Time to go with flow in political thaw

Editorial | 19 Apr 2017

Since Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor was elected chief executive, there have been developments that would have been inconceivable in recent years.

First, pro-government and pro- democracy lawmakers came together to form a delegation to visit Guangdong to see Dongjiang River basin.

Then, moves are afoot for a roundtable involving parties from both sides, which look likely to be held as desired by Liberal Party leader and lawmaker Felix Chung Kwok-bun.

This week, Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai followed on with a call for great reconciliation to end rifts that have haunted Hong Kong for five years.

Will there be further goodwill gestures to keep the thaw in the political atmosphere going? Let's hope so.

In spite of the official line, the river basin tour was never meant to be about business. In addition to giving lawmakers a chance to discuss water quality and rising charges with Guangdong officials, the two-day event was basically a political exercise.

On Friday and Saturday, the entourage of 18 - including six pan- democrats - stopped at a number of facilities before the trip concluded free of incident. What came as a bit of a surprise was that "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung was not turned back at the border despite the kind of T-shirt and yellow ribbon he had on. In the past, he would have been stopped and questioned by border guards because of the politically sensitive materials.

If there was any incident that departed from script, it would be pro- Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho Kwan- yiu's unscheduled absence from official activities on the second day. Ho said he had gone for other business.

The trip may not have brought the SAR cheaper or cleaner water supply, but it was politically successful nevertheless.

To keep the thaw in the political iceberg going, progress is being made toward holding the roundtable dinner. This will be held next month and most major parties - including the DAB, the Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong and the Liberal, Civic and Democratic parties - have agreed to show up.

That will be another breakthrough in view of the hostility both camps have harbored against each other for the past several years that led to such a total breakdown in the relationship that legislative business came to a halt.

It would be unrealistic to expect much from the roundtable, but it would be meaningful to keep the doors open.

In view of the trend since Lam was chosen to succeed the unpopular Leung Chun-ying, Wu's appeal for reconciliation became natural.

Lam may find it too sensitive to entertain Wu's suggestion as he is proposing pardons for all participants in the Occupy protest - including the seven convicted policemen - as well as the launch of an official inquiry into the root cause of the massive social protest.

Wu should know the chances of his call being accepted are slim, but he must also be aware that any positive note will help improve the atmosphere further.

It's important to keep the momentum rolling. The question is whether the pro-establishment and pro-democracy camps have the courage and wisdom to make reconciliation possible.

For that can only benefit society as a whole.

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