The decision of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress earlier this month regarding the eligibility of lawmakers of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region opened a door for Hong Kong to enter a new phase in political consolidation.
In response to the decision, the SAR government unseated four opposition lawmakers who had been previously disqualified by the returning officers from running in the next Legislative Council election because they had failed to uphold the Basic Law of the HKSAR and prove their allegiance to the HKSAR of the People’s Republic of China. Soon after their unseating, 15 of their fellow opposition politicians resigned en masse to show “solidarity” with them and, in doing so, demonstrated their lack of loyalty and accountability to Hong Kong society. With their departure, the pro-establishment lawmakers are now in control of LegCo and must live up to public expectations for better performance. In order not to let people down, the establishmentarians must accomplish three very important tasks.
First, the pro-establishment parties and groups ought to work as one in helping the SAR government stop the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hong Kong’s economy was hurt severely by the illegal political campaign known as the “black revolution” last year and had no time to recover before the global pandemic forced it into months of lockdown this year. Figures released by the Census and Statistics Department of the SAR government show Hong Kong’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in July through September rose to 6.4 percent from 2.9 percent before the “black revolution” started in June last year. In addition to higher unemployment, underemployment soared to 3.8 percent in the same period, compared with 1 percent in the first half of last year. The high underemployment rate probably resulted from large numbers of small businesses barely afloat with financial assistance from the government amid the social unrest last year and the lockdown so far this year. Those underemployed will be the first to become unemployed if their employers buckle under prolonged quarantine. When small and medium-size enterprises, which account for over 90 percent of the total in Hong Kong, fail in large numbers, they will drag the overall economy down and cause more problems. That is why rescuing jobs by rejuvenating the economy is the top priority and the pro-establishment camp must do its best to help regardless of which party they are in. With the opposition camp now unable to obstruct LegCo business as effectively as they used to, the pro-establishment legislators can and should prove their worth to the voting public more than ever.
Some people don’t expect the pro-establishment parties to succeed in the future because these naysayers have been brainwashed with the myth of Western democracy and blindly believe no one can govern Hong Kong well without Western-style democracy. The fact is, Western democracy has failed to produce good governance numerous times in modern history and left many people disillusioned
Second, pro-establishment parties are obligated to serve the overall interest of Hong Kong residents from all walks of life by spearheading joint efforts in addressing the deep-seated problems of Hong Kong society. There is no question the political upheavals Hong Kong society experienced were caused by social as well as political factors. Now that a major political obstacle has been removed with the disqualification of four opposition lawmakers and the resignation of 15 others, it is up to Hong Kong society to fix its deep-seated problems. To be more specific, the most obvious problems are found in the much-loathed shortages of land supply and affordable housing. It is no secret that a number of stakeholders have been involved in the land supply and housing development game for generations, and some if not all political parties today are representatives of those stakeholders. Even so, there is still room for various parties to work toward a solution for the common good of all walks of life. Cliched as it may sound, all parties concerned must choose between the best interest of their own party as well as the stakeholders and that of Hong Kong society as a whole. One will exacerbate conflicts between the rich and the poor while the other should help build social harmony. In the new, improved political environment, pro-establishment parties have no excuse not to step up and prove their worth to the public by breaking the age-old bottleneck somehow. Otherwise, they will lose people’s trust eventually.
Third, the pro-establishment camp needs to up its game, so to speak, in political decision-making and grasping popular wishes. It cannot play a significant role in Hong Kong’s politico-economic development without matching capability and commitment. Hong Kong society was widely seen as politically immature in the past mainly because most political parties lacked the necessary skills and finesse to rise above confrontational politics, leaving them unable to win as much popular support as they wished to have. Today, the political environment is improving and the pro-establishment side must seize this opportunity to attract and train more political talents as well as hone their political skills and awareness of popular wishes. It’s the only way to prove their worth as people’s representatives.
Some people don’t expect the pro-establishment parties to succeed in the future because these naysayers have been brainwashed with the myth of Western democracy and blindly believe no one can govern Hong Kong well without Western-style democracy. The fact is, Western democracy has failed to produce good governance numerous times in modern history and left many people disillusioned. In sharp contrast, the Chinese mainland exercises socialism with Chinese characteristics without copying the Western-style democratic system and has pulled off many miracles in the past four decades or so. With unreserved support from the central government, Hong Kong has every reason to have confidence in its system and continue to prosper; and the pro-establishment parties are expected by the public to play a critical role in such efforts. So don’t let people down!
The author is senior research officer of the One Country Two Systems Research Institute.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.
HONG KONG NEWS