Elsie Tu

US bashers always ignore country's achievements

PUBLISHED : Monday, 15 July, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 15 July, 2002, 12:00am

I refer to the letter by Elsie Tu headlined 'Whole world deceived by 'democracy and rule of law' myth' (South China Morning Post, July 5).

Ms Tu's relatively simplistic attack on the US showed a failure to engage in reasoned debate about the place of the rule of law and democracy in Hong Kong.

Her criticism of the US is markedly one-sided and incomplete. There is no mention of that country's significant contributions in foreign assistance, its work in promoting self-governance abroad under various programmes, or its efforts in promoting international human rights. Certainly, one can counter with criticism of its withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol and its arrogance with respect to the International Criminal Court, but just like any other country, US foreign policy is not perfect. However, I believe the power to criticise the US can only be purchased with the currency of understanding and considered judgment, and not with hyperbole.

To use an example given by Ms Tu, one might ask whether Third World debt is entirely the fault of the First World. It can be argued that domestic mismanagement and the lack of transparency on the part of creditor nations was the effective cause of the debt cascade. Too often forgotten are instances where US financial intervention has been necessary to avert regional and global economic disaster, such as its capital injections in Mexico in the late 1990s.

I am an American citizen, educated there and in Hong Kong. To some, this mere fact means that I suffer from the same myopia that infuriates your correspondent. However, I do not think that I, or Margaret Ng who Ms Tu criticises, blindly accept the rule of law and democracy as predisposed givens, devoid of any independent underlying meaning.

This would belittle the existence of fundamental values of equality, self-governance and individual rights and responsibilities, which are the true purposes behind the phrases.

Those who engage in Ms Tu's line of argument almost inevitably arrogate to themselves an air of self-asserted certainty, without grappling with the far more difficult philosophical and ideological underpinnings that are the cornerstones of the rule of law and democracy. The blind bashing of America achieves little in advancing the democratic debate forward.

In the context of Hong Kong, our political structure of gradual incrementalism, the existence of functional constituencies, and our alienation of the poor and disenfranchised, are anti-democratic and entrench the interests of the elite. In these circumstances how does one expect our democracy to breathe, much less, to grow?


North Point