Coming to terms with reality

Judging by the number of people dragging wheeled suitcases down to the Airport Express station this morning, a quasi-four-day weekend lies ahead. What better way to take a rest after all the intensely emotional wrangling and grief over quasi-democracy?

Less than a week ago, the Chinese government announced its plan for political reforms in Hong Kong – notably a 2017 Chief Executive election in which Beijing decides the candidates, and the electorate as a whole votes to decide which one wins. Compared with the previous system, in which Beijing simply decides the winner in advance, there is obviously a progression from no choice to managed competition. I wouldn’t want to try to quantify it in terms of an improvement, but maybe it’s like going from 0% democratic to 25%.

Pro-democrats, who for years have had their hearts set on 100%, reacted not only with outrage but disbelief. Disbelief that a Communist Party – the monopoly holder of power in a totalitarian, Leninist system – would not allow a completely open and unrigged election. Disbelief that the UK and other overseas powers would not imperil economic and other relations with the People’s Republic of China over this city. Perhaps most painful of all, is the difficulty of accepting that the bulk of their fellow citizens might not completely share their astonishment or distress.

They are in denial, and to deal with it they plan to use their veto power in the Legislative Council to reject the proposal. Unless this would make Beijing fall to its knees and beg for forgiveness, it is hard to see how this achieves anything beyond basic gratification. Perhaps realizing this deep down, they have devised arguments for sticking with 0% rather than 25%, but their reasoning is more heartfelt than rational or convincing. Students, ever the ultimate idealists, believe they can topple the Communist dictatorship by cutting classes…

The fate of the 2017 election reforms will come down to public opinion. Albert Cheng – no stranger to hot-headedness – muses over some sort of referendum to work out what people will accept. While never a cohesive movement, the pro-dems will probably end up more divided than ever over how and whether to come to terms with reality; the feuding seems to have started already.

The pro-democrats’ implicit stance for a good couple of decades has been that the Communist regime in Beijing is at the end of the day reasonable and capable of pragmatism and flexibility; that Beijing respects laws and might keep its 1990s promises (if any) for eventual full democracy; that Beijing has a sense of morality and cares what the world might think about its treatment of Hong Kong. The bulk of Hong Kong people have surely never believed any such things, and the rest of the world has probably abandoned such hopes in the last few years, if not earlier.

Quite an irony… The pro-dems have had this touching faith in the Party’s essential goodness and humanity. In return, the Chinese government has treated them as hostile and foreign-backed, and thus as subversives to be crushed.


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8 Responses to Coming to terms with reality

  1. John says:

    If one thinks about it, the biggest and oldest democracies in Asia – India / Japan respectively is not truly democratic, perhaps in the name only!

    Here at home, we had 1 chance – when Japanese invaders did gave some hope for democracy but they lost! Prior that, some governors tried but it was either, collusion for self interest or denied by Brits, China, business elites, then another shot for democracy in 80s – but denied, in the 90s Pattern tried but denied

    Lu Ping did confirmed on democracy, but again some unknown factors came to be placed and denied, then Tung Kin Wah mentioned – by, I think 2012, but again for unknown factors, denied, then came 2017 but denied again

    I don’t support occupy central as is against logic, they proposed wrong questions, and bickering while singing with mendacity

    Realism – long before French Revolution, and centuries after it – there is no true democracies where all – Men are born equal

    Hope/Sorrow = Globally, it would continue and denied is a solid established
    mantra, as power, government, elite wants status quo & common man is not intelligent enough to realized this realism.

    Humanism will continue to search for hope and sorrows with continuation of time is our best hope

  2. GP27 says:

    “They are in denial, and to deal with it they plan to use their veto power in the Legislative Council to reject the proposal. Unless this would make Beijing fall to its knees and beg for forgiveness, it is hard to see how this achieves anything beyond basic gratification.”

    I think you miss the huge propaganda value that even a fake universal suffrage has to the Communist Party. I initially thought the democrats should accept it and encourage the public to use it as a referendum by returning spoiled votes, but a little reflection made me realise that they Communists will just deal with this by finding a way to either not give figures for spoiled votes or bundling deliberately spoiled ones together with just inept ones. Of course they are not going to allow a vote of no confidence. Which will leave the usual faces we hate to see with the opportunity to come out and say “See? He/she has a public mandate.” And that will weaken the pro-democrat position, even in the legislature, even more than the current system.

  3. David Webb says:

    @GP27: the problem with allowing the proposal to go through and then asking pro-dems to spoil the ballot in the election is that, given a choice between two pro-Beijing candidates, most people would still vote for the one they least dislike to stop the one they most dislike being elected, rather than spoil the ballot. Imagine a choice between C Y Leung, Regina Ip and spoiling the ballot…

  4. Jennifer Eagleton says:

    Picking between CY and Reginar…ugghh…

  5. I’m not sure that’s a good example – most people would find it hard to say which of those two is worse!

  6. PD says:

    When considering this question as to whether the proposed changes to the CE selection process should be accepted or opposed, you have to start, I think, by seeing whether the changes are for the better. On one hand, there is universal suffrage. But on the other, the nomination committee will inevitably block many candidates, meaning even moderate democrats will be excluded, unlike last time. So it’s one step forward and one and a bit back.

    Peking and its servants have often pulled the wool over the eyes of international opinion with their half-truths, not-so-veiled threats, faits accomplis, chopping, bribery, appeals to racial solidarity and so on, resulting in history being rewritten and black becoming if not white, at least a pale shade of grey (“return to the motherland”, 99-year lease on HK, “unequal treaty”, “elections”, “democracy”, etc).

    All that people who truly love HK can do is register a protest in the strongest possible terms. By acquiescing to such knavery, you run the risk of being a passive tool of the communist oppression.

  7. pcatbar says:

    I see in today’s SCMP that Scholarism want to pressure the Govt into showing “which side it is on”. If/when the Govt does so and the students appear surprised I would have to suggest they must have a better chance of attaining an education by not attending classes!

  8. GP27 says:

    @David Webb, “Imagine a choice between C Y Leung, Regina Ip and spoiling the ballot. ” As I consider both of those equally vile, my only choice would be the ballot one. But, as I said, they’d find a way to finesse it anyway, to avoid the public lack of confidence from getting out.

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