Hu Yaobang

Talk about hypocrisy

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 May, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 May, 2006, 12:00am

Two years ago, Beijing reneged on promises made to Hong Kong about the development of democracy in the city. At the time, then chief executive Tung Chee-hwa made public nine conditions imposed by the central government that had to be met before the city was ready for universal suffrage.

Now, to mark the 16th anniversary of the Basic Law, its so-called 'guardians' in Beijing have again said that Hong Kong is not ready for full democracy.

It is the height of arrogance for members of the Communist Party to present themselves as experts on universal suffrage and to make pronouncements about whether the time is right for democracy.

After all, the party does not permit opposition parties and, after more than half a century in power, still does not allow free elections.

One so-called 'expert', Xu Chongde , said universal suffrage could be implemented if it could be guaranteed that 'patriots' would be elected. Who, one wonders, should decide which candidates are patriotic and which are not? Presumably, Mr Xu and other party members would make that decision.

This is equivalent to saying that an election cannot be held until it can be decided ahead of time who the winner will be. It is the negation of the very concept of holding an election.

Mr Xu, in arguing against democracy, said that most American presidents - returned through universal suffrage - were quite mediocre.

This betrays a total lack of understanding of the virtue of democracy. Winston Churchill famously said: 'Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others that have been tried.' The good thing about democracy is not that good leaders always win; it is that bad leaders can be thrown out of office at the next election.

Former leaders Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping exhorted people to 'seek truth from facts'. Let us look at how China's leaders have been chosen, and the consequences of their actions.

Would anyone in China today defend the Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward, in which millions of people died? Was this the result of brilliant leadership? Maybe more mediocre leaders would have done less damage to China and to the Chinese people.

The party gave us Liu Shaoqi, the head of state who died in prison without the benefit of any formal charges. It gave us Lin Biao, who, we are told, tried to stage an armed uprising against Mao.

It gave us the Gang of Four, led by Mao's widow who, we are told, tried to seize power. And, of course, it gave us the military coup d'etat of 1976, which saw the imprisonment of the Gang of Four. Thus were China's leaders made, and unmade.

Instead of holding elections, the communist way was to allow a dictator to run the country as his own fiefdom. And that one dictator, Mao, picked one political heir after another, only to discard each in turn, until finally he picked Hua Guofeng . Hua, who succeeded Mao, could probably have won a world championship for mediocrity.

And after Deng came to power, what happened? He picked two men to run the country - Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang . Both were good people, but they did not emerge from a democratic process - they were handpicked by one man.

And that man, Deng, decided in 1987 that Hu was not good enough since he had refused to crack down on student demonstrators.

Two years later, Deng got rid of Zhao for refusing to crack down on Tiananmen Square protesters.

This is the communist system of choosing leaders. Do Mr Xu and his fellow 'guardians' of the Basic Law really think that this is better than democracy?

Frank Ching is a Hong Kong-based writer and commentator