Hopes legislators’ disqualifications will have a positive spin-off by replacing tomfoolery and theatrics with analysis and decision-making on issues placed before LegCo
Perhaps I take things too seriously… Some years ago, I served on a Hong Kong jury. In common with my fellow jurors, I took the oath that went with that role and did so with the solemnity that seemed appropriate for the occasion. Indeed, anyone concerned about the rule of law in Hong Kong would surely have been reassured if they could have eavesdropped on our deliberations in the jury room as we wrestled with the evidence, determined to do the right thing not only by the man in the dock but also by the whole principle of justice.
As a civil servant I was never sworn in as a member of the Legislative Council but I often attended its deliberations, whether in the Finance Committee, subject panels or Bills Committees. I tried my best to prepare properly for those appearances so that I could answer questions and explain policies clearly and comprehensively. I felt that our lawmaking body deserved no less, and by extension, our citizens.
Now as a private citizen I can exercise my right to cast a vote for a district council or LegCo representative. Even if it is inconvenient to go to the polling station I will make sure that I am there and that I have prepared beforehand by reading and thinking about what sort of candidate I want to support, and about my aspirations for the sort of representative he or she will prove to be. This seems to me to be a minimum requirement for being a good citizen and playing a part in the community we live in.
I am not afraid to say that my vote might be given to a member of the “pan-democratic” camp but it is also my hope that, if elected, this person will turn out to be someone who does not indulge in childish tricks, tantrums and unconstructive demonstrations. My ideal representative will study the issues before the council, read deeply and consult widely before coming to a conclusion clearly based on an impartial analysis aiming only to achieve what is best for the community as a whole. I do not believe that my hope is a very odd one and, indeed, I think that it is shared by the majority in our community, where the prevailing spirit is one of pragmatism. Indeed, I would go further and say most would like to see our legislators working in an even-handed manner with their civil service and ministerial counterparts so that by a time-honored process of give and take consensus can be achieved and the community can move forward with worthwhile initiatives, and conflicting views can be resolved amicably.
Alas, as we all know, for more than 20 years LegCo has not been such as we dream of. Rather than a place of courteous and reasoned discussion it has been disfigured by filibustering, theatrics, uproar, overthe-top political grandstanding and finally, a refusal to take oaths with the seriousness they deserve. We had wearily come to accept this but the complacency has been brought to an almost shocking halt by Mr Justice Thomas Au Hing-cheung’s ruling that certain legislators should be disqualified on account of failure to take their oaths in proper form and with due sincerity.
No one who has Hong Kong’s best interests at heart can avoid feeling regret about this episode from beginning to end. However, there may be a silver lining and it may even prove a catalyst for positive change. Perhaps it will turn out to be like the cup of cold water poured over a staggering drunkard that brings him to his senses and makes him see his damaging actions for what they are. The chairman of LegCo’s Rules of Procedure Committee has indicated that this turn of events will not be used as an opportunity to do anything like changing the rules on filibustering. This is statesmanlike and the lack of schadenfreude and triumphal vindictiveness should reassure the “pan-democratic” side, who should also look to the conciliatory statements over this sorry saga by the new Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor. By-elections will be held in due course and it is to be hoped that every candidate will learn from what has happened and will affirm a clear intention to treat LegCo and the position of legislative councilor with the respect and sense of duty that the post requires. Those who do otherwise are, in effect, insulting the voters that they claim to wish to serve. Support will leach away from politicians who jeopardize their position by what amounts to tomfoolery, which cannot be excused by any amount of high-minded sophistry, and this will be an outcome arising not from the oppression and intimidation from the establishment but rather a verdict aided by the sober good sense of the people of Hong Kong through an impartial court ruling.
By-elections will be held in due course and it is to be hoped that every candidate will learn from what has happened and will affirm a clear intention to treat LegCo and the position of legislative councilor with the respect and sense of duty that the post requires.