Democracy in China: The struggle for Hong Kong

Discussion in 'China' started by Srinivas_K, Sep 6, 2014.

  1. Srinivas_K

    Srinivas_K Senior Member Senior Member

    Jun 17, 2009
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    Democracy in China: The struggle for Hong Kong

    The territory’s citizens must not give up demanding full democracy—for their sake and for China’s


    CHINESE officials have called it a “leap forward” for democracy in Hong Kong. Yet their announcement on August 31st of plans to allow, for the first time, every Hong Kong citizen to vote for the territory’s leader has met only anger and indifference. Joy was conspicuously absent. This is not because Hong Kong’s citizens care little for the right to vote, but because China has made it abundantly clear that the next election for Hong Kong’s chief executive, due in 2017, will be rigged. The only candidates allowed to stand will be those approved by the Communist Party in Beijing, half a continent away.

    At its worst, this risks provoking a disaster which even China cannot want. Democrats are planning protests. It is unclear how many people will join in, but the fear is that the territory’s long history of peaceful campaigning for political reform will give way to skirmishes with police, mass arrests and possibly even intervention by the People’s Liberation Army. That would disrupt one of Asia’s wealthiest and most orderly economies, and set China against the West. But even if, as is likely, such a calamity is avoided, this leap sideways is a huge missed opportunity not just for Hong Kong but also for the mainland. A chance to experiment with the sort of local democracy that might have benefited all of China has been missed.

    China’s announcement marks the end of an era. No longer is it possible to argue that the development of democracy in Hong Kong can forge ahead even in the absence of political reform in Beijing (see article). The arrangements, set out by China’s party-controlled parliament, the National People’s Congress, were needed because of a pledge to grant the territory a “high degree of autonomy” and eventually “universal suffrage” when it took over from Britain in 1997. To most people, that meant having the right to choose their leader themselves.

    China has stuck to the letter of its promise, but not the spirit. In 2012 the chief executive was appointed by a 1,200-strong committee stacked with the party’s yes-men from among Hong Kong’s business and political elite. The proposal for 2017 is that a similar committee will select candidates who will then be presented to all Hong Kong’s voters for election. In theory the committee could allow through candidates of many political stripes. In practice, pessimism is more than justified. Only two or three candidates will be allowed, and each must win the support of at least half of the committee. Under this arrangement, democracy will mean little more in Hong Kong than it does elsewhere in China, where every adult citizen can vote for local legislators—as long as the party approves.

    This is bad for Hong Kong. The territory’s four leaders since the handover in 1997 were all chosen in Beijing and rubber-stamped into office. All of them, including the incumbent Leung Chun-ying, proved highly unpopular. Under a government in thrall to Beijing, the press has been subdued by intimidation and by pressure from advertisers. The judiciary fears that it may face a test of loyalty to the mainland. Some Hong Kongers complain that even the postal service is compromised—it refused to deliver leaflets urging civil disobedience.

    The story may not be over. Activists in Hong Kong have vowed to launch a campaign of civil disobedience which they call, disarmingly, “Occupy Central with Love and Peace”, but whose declared mission is to paralyse the territory’s main financial district with sit-ins. This would be the first large-scale flouting of the law by the pro-democracy camp.

    The activists’ aim is correct and their courage impressive, but their tactics may be mistaken. If the unrest gets out of control and troops are deployed, it would be a calamity for Hong Kong—and would probably set back the activists’ cause. Better to stick to what the democrats have always done best: staging the kind of peaceful protests that have made the territory a model of rational political discourse in a part of the world where it is often sorely lacking. And there is another form of peaceful protest available: Hong Kong’s legislators can reject China’s proposals, even though that would mean reverting to the equally undemocratic system used in 2012. Only a few dozen democrats now sit in the electoral college. They should, in future, boycott it. There is no point in propagating a falsehood.

    If Hong Kong’s people keep marching without damaging the territory’s economy, China may well simply shrug. But not necessarily. It was thanks in part to a huge and orderly protest in 2003 that Hong Kong’s puppet government shelved plans to introduce an anti-subversion bill and that the hapless chief executive, Tung Chee-hwa, stepped down. Rather than break the law, Hong Kong’s democrats would do better to wield the weapon of embarrassment.

    He’s blown it

    But it is not only in Hong Kong that China’s decision to strangle the territory’s democratic aspirations will be felt. China’s government has alienated opinion in Taiwan, which it dreams of bringing under its umbrella in the same way. The party appears to have concluded that the damage done to the prospects of union with Taiwan is less important than the threat that one of its opponents might win an election in Hong Kong and stoke demands across China for political reform. The territory would also become independent in all but name. That, the government worries, would encourage separatists around China’s periphery, from Tibet to Xinjiang.

    But discontent is growing all over China, and Beijing cannot just sit on it. The huge new middle class is becoming increasingly frustrated with its powerlessness over issues such as education, health care, the environment and property rights. In terms of their day-to-day worries, mainlanders have a lot in common with Hong Kong’s citizens. China’s government is going to have to work out a way of satisfying their aspirations for more control over their lives. Hong Kong would have been a good place to start.

    Xi Jinping, the party chief and president, had the opportunity to use Hong Kong as a test-bed for political change in China. Had he taken this opportunity, he might have gone down in history as a true reformer. Instead, he has squandered it.

    Democracy in China: The struggle for Hong Kong | The Economist
  3. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

    Apr 17, 2009
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    It is the typical Chinese manner of pretending to be liberal to suit their ulterior objectives, when they are nothing but autocratic and dictatorial.

    Hoax all the way.

    Something like their fraudulent 'Peaceful Rise'.

    Lull the world, quietly arm itself to the teeth and then muscle flex to grab the land and seas that belong to others.
    brational and Srinivas_K like this.

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