We know that Beijing’s ‘We’re the boss’ white paper on ‘One Country, Two Systems’ is part of the elaborate (as in ‘paranoid’) campaign to shock-and-awe Hong Kong people away from Occupy Central protests, because officials insist that it isn’t. We also know that it will, if anything, have the opposite effect, partly because the hectoring, Communist tone of the thing is so off-putting, but also because we have been through this before.
Years ago back in Tung Chee-hwa’s time, Beijing decided to pacify the Big Lychee by dispatching a couple of supposedly Very Senior Grim Men to come here, sit stone-faced before the cameras and read out a prepared statement declaring who was in charge – following which they just got up and walked out. A while later (as I recall), Beijing issued an ‘interpretation’ of the Basic Law repeating much the same stuff. Oddly, this ‘We are in charge’, ‘You must accept and believe it’, ‘Tremble and obey’ approach singularly fails to win people’s hearts and minds, at least in Hong Kong.
If Beijing really wanted to undermine pro-democracy sentiment – or, more to the point, win Hong Kong people’s confidence and respect – it would skip all the formal details we already know to be true, and skip all the self-deluding crap we know isn’t true, and have a stab at sincerity. Such a white paper would go something like this…
For a Communist dictatorship, we have done a pretty good job of letting Hong Kong keep its freedoms, pluralism and rule of law since 1997. We have done what we can to support Hong Kong’s economy, and certainly done nothing to deliberately damage the city’s interests. Nonetheless, it is clear that Hong Kong has various social and other problems, that these cause discontent, and that the system of government is at least partly to blame.
The political system (adapted from what apparently worked under the British) leaves the government overly dependent on certain narrow sectors of society for support; this has led to poor policy decisions. Although this system does not allow the people to choose the government, it does allow them to elect an opposition; this is a recipe for heightened tension and stalemate.
Like you, we want to fix this. From 2017, you should get a system that allows the whole electorate to pick a Chief Executive from several candidates competing for the job. We anticipate that this will deliver a more ‘people first’ type of governance. To Hong Kong’s Western-influenced opposition, this will not be true democracy, but by the standards of a Communist dictatorship, or indeed in the context of 5,000 years of Chinese civilization, this is pretty freaky stuff, and we can still only half-believe we’re letting you do it – problem is, we’re desperate.
Peace and love
Obviously, the Chinese Communist Party is incapable of admitting imperfection of any sort, which is why the real white paper rants unconvincingly about foreign forces when simply being a teeny bit candid would create instant mega-credibility (at, note, the pro-democrats’ expense). Communist public relations remains a work in progress. Rather than wither away, Occupy Central enjoys yet another boost.