The New People's Party has been known as one of the political organizations in the patriotic camp. Though since its establishment the co-founder and current chairperson Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee has stressed the party would follow the middle ground in HK politics, it has stood still on the patriotic camp on major political issues. Meanwhile, the US's representative in the territory has been continually giving full support to its local political agency without any signal that the New People's Party be included.

I won't guess why this time the new US consul-general expressed surprising closeness to Regina Ip and her party. However, I still remember who was standing up to request the territory's authorities "surrender" Edward Snowden to the US government on June 13. And Ip also has firmly proposed that the representative of the "pan-democracy" camp should be on the candidates' list competing for the Chief Executive in universal suffrage.

The opposition has been breaking up too. When the Alliance for True Democracy formed on March 21, it looked like a union of all groups under the banner of "pan-democracy". On the surface, it seemed true - all 27 Legislative Council members from 12 pan-democratic groups joined the Alliance. However, along with political struggles between the opposition and the patriotic camp ongoing, division among pan-democrats has pierced the mask of union.

Theoretically, the main division among the "pan-democracy" camp has been how to form the nomination committee for the Chief Executive candidates under universal suffrage. One wing, I call it the idealist or radical wing, has put forward a proposal that a certain percentage of all 3.2 million registered voters is qualified to nominate a Chief Executive candidate. The other wing, I call the realist wing, argued that the idealist's opinion would violate the Basic Law, which stipulates the Chief Executive candidate be nominated by the nomination committee rather than a percentage of voters.

The Civic Party, People Power and the League of Social Democrats have all gone to the radical wing. It is worth noting that the Democratic Party had advocated the so-called realist opinion. Its former and current leaders had definitely insisted on the "bottom line" that at least one person from the "pan-democracy" camp should qualify to run for the Chief Executive position in the universal suffrage. However, recently the Democratic Party has also been inclined to radicalism because its leaders don't want to lose the party's leading position in the "pan-democracy" camp.

The author is a member of the Commission on Strategic Development.

(HK Edition 09/04/2013 page9)