HKFP Voices Politics & Protest

New lawmakers won’t paper over the cracks in our dysfunctional legislature

Politics always has the power to make the blood race. Our blood boils when hardworking, intellectual and rational candidates we voted for lost. Hysteria has convulsed the virtual reality of social media. Partisan hostility and frustrations are sublimated into all kinds of insulting trolling on Facebook.

legislative council

File photo: HKFP.

Some ‘yellow ribbon’ supporters are thrilled with the triumph of new young faces (the so-called “paratroopers.”) There are netizens resorting to gratuitous abuse and gloating over the defeat of some much-hated candidates. But will the new legislature bring real change?

Please wake up. There is no reason for us to hold an optimistic view here. Instead, we are now lurching further and further into crisis, probably even more dreadful than before.

What sort of reality will we see in the new legislature? Well, while democracy represents the “tyranny of the majority” in the eyes of Alexis de Tocqueville and John Stuart Mill, the upcoming legislature in Hong Kong isn’t too far from being the “tyranny of no majority” or “tyranny of the minority,” with uncontested seats in functional constituencies on the one hand and radical fringe parties stirring the pot on the other.

The rules of the game are still the same: Government bills are given priority for inclusion in LegCo’s agenda. Their passage requires a simple majority vote of the entire council while individual legislators’ bills and motions need a simple majority vote in functional and geographical constituencies respectively. In the upcoming legislature, pro-establishment loyalists won 40 seats, pan-democrats 23, and localists only a piffling 6. The tectonic plates of the legislature haven’t shifted. Thanks to the proportional representation system, no political parties are able to dominate the chamber nor form a cabinet to lead the administration or a shadow cabinet to lead the opposition.

Nathan Law

Nathan Law. Photo: InMedia.

What will happen to LegCo, with new, truculent members sitting within the old structure? Let’s do some thought experiments here. It is not difficult to take a leap of imagination to predict how things may go in the new LegCo.

We will no longer hear from the waspish tongue of Raymond Wong Yuk-man, but his disciple Cheng Chung-tai from Civic Passion and the belligerent paratroopers Yau Wai-ching, Nathan Law Kwun-chung and Baggio Leung may start to rattle us. We have no idea what forms the bottom line for these guys in their tactics in conducting political struggle in the legislature. It is de rigueur for Leung Kwok-hung ‘Long Hair’ to filibuster, and the odds are that the new members will do more than that.

Eddie Chu

Eddie Chu. Photo: Cloud.

What about the newly elected moderate activists? Environmentalist Eddie Chu Hoi-dick is well-known for his activism in cultural conservation, land reform issues and his protest against the construction of the express rail link project and demolition of Tsoi Yuen Tsuen in 2010. He will surely steel himself to grill Junius Ho Kwan-yiu, a newly elected pro-establishment member who is backed by the wealthy indigenous leaders in the New Territories and has allegedly risen to power on the coat-tails of the Liaison Office. You won’t miss the vitriolic remarks by Ho the pugilist but the street-level antagonisms over land rights will continue to fester in the Council, and Chu won’t duck the fight.

You may consider Lau Siu-lai, another newly elected member for Kowloon East, to be a more moderate, decent politician. Deep inside my heart, I just couldn’t stomach her naïve, welfarist policy platform, but in Hong Kong, appeals to emotion work best to cheat the political ignoramus. As it transpires, 38,183 voters cast their ballots for her, giving credibility to her advocacy. Her proposal for retirement protection, which is non-means-tested and universal, does pander to a lot of people. In the coming four years, she may introduce a motion on this policy. Hamstrung by the existing voting procedures, it is very unlikely it will pass. In the end, all she can do is to tell her supporters and take credit for raising her voice on behalf of the poor, ordinary folks in council meetings.

Lau Siu-lai

Lau Siu-lai. Photo: Facebook

Why is there no universal healthcare protection? Blame the government for a badly written proposal. Blame the functional constituencies and the pro-establishment loyalists for voting down welfarism. Does this pattern of ‘all talk no action’ sound familiar? Lau’s existence just gives the bygone Cyd Ho Sau-lan a new lease of life. Her sentimental foolishness is reincarnated, and will live on.

The existing system allows advocacy politics to thrive in the legislature, but there is no incentive for these existing parties to develop the will to govern and form a ruling party that leads the civil service. If I don’t have to share any political responsibility for the policies introduced by the government, almost anything that pleases the electorate and gains wide currency in media discourse – be it Hong Kong independence or universal retirement protection – is allowed.

Sadly, it is not the will to govern but the power to veto that matters. Political rhetoric alone dominates policy deliberation.

Cheng Chung-tai

Cheng Chung-tai. Photo: Facebook.

As the British philosopher Bertrand Russell said, “men lived with one kind of illusion, and when they lost it they fell into another. But it is not by old error that new error can be combated.” New faces have come. The media is now freighted with new catchwords such as “self-determination,” “independence,” “localism” and so forth. The political structure and sentiments will remain more or less the same.

You’re Regina Ip’s fans and therefore I won’t talk to you. As you’re a follower of Cheng Chung-tai, I’d better stay away because you’re really dangerous. The Liberal Party is a group of bloodsuckers for their pro-business background and therefore anything they said will entrench the interests of the ruling class. I’m sure you’re quite familiar with this sort of ‘teeth-gritting harmony’ in Hong Kong, and we’d better accept the reality. Live and let live.

Hong Kong people are not suffering from neo-colonialism by the Chinese Mainland alone or the mantra of political radicalism bewitching the younger generation. We, in fact, founder on systemic constraints, as this possible scenario has told us. Our lack of civic knowledge impoverishes us, and it’s time for the education system to do something about it.

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New lawmakers won’t paper over the cracks in our dysfunctional legislature