After the interview, Ho and Tai were invited to a photo shoot; at the background was Central and the IFC, from its roof Lau Mong-hung said he would jump.
Translated from 何俊仁答應辭職引發公投 配合佔中運動 【佔領中環系列：戴耀廷、何俊仁專訪】
Albert Ho Chun-Yan of Democratic Party was invited to talk about Occupy Central. Earlier, Long Hair (Leung Kwok-hung)’s response was “don’t talk any more, ask Albert Ho to resign first and jump-start a referendum”. Ho, who did not join the by-election referendum caused by resignation, was asked whether he would do it. Ho’s reply was not only unexpected, he actually sounded a little impatient, “my legislator post is fundamentally unimportant, resignation is insignificant and is not worth mentioning.” He further described the current situation as “time for a decisive battle”; there is no longer anything worth discussing with the Central Government. Benny Tai Yiu-ting interrupted at the side, “Ten thousand people would deliberate and formulate a proposal, put it first to an electronic referendum; the Central Government would most probably not accept it and make a counter-proposal seemingly but not exactly meeting our demands, Ho would then resign to let Hong Kong people have an opportunity to decide in a referendum.”
Proposal: ten thousand people’s proposal -> resignation -> street blocking
Inmediahk.net first followed up on University of Hong Kong’s legal scholar Benny Tai’s proposal of Occupy Central for universal suffrage in January. On this occasion, Tai was invited to a dialogue with the perpetual "god-father" of Democratic Party. In one and a half months, seeing it as a just cause, not a small number of well known people have participated; political parties and democratic groups have also joined the action. Meanwhile, Tai has met people from different sectors and is fine-tuning the proposal. The latest is to prepare for Ho’s resignation in order to engineer a referendum. His blue print for the universal suffrage campaign is coming into shape, “the proposal resulting from the deliberation of 100,000 people would go through an electronic voting platform as a referendum.”
It is expected that the electronic platform would be supplied by Chung Ting-yiu of University of Hong Kong, “it is foreseeable that after the electronic election result is out, the central government would throw out a proposal seemingly but not exactly meeting our demand, giving in a tiny bit but short of a true universal suffrage. At that time, Ho would resign his Legislative Council Member post to jump-start a pseudo-referendum to let the people decide whether to accept central government’s proposal. If the people say no but the central government doesn't accept the result, we would block the streets. Further on, there will be a people’s non-cooperation movement.”
During last year’s CE election, HKU’s Public Opinion Programme conducted a people’s referendum but the system on the internet was suspected to be hacked, resulting in people swarming to the election stations.
Ho: if rrested – no litigation, no pleading for leniency
Nodding his head positively, Ho said in a serious tone, “if we are arrested, there will be no litigation, no pleading for leniency”, “I expect that a lot of people will go to jail, a lot of people will lose their professional qualifications. Those who teach…”, he looked at Prof Tai at his side, “those who need to support a family may need to make some sacrifice…, this time, it is civil disobedience for real.
The Albert Ho we used to see in front of the camera usually does not show much facial expression even when he is angry, but this time he is adamant: “Our determination is clear. That is why on the third day of the Chinese New Year (12 February) I said to the news reporters that I would burn the SAR flag in breach of the law to show disobedience: there is no alternative to putting me in jail if I burn the SAR flag, I need to be penalized. If there is no penalty for burning it once, I will burn it again until I get the penalty”; “the government still thinks that we are ‘trumping it up over them’; but I have said calmly and clearly that it will happen to Tam Chi-yuen, Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, in the LegCo Chamber. Wong Bik-wan has also said she would participate: ‘in the worst scenario I am prepared to give up my teaching job’. This time we won’t retreat when the going is rough or back down after advancing a little.”
Time for a decisive battle the docile will become angry
No doubt, this is a big and important change. In 2010, Legislative Council Members of the Civic Party and League of Social Democrats resigned and participated in a by-election, thus creating a referendum on the implementation of universal suffrage (two of them then left the League of Social Democrats and formed People Power). The Democratic Party did not participate but instead accepted a proposal initiated by some scholars and Alliance for Universal Suffrage. Party members in tow, they even went to the Central Government Liaison Office to talk about electoral reform. Since then, the rift between the pan democrats increasingly deepened.
In 2010, 5 Legislative Council Members of the Civic Party and League of Social Democrats resigned, jump-started a ‘pseudo-referendum’; the Democratic Party did not participate, causing a rift in the pan democrat camp. What about this occasion? Ho said, “I am prepared to go to jail, why does resignation matter?”
Then, it was known that the referendum turn out rate was 17.1%. With the support of the Democratic Party, the Legislative Council endorsed the so called “one people two votes” proposals, consisting of the highly disproportionate vote value of "super district council" functional constituency seat proposal. Also “generously” endorsed at the same time was the proposal of 1,200-member Chief Executive Election Committee. Still further on, the pan democrats in the CE election campaign faced a greater difficulty in securing an “entry ticket” to the CE election as a “mock candidate” (the even more difficult people’s vote for the CE was on show outside the arena at the same time). Of the ten newly created Legislative Council seats, the pan-democrats could only win three of the five district council functional constituency seats; of the five directly elected seats, the pan democrats scored a net loss of one seat. Many pan-democrats supporters said they “voted for Frederick Fung and James To with tears in their eyes”.
Ho had been willing to negotiate with the Central Government Liaison Office before. How does he assess the current situation which suddenly leads to a complete break and refusal of further communication?
Ho said that the struggle has dragged out for too long and we were facing “the time for a decisive battle”. “It’s different from the transitional proposal in 2010; there was still room for discussion on a transitional arrangement then. Now the fact is the National People’s Congress has promised Hong Kong would have a Chief Executive elected by universal suffrage in 2017. This is a solemn pledge of the most authoritative organization of China; if this is a lie, it is impossible not to have a break. The last negotiation was fraught with controversy; that was not a time for a rift; at present, there is no longer any room."
In 2009, the Democratic Party walked past the gate behind the flower beds in front of the Central Government Liaison Office, advocating a moderate negotiation approach. It might have attracted some moderate voters. This time, he is leading the same group of people to head towards a radical path. How can it be possible? Ho however points out that this is “a matter of course”: “the more moderate and rational voters will get angrier. Opportunities have been given, negotiations have been done and promise has been made, if it still turns out to be a lie, this group of people who had trusted the central government will get mad. It is collapse of the one country two system doctrine. Those who were not the most radical before will become radical.
A referendum confers a transcendent mandate
Nobody can go to Central Government Liaison Office again
To a lot of pan democrat supporters, the Democratic Party’s negotiation with the Central Government Liaison Office is a wound. This is still a nightmare that a political party might go down the negotiation path half way through Occupy Central. Tai indicated that he was not worried, he said directly that the proposal would be deliberated by 10,000 people and would have received a mandate from an electronic referendum; despite the talk about the need for it, in fact "there is very little room for negotiation". By then, there will no longer be anyone possessing any political ability to go to the Central Government Liaison Office to represent anyone for any negotiation’. "This is a people’s movement; frankly speaking, the central government will have to accept it or reject it; if they reject it, we will block the streets."
Where do these 10,000 people come from? Tai believes that apart from those who have always participated in pro-democracy movements, the intellectuals among the middle class will also participate. “It’s not the coffee-drinking type that Tsang Chun-wah mentioned, it’s those who have certain demands on values which exceed economic ones”. As the discussion continues, not only discussion about the actual street blocking but also discussion about bringing the message to the mass, the common people aged 40, 30 and the younger will also join the action; “it is not sure how many people will participate”. He is of the view that the effect is not how the streets will become blocked but the calling on the society that it will create. The mobilization role of political parties seemed not a must in Tai’s thought.
No role for political parties
It is not incorrect to say political parties have fallen behind the situation in major events in recent years: opposition against demolishing Queens Pier, the high speed railway and national education, none of these was spear-headed by political parties. On what grounds is the Democratic Party confident that they are able to lead the people? Ho’s reply was unexpectedly lucid, “Citizens do not need the leadership of a political party”, factional division among political parties has to be discarded, “like in the mourning of Li Wang-yang, there was an agreement that flags of political parties would not be shown”. He admitted political parties had their baggage so it would be best to participate on individual basis, “I am only one of the citizens, this is a significant moment’, any participation must transcend party interests.
The intended question was originally why Occupy Central needed political parties and vice versa. Ho however put it strict that political parties had a supporting role to play this time. As an example, he said that at the beginning of the Tienanmen movement in 1989, before the formation of the Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movement, people from all sectors of the society voluntarily organized themselves to march on the streets, without political party leadership. “At that time, there was only the Democratic Alliance (note: a coalition of various bodies which was the prototype of pan democratic political groups, comprising Hong Kong Affairs Society, Meeting Point, Association for Democracy and People’s Livelihood, HK Professional Teachers’ Union etc.), the support of political parties is helpful.’
Street blocking is caused by No. 10 political storm Central stops functioning
As matter now stands, Tai said, “there is no turning back". One and a half months ago, his proposal was like a fantasy. But it has developed in an unimaginable speed. It has come to the stage of workng out execution details and doing feasibility studies. Like Ho said, it is not too difficult to stop the market functioning; it is no big deal, "under typhoon signal No. 10, Hong Kong does not function, not to mention that it is political storm signal No. 10!" However, Occupy Central caused by storm signal No. 10 does not happen at the time of the occupation, it happens during the deliberation, and at the referendum.
The dialogue was conducted at the Memorial Garden of the City Hall in Central. In front of Tai and Ho were Edinburgh Square’s Five-star flag and the Five-star Bauhinia Flag; on the left was the site of the former Star Ferry and Queen’s Pier, at the back was IFC Stage Two, from its roof a former CPPCC (Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference) Member said he would jump. Three years ago, Ho, the Democratic Party Chairman, did not participate in the referendum. But now, he was the first to say that resignation of his Legco seat was too insignificant to mention. He recognized the limit to the role of political parties, said bluntly that he would burn the SAR flag until he was put into jail. Tai said, at the last stage Hong Kong people could initiate waves after waves of un-cooperation movement: “much can be done which is not illegal, such as a few thousand people releasing balloons in Central, paying tax on the last day before the deadline. Photos of such an event will have great impact internationally and the authorities just cannot ignore them.
It is hard to tell whether Tai and Ho have been called to action by the lies of the authorities or the hundreds of thousands Hong Kong people who participated in the two referendum (one by-election and a people’s vote). At this moment, it is hoped that every Hong Kong people will, as Tai said, participate in the action and re-think what they can do in their respective position.
Editor: Michelle Fong