Our dissidents' glory days are numbered

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 July, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 06 July, 2009, 12:00am

The conspicuously disappointing turnout for the July 1 march was quite expected. The pro-democracy movement believed that up to 200,000 would take part, given the high level of dissatisfaction with the Tsang administration. On top of that, they thought the high turnout on June 4 would have a knock-on effect. Such euphoria blinded them to the reality.

First, are people frustrated to such a degree that they will take to the streets in numbers? People are not happy, for sure. They are not happy about negative growth and rising unemployment. But, unlike the last recession coupled with the severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak, people today seem less affected, in general. And, for those who are suffering, they know it is the result of the international financial crisis, which did not originate here. Anyway, this is only the beginning of hardship, not the accumulation of more than 60 months of anguish, as it was in 2003, and the aggravation is far less severe.

Let's face it, although Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's popularity rating is in the doldrums, it is still quite high, and much higher than that of a lot of world leaders. True, many people are unhappy with the government's performance, but not to the point of demonstrating. And a smear campaign would not help, either. If our dissidents are genuine democrats, as they claim, they should know that people cannot be fooled too easily for too long.

Hong Kong citizens are highly rational. Unlike in 2003, when many were led to believe that by participating in the July 1 march they could 'vote with their feet' and change things, now, they are under no such illusion. Good governance takes a great deal of hard work and commitment from both the government and the public. A new positive, proactive mood is growing, and this was not present six years ago. History does not simply repeat itself, and our dissidents neglected this fact, much to their regret.

The June 4 factor failed to rub off onto July 1 because rational Hongkongers know these are two completely different subjects. For decades, the dissidents have succeeded in lumping democracy and anti-communist sentiment together, and many have come to believe that 'one man, one vote' would be an effective firewall against possible intervention from Beijing.

Although more than 100,000 people still feel strongly about the official handling of the events of June 4, 1989, the general anti-communist animosity is almost gone. Very few now believe democracy is a panacea, and that the central government has no legitimate role in Hong Kong.

Inciting hatred directly towards Beijing is very dangerous and the dissidents have, in the past, consciously steered away from this course. They are resorting to it now only because they are running out of steam - and slogans. Such suicidal tactics are a sign of weakness and desperation. The dissidents' glory days are numbered.

Lau Nai-keung is a member of the Basic Law Committee of the NPCSC and also a member of Commission on Strategic Development