The story so far… After years of delays and excuses, central and regional authorities are finally attempting to address popular demand for representative government in Hong Kong. To accommodate such reform within a Communist one-party system, officials have devised a tightly controlled electoral process under which Beijing would choose the candidates. Ironically, parliamentary rules originally designed to curb the independence of the city’s legislature give pro-democracy politicians the power to veto the reforms. The local administration is hoping to pressure moderate pro-dems by getting public opinion behind the proposal.
More than a stalemate, the current situation defies logic. The government is claiming the moral force of popular opinion to endorse and justify a political structure designed to negate the popular will. To bolster their case, officials have hinted at holding a public opinion survey that would prove popular support for the reform package. But they are clearly aware of the fundamental paradox. If you’re prepared to have an opinion poll, why not hold a full formal referendum to decide the matter beyond any doubt?
Logically, it must. To use the principle and method of representative government as a way of denying representative government is absurd. Forget turkeys voting for Christmas: this is turkeys voting not to have a vote.
The ironies pile up. Frustratingly to local officials, a referendum would probably work: one way or another, a 60% ‘yes’ vote would be feasible. Since the government can’t admit that the whole idea is to avoid proper democracy as incompatible with totalitarianism, it uses the only pitiful excuse it can find – the Hong Kong Basic Law does not allow for referendums. It doesn’t ‘allow for’ cupcakes, or idiotic policymaking, either, but no matter.
To be a Communist dictator is to be a glutton for ‘contradictions’. If Robert Chung is being slightly mischievous in proposing a simple act of direct democracy, what is the Dalai Lama doing in announcing that he will not be reincarnated? China’s leaders, brought up to be atheist and to see Tibetan Buddhism as feudal, are left denouncing the world’s favourite nice old guy as a blasphemer and insisting that he will indeed have another life. I declare the weekend open with the thought that even the most megalomaniac cadre never dreamed the Party would or could take ‘playing God’ to such astral levels.