Pan-dems should join future polls: Anthony Cheung

Former minister and scholar Anthony Cheung said on Sunday that pro-democracy parties should take part in future elections, in spite of what he called the “difficult and challenging” situation they’re in after Beijing’s overhaul of Hong Kong’s electoral system.

After the sweeping changes, only 20 out of 90 seats in the legislature will be directly elected, with Legco hopefuls required to seek nominations from an election committee and be screened by a vetting body to ensure they’re patriotic enough.

Several pro-democracy parties, such as the League of Social Democrats, have already declared that they would not field candidates in the upcoming elections because the electoral system is “no longer fair and just”.

However, one of the biggest parties in the camp, the Democratic Party, is still considering the matter, saying “messengers from Beijing” have urged party members to join the polls even though most of their supporters oppose the idea.

Speaking after a radio show, Cheung noted that the Democratic Party, which he was once a vice-chairman of, is currently under huge pressure within and outside the party as it struggles to make a final decision.

The public administration professor from the Education University urged the various pro-democracy groups to consider carefully whether boycotting elections is the right way forward.

“I can well understand the current sentiments. I can well understand their attitude towards the revision of the electoral system. But if a party, for a long time, will not take part in any elections, then what is the purpose of a party? This is a longer-term existential question they have to consider,” Cheung said.

“Personally, I think they should take part, no matter how difficult, how challenging the situation is.”

Meanwhile, the former transport and housing minister also urged the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China to reconsider its long-held call to end one-party rule on the mainland.

Pro-Beijing figures have taken issue with the slogan, arguing that it may be in breach of the national security law.

Cheung said the alliance has to take into account that leadership of the Communist Party is now solidified in the Chinese Constitution after an amendment in 2018.

“Whether or not [the slogan] is in breach of the national security law is something for the Department of Justice or the police to consider. But I think if [the alliance] would like to continue as a NGO with a concern about democracy in China, then they have to really consider how they can move forward without directly confronting the PRC constitution,” he said.