One Man, One Vote

It is hard to help the pan democrats get out of the hole they are in when they keep digging to make it deeper.

By clinging for so long to the lost cause of civic/party nomination and dropping all moderate options from their referendum, they reduced its moral weight and became inextricably linked to the farce of Occupy Central. If there is one thing we know about dealing with the Central Government by now it is, as Rita Fan so perceptively said in her recent Letter to Hong Kong, "megaphone diplomacy does not work".

Now the pan dems are pledging not to take part in the next phase of public consultation about political reform on the grounds that in their view it won’t be genuine and there is nothing to be gained by it.

Au contraire, my friends, as Del from Only Fools and Horses might say, there is much potential for reform in areas which are entirely within Hong Kong’s purview and therefore should not be precluded by the NPC Standing Committee’s recent ruling.

Take for example the basic promise of One Man, One Vote. We have been assured by no less a person than Basic Law Committee chairman Li Fei that this is the major gift Beijing is granting to Hong Kong people and we should be satisfied with it as much more than the British gave us in 150 years. Current Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying and a previous holder of the post Tung Chee Hwa have said pretty much the same. Just in case there was any lingering doubt on the matter, no less an authority than Asia’s richest man, Li Ka Shing, has come out swinging in support.

But wait a minute, would that be the same mister Li who in fact has many dozens of votes because Hong Kong still – incredibly – allows corporate voting? It surely would. In fact he and a handful of other tycoons control literally hundreds of votes through their ownership of corporations and therefore exercise a large measure of control over the Election (soon to be Nominating) Committee for Chief Executive and many of the Functional Constituency seats in the Legislative Council.

So when the next phase of consultation starts, the pan democrats should hold the local administration to Li Fei’s promise. It must be on the basis that "One man, one vote" means each person has one vote, not that most people get one vote but billionaires get hundreds. The case for scrapping corporate voting is overwhelming and the democrats should be forcefully making that case as a condition for letting the reform package go through.

The same principle – moving towards equality of voting rights – should be applied to the size of electoral base in the Functional Constituencies. After all there would be no point in replacing 150 banks as institutions with the same number of individual bankers. There are tens of thousands of people who work in banks, why not give them all a vote?

There are other useful reforms that could be proposed. Removing the ban on Chief Executive candidates being members of political parties is one example. Introducing legislation to provide for the establishment of political parties is another.

This would be a good opportunity to review the size of our geographical constituencies. By having only five of them, each returning between five and nine members, we have in fact created a structure which is almost guaranteed to return some screwballs because they can capture a seat with only a small percentage of the vote. How about having 10 medium size constituencies each returning three or four members?

All these proposals, and no doubt many others, are worth pursuing and should be pursued in the next phase.

The democrats are quite entitled to feel cheated by the original biased consultation document, the misleading summary presented by the SAR government to the central authorities, and the ultra conservative NPC ruling. But it is no good sulking in the corner like a teenager denied the latest iPhone.

If they present moderate, balanced reform proposals in the next stage of consultation then the pan democrats have a fair chance of getting some important improvements. They can still recapture the moral high ground. If the administration blocks all reasonable proposed changes, then and only then should the democrats exercise their veto.

After all, what would be left on the table if that were the case would be nothing more than a pile of horse manure. Or, as Del might say, "Merde!"