The amendment to Annex I and II of the Basic Law was passed. It was passed with long drawn debate in the chamber. The pro-establishment camp organized colorful event to support the political reform package. The administration led by the chief executive launched a campaign with 9 million dollars from the public purse. Flags, buttons, bus parade and announcement of public interest were staged. But there is little deliberation in the public arena. People were told to “act now” to support the package. But questions and queries from the public were not answered.
When would equal and universal suffrage be installed? Is there a roadmap? How do we bridge wealth disparity and resolve the conflicts in the community with the new political mechanism now pushed through by the ruling alliance?
This void is not filled by the 46 yes votes in the legislature. The administration, with the help of concession from Beijing, managed to get the majority in the legislative council, but the community was split. People’s urge to abolish the functional constituencies was not answer. A divided democratic camp further intensifies the problem. There is lot of cracks to be mended after the amended annexes are passed. It is not a happy ending as the Administration tries to depict.
The new composition of the legislative council does not change the basic power structure of the legislature. The one to one ratio between the functional constituencies and the geographical constituencies remains. The bi-cameral voting system that allows one quarter of the council to overturn the decision of the majority still exists. An addition of ten seats to the council is only a change in quantity. Fair representation in the legislative council is still far away.
We are promised again, after broken promises of full democracy to be delivered by 2007/8, then 2012, we are promised again that equal and universal suffrage will be introduced in 2020. But in between, we have to deal with increasing demand to participate in formulation of public policy, and to wrestle with the political privileged when public interest is threatened.
When reform to the political system is still lagging behind, a new civil society emerged already. In ten years time, the incumbents in the legislative council will retire from public office, or totally from the political arena. The young generation will take over. They are ready to voice their demand on governance. They have a vision for the future of Hong Kong. And they are ready to commit to make this dream of Hong Kong come true. We have a duty to safeguard rights and liberties for the civil society and protect the young ones with freedom of expression, right to assembly and free flow of information.
The young activists start participation in public affairs from daily life issues. They helped residents adversely affected by urban renewal, worked on town planning proposal with professionals. They treasure legacy of the city, in particular, life of the common folk, to understand where this city comes from. Therefore, they defend community life in the greeting card street, ring of the big ban clock, crossing the harbor by the star ferry, a free for all harbor view at the Queen’s pier. They walked on bare feet to feel the difference between the cold cement in the city centre and the warm soil in Choy Yuen village. They put culture and heritage above the maximization of profit as captured in the Central District value system.
Democracy sought by the young generation goes beyond electoral system. They do not go after votes and seats in the council. What they want is diversities in our city life. The administration has tried to push for endless competition through its policies in education, housing, development, town planning, economy and culture. The city is business driven. Life is measured by wealth created. The young ones do not want to fit in this model designed by the administration. They want to build a humane city that would allow young ones to pursue their dream.
Empowered by the information technology, the new generation advocates their message effectively with multimedia production on the internet. They successfully establish a platform to rally for support for social justice. The headache for the administration is: the young ones- they don’t belong to political party; actually, they are not groomed by any political party. What they demand for is simple and straight forward. Material interest cannot take them over.
The new political reform package passed cannot answer their demand for social justice. Whether there are sixty seats or seventy seats in the legislative council, the policy proposed by the executive branch and endorsed by the legislature will still be business driven. People come first is only a slogan chanted by politician. It is not implemented in the funding or legislating proposal. There is no easy solution to this problem even if there is equal and universal suffrage, but without a democratic electoral system, the conflict will only be heightened.
There will be stronger demand for direct democracy from the new generation. The civil society had outgrown the political parties. The activists refused to be represented by politician. But apparently, the chief executive failed to see this new trend in our political culture. He focuses on competition with politician, not knowing that a stronger political force emerged from the civil society already.
Democracy is not the best system, but it helps to resolve conflict in a peaceful fashion with deliberation. Unfortunately, we cannot implement equal and universal suffrage by 2012 and have to struggle to safeguard public interest against the political and economic privileged on all fronts. The next decade will be a journey full of turbulence with the political reform unfinished.