Party poopers

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 October, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 October, 2009, 12:00am

Hong Kong has been in a festive mood for the past few weeks as a host of parades and activities brought thousands of people on to the streets to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic. Earlier activities included a four-kilometre charity walk along the Island Eastern Corridor to raise HK$10 million for the Community Chest. Colourful parades on Thursday transformed many parts of Hong Kong into a carnival venue, attracting tens of thousands of people.

Even though the celebrations in Hong Kong might not have matched the scale of those on the mainland, we should still applaud the efforts of those, mainly from the pro-Beijing and pro-establishment camps, who organised the celebrations.

Due to the scale of the celebrations, several busy streets in Wan Chai, Causeway Bay and Western district were closed to traffic and bus routes were diverted to accommodate the activities. This inevitably inconvenienced many people, although most Hongkongers are accustomed to marches and protests in the city.

To be fair, the inconvenience caused by these activities paled in comparison to the massive July 1 rallies in 2003 and 2004 when half a million people took to the streets. Furthermore, Hong Kong people are used to being routinely inconvenienced around June 4 every year due to weeks of commemorative activities carried out across the city. The annual protest marches held throughout the year have often caused traffic chaos, prompting police to implement special traffic arrangements. There was certainly no preferential treatment for the celebrations' organisers.

So, it was natural for many to feel puzzled as to why a pro-democracy Chinese-language newspaper should criticise the National Day celebrations for causing massive traffic chaos and affecting businesses. It said the celebrations were an enormous waste of time and resources.

The paper seems to think that protests are good, but celebrations are bad, which can be best illustrated by a famous Chinese saying: 'The magistrate is allowed to set fire while the ordinary people are not allowed to light lanterns.' If this is not double standards, I don't know what is. Such behaviour has no place in our pluralist, inclusive, free and open society.

People in the media who think they can use democracy as a sales pitch to boost readership are no different from the so-called democrats who are effectively 'selling' democracy to push their agendas. Their motives are not totally honourable and their actions are often laughable and childish.

To most people, the core values of Hong Kong include democracy, liberty and human rights. But the basis on which these values are formed should also support freedom, fairness, tolerance and mutual respect. We should accept dissenting voices for what they are worth. And, if we truly want to embrace democracy, we should accept nothing less.

The democrats and pro-democracy media are skilled at playing their democracy card to win over the masses and gain political support. And, for choosing this path, they have to accept that there is a price to pay: being sidelined by the central government. It would have been entirely acceptable if they didn't want to be part of the celebrations. But why try to spoil it for others?

This year, the democrats complained that they were not invited to any official National Day celebrations or included on the guest list of an official delegation to Beijing. This was much expected anyway, so they should not have complained like a crying baby. As the Chinese saying goes: 'If one chooses to eat salted fish, one has to be able to stand the thirst.' They cannot expect the best of both worlds. They certainly cannot expect to be invited to someone's party when they have been badmouthing the host.

Another piece of Chinese wisdom - '50 steps laughing at 100 steps' - best exemplifies their state of mind. It means one group of troops has the audacity to laugh at the other group when they have similar intentions to run away. The democrats can either join the party or walk away. But, no more sour grapes please.

Albert Cheng King-hon is a political commentator