It has been a wackier-than-average week in the Big Lychee. Chief Executive CY Leung spied foreign non-reds under the bed, but refused to identify them; next day, he declared universal suffrage dangerous on the grounds that it could lead to policies that help the poor. His top officials, by contrast, said nothing of interest in their long-anticipated meeting with student protestors and just highlighted their powerlessness. The Occupy Central movement dodged a bullet when it looked like hopelessly uncool performer of pseudo-music Kenny G was a supporter, before – to all right-thinking people’s relief – he bowed to Communist-financial pressure and backed off.
Forget CCP-patriotism and oligarchy versus freedom and democracy: Hong Kong is engaged in a battle between the cool and the cringe-inducingly unhip. On one side you have selfie-magnet flying drone-cameras, pavement chalk artists and volunteer medics; on the other you have the tragically buffoonish waste of space that is Lau Kong-wah. One side abseils down Lion Rock and unfurls a banner that can be seen from outer space; the other sends police to pull it down, and who find the job a bit too outdoorsy and so dump it on the Agriculture and Fisheries Department, who basically don’t do cliffs. One side does homework in the street, the other does pepper spray. Everywhere you look, spirited, creative rebels and guerilla satirists are running rings around a gray, dull-witted and unsmiling officialdom. It’s a PR massacre.
The South China Morning Post has used up its liberal-to-objective quota for the month and needs to cram some heavy-duty pro-Communist patriotism into its pages for a few days. Thus we get one of the hardest-hitting op-ed pieces in ages from a hitherto unheard-of Dabing Li on Why Democracy is Really, Really Crap.
It seems to have been rejected by China Daily as too ridiculous to print. By ‘democracy’, we allude to ‘Western’ values (and, quite possibly, people). The masses are ignorant and can’t be trusted with the vote. Adolf Hitler was democratically elected. All Western democracies are falling dominoes, with subprime junk loans, bribing masses with the national treasury. “All modern-day democracies inevitably degenerate into this race to the bottom.” In Hong Kong, illiterate old lady held up infrastructure project; people like her have votes = disgrace. Greece, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Philippines, Thailand = crap = democracy. Singapore, China = unique-benign-consultative = wonderful.
In fact, what he is criticizing here is not democracy, but bad policy. Democracy does not automatically deliver good policy, though it certainly can’t match the economic depravities of China’s Mao, whose idea of a development plan was to starve 30 million people to death. Democracies do deliver something that authoritarian regimes do not. It’s whatever puts places like Denmark, Sweden, New Zealand and Canada at the top of all the quality-of-life and human-rights indexes. It’s whatever convinces so many Mainland Chinese to migrate to Australia and the US, and whatever keeps so many Americans and Australians from clamouring to move to Shanghai and Beijing.
And it’s about cool. It can’t be a coincidence that Kenny G’s biggest fan base is China, or that you can’t imagine Singaporeans abseiling down a mountain with a pro-democracy banner.
As if to underline this point, the SCMP gives this diatribe against democracy what must be the most bewildering but also vaguely repulsive of illustrations – Crawling Candle-Condom. So gut-wrenching is the cartoon that I declare the weekend open with the thought that this whole op-ed article just might be the wickedest, most subversive Umbrella Movement satire yet.