Send In The Clowns

Later this week the Hong Kong Democratic Foundation will publish its proposals for political reform in the coming Legislative Council and Chief Executive elections.

As a member of HKDF, I will be attending the launch press conference. This will not be to show support for the specific ideas. I took no part in the drafting process, and have reservations about some of them.

But rather to endorse in the strongest possible terms the concept of the pan democratic forces putting forward their own detailed proposals.

Other groups are also at work in this area and we can look forward to a whole raft of ideas coming forward in the next few months.

It is vital that the community then engage in a thorough going public debate.

What must emerge from this process is a detailed consensus on the democrats' bottom line. The Government badly needs this input to assist in drawing up its own proposals.

For as is by now widely understood, there are not enough pro-government members of LegCo to enact reform legislation by themselves. If there is to be any progress at all, some pan democratic legislators will have to vote for it as well.

It would really help the public debate be more useful if those LegCo Members who are inclined to support the administration would also take part.

This would enable them to have a better understanding of the strength of public feeling in certain areas, and also provide an opportunity to put a brake on the wilder reform suggestions.

Looking first at options for the 2016 LegCo elections, obviously there will have to be changes in the way some Functional Constituencies choose their Members. It is surely time to put an end to corporate voting, for example. Does there also need to be a minimum threshold for the size of electorate?

Would changes to the FCs, by themselves, represent adequate progress or should there also be a shift in the overall balance between FCs and geographical constituencies in favour of the latter. Outright immediate abolition of all FCs (the preference of some) is unworkable because their votes would be needed. But is some sort of halfway house feasible and if so, exactly where is half way?

For the CE election in 2017, will the Nominating Committee have to endorse all candidates as some have suggested or will it be sufficient, as now, for a candidate to secure a certain level of support. What should that level be and how should the Committee itself be constituted.

As regards the candidates themselves, is it time to drop the ban on party membership. How will the candidates be able to show that they love Hong Kong and China, if indeed they should have to do so at all.

The reluctance of the pro establishment camp to join the debate now is disappointing, and the rationale proffered by some of them is astonishing.

More than one has suggested that they could only start to discuss ideas once the government's own proposals had been published. Given the reluctance of all administrations to go back on their own proposals once promulgated, that is akin to saying "we can only start to think about it when it's too late to think about it".

But it would be too easy to put all the blame on the administration's supporters.

The pan democratic side is already showing signs of flakiness. Two prominent members, having already discredited their own cause of a universal pension scheme, have now fallen out because one wants to make sure the Nominating Committee goes about its business in a fair way while the other wants to do away with the committee altogether notwithstanding that it is a constitutional requirement.

One of them has also distinguished himself by insulting the magistrate to demonstrate his support for the rule of law.

Other democratic supporters have also been acting strangely. One lady hung up the phone during a call from the police because she was "too tired", then later expressed surprise when she was arrested.

Another lay down in the road to impress the Chief Executive with her support for universal suffrage. She then confessed to having uneasy feelings after being picked up by a policeman. Did she expect him to use levitation?

A university professor is planning to lead 10,000 people in an orderly procession to Central confident that they will all disperse peacefully at the end of the event.

It all reminds me of the song ‘Send In the Clowns'. What did Judy Collins tell us nearly half a century ago? Don't bother, they're here.