The Democratic Party yesterday voted overwhelmingly not to join the Legco resignation-for-referendum plan touted by the League of Social Democrats.
The vote - by a margin of 80 percent to 20 percent - came despite a plea by about 10 young people who kneeled before party members begging them to take part in the move.
The plan has the support of party founder Martin Lee Chu-ming who later said he was disappointed at the decision. Lee called on individuals within the party to offer their support to those who do take part in the resignation plan, which is also supported by the Civic Party.
After a four-hour debate on the pros and cons of the proposal, 229 voted against, 54 in favor and one abstained.
Party chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan said the vote suggested that while members are free to help those who do resign to canvass for votes for re-election, they must not use the party's name.
Vice chairwoman Emily Lau Wai- hing said the result clearly shows that any party which wants to work with the Democrats should first seek its opinion before announcing plans to the public. "You cannot force your ideas on us," Lau said. "This is not the way we work." She does not think the decision will marginalize the party from the rest of the pan-democratic camp because the public is also against the plan.
Ho said he hopes the league and Civic Party will rethink their decision to go ahead with the plan, which calls for lawmakers to resign from the five geographical constituencies to force a de facto referendum on universal suffrage.
However, veteran democrats Szeto Wah and Lee both said they will not try to influence the two parties. Szeto said yesterday's vote was a democratic process and he hopes the other parties will respect their decision. When asked if the vote makes the party look timid, Szeto said that was not the issue. "If you ask us to jump down from a building and we do not do it, can you say we are timid?"
He added the party will probably gain more support from the public for having made the "correct" decision.
After the vote, the protesting youths again went down on their knees, but this time they shouted: "Democratic Party, we kneel before you but do you really deserve this?" Their representative said the party has gone back on 20 years of promises to the people with the vote.