Pro-democracy supporters are wrestling with whether democratic lawmakers should accept Beijing’s offer to extend their term in the Legislative Council by a year.
While political commentators and politicians continue to debate the matter, they have agreed to avoid pointing fingers at each other because they don’t want to repeat the failure of the Umbrella Movement in 2014, which ended in quarrels within the pro-democracy camp.
Formal debates should be held in the coming two weeks, followed by public surveys in late September.
The Hong Kong government announced on July 31 that the LegCo elections, which were to be on September 6, would be delayed due to Covid-19. The LegCo will start its 2020/21 session on October 14, according to a gazette published by the government on August 21.
Pro-democracy supporters are split on whether lawmakers should accept the extension or boycott the so-called provisional LegCo between October 1 and September 30, 2021.
In general, traditional democrats said they preferred to stay in the LegCo as the battlefield in the chamber could support the democratic protests and increase the costs for the government if it wanted to pass any “evil law.”
However, localists and self-determination groups said pan-democrats would lose its high moral ground if they joined the illegitimate legislative body.
According to a public survey by the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute (PORI), 61% of democratic supporters said pan-democrats should not stay in the LegCo while only 19% said they should extend their terms.
A total of 1,020 people were randomly chosen by phone to take part in the survey between August 17 and 20. The proportion of pro-democracy and pro-establishment supporters was 50:50.
Of the pro-establishment supporters, 21% said pan-democrats should quit while 55% said they should extend their terms. Of all the respondents in the survey, 41% said pan-democrats should not accept the extension while 37% said they should stay.
PORI director Robert Chung said it would be good to have more surveys next month after people had deeper discussions.
Raymond Wong, a former lawmaker and a political commentator, said pan-democrats would not be able to do anything to block “evil laws” in the chamber while their acceptance of the term extension would only make the postponement of the LegCo elections become legitimate.
Wong said even if pan-democrats decided to stay in the LegCo, they had to have a detailed plan about how they would fight the battle.
Stephen Shiu, another political commentator, said the four pro-democracy lawmakers who were disqualified to run the LegCo elections in September should stay in the chamber while all the others should leave.
Shiu said such arrangement would allow the pro-democracy camp to get the documents they need from the LegCo while achieving the goal of boycotting the provisional LegCo.
Lee Cheuk-yan, a former legislator and a labour right activist, said pan-democrats had done their best to resist the government’s “evil laws” over the past year and should stay in the chamber to support Hong Kong people’s protests.
Lee said it was sad that traditional democrats who preferred to stay in the LegCo were accused of “only caring about getting paid” and “eating buns with human blood.”
Kenneth Leung, a lawmaker for the Accountancy functional constituency and one of the four people who were disqualified for the LegCo elections, wrote in an article, “If the extended term were illegitimate, so would be the 2021 election, the 2025 election and beyond.
“Were it not for the extension of the current term, no Legislative Council elections will be taking place in those years.
“Along this reasoning, all succeeding elections will be tainted with illegitimacy. Are we going to boycott all future elections, or should we all plunge in and continue to fight for a good fight?”
Lau Sai-leung, a former full-time member of the Central Policy Unit and currently a political commentator, said the incumbent lawmakers should extend their terms in the LegCo but they should share their financial and party resources with those who won the primary elections on July 11-12.
Hong Kong dissident Nathan Law, who moved to the United Kingdom, said people should avoid personal attacks on others when discussing whether pan-democrats stay in or leave the LegCo.
Law said Western countries would continue to impose sanctions against the Hong Kong and Chinese governments anyway.