• Tue
  • Dec 23, 2014
  • Updated: 6:01am
PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 March, 2014, 6:26pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 March, 2014, 1:53am

Authoritarian rule in Hong Kong is no far-fetched future

Michael Chugani says a political stalemate on democracy for 2017 may well put Hong Kong onthe road towards authoritarian rule


Michael Chugani is a Hong Kong-born American citizen who has worked for many years as a journalist in Hong Kong, the USA and London. Aside from being a South China Morning Post columnist he also hosts ATV’s Newsline show, a radio show and writes for two Chinese-language publications. He has published a number of books on politics which contain English and Chinese versions.

Hong Kong will become ungovernable if there is no deal on universal suffrage for 2017. That's not a crazy view but a fear many share after Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing first expressed it. What will happen if Hong Kong really becomes ungovernable? We can expect authoritarian rule.

Far-fetched nonsense? Actually, that's the bleak prediction of Basic Law Committee member Albert Chen Hung-yee, who told me in a television interview that authoritarian rule is a possible consequence. He didn't, of course, mean authoritarian rule North Korea-style, but a tightening of the freedoms we are now used to.

Chen's logic makes sense. By Hong Kong becoming ungovernable, he means the city falling into a state where it can no longer be governed as before. When that happens, those who govern will have to find other ways to do so and the most likely way is through a heavy hand. The directive will have to come from the central authorities.

In most cases, authoritarian rule breeds more civil unrest, which, in turn, breeds harsher authoritarian rule. Civic Party member Ronny Tong Ka-wah told me in another television interview that freedom-loving Hongkongers would not tolerate any form of authoritarian rule and would fight back. But he doesn't believe the central government would be foolish enough to resort to harsher rule if Hong Kong becomes ungovernable.

What are the chances we'll see the scary scenario of authoritarian rule coming to pass? I'm going to stick my neck out and say we should start worrying. The central government and the democracy camp are so dead set on their own conditions for universal suffrage that it's hard to imagine a compromise.

That makes Occupy Central a virtual certainty. Much as the organisers want it to be peaceful, that's almost impossible. When 10,000 people use civil disobedience to disrupt normality in the heart of a city's business district, it is stupid to think an intended peaceful protest will play out exactly according to script. Many fear that the radical wing of the democracy movement, which has elbowed its way into wielding greater influence within the camp, will act out of script.

Peaceful or not, the police will have no choice but to move in if the protest paralyses Central, using heavy-handed tactics to deal with any resistance. The images such a crackdown produces will not only shock Hongkongers but will be big international news. People Power legislator Albert Chan Wai-yip, known as a radical, told me in a radio interview that Occupy Central is the only way to make Beijing bow.

I think he's dead wrong. Beijing doesn't even bow to Japan or the US these days, let alone Hong Kong's democracy movement. Rather, it will stiffen Beijing's resolve. If there's no universal suffrage deal for 2017, we can kiss democracy goodbye for a long time. The next chief executive will be elected under the current undemocratic model. That will stoke civil unrest, making Hong Kong even more ungovernable than it is now. And when that happens, a way will have to be found to govern. Enter possible authoritarian rule.

Michael Chugani is a columnist and TV show host. mickchug@gmail.com


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This article is now closed to comments

I find it amazing there is so much SPECULATION about this piddly little Occupy HK scenario. It's like a little mouse has a den of tigers shivering in their boots!!
This appears to be far stretched rather than a far fetched future
With all due respect, we always speak about fear? whereas in reality, we are letting our imagination run wild, speculating so much about what we are lead to believe from news reports?
We are always expecting more and more from China and most of which forecasts may be untrue and the speculation gives rise to more comments and staging of movements that are not helpful
Have we each asked of ourselves what have we truly done for China? We always expect more and more from China and when it comes to our contribution, this is not about any symbolic but about genuine, pure and true goodwill, when have we looked upon China's intentions more altruistically please?
Why do we have to look upon and forecast and use so much of our energy, initiatives, anxieties and worries leading towards what may not have any element of actuality please?
Let us seek to trust and have faith in China for China wishes well for Hong Kong always, we should not get swayed or carried away by international opinion but speaking about international opinion, we can earn it only when we truly respect and value national interests the healthy and conscious image that we hold of ourselves and others
The World is a stage and here we are staging and unfolding, forecasting so much about so many aspects from a skeptical standpoint of view consistently. We must truly come forward and join hands with China full fledgedly and committedly please
And the purpose of writing this article is .....
Who do you refer to when you're talking about the "radical wing of the democratic movement" ? And how can you equate "run out of script" with violence ? Who has been talking about bringing in tanks so far ? Don't lose your focus, Mr. Chugani. We just want cast a ballot and elect our CE !
Agree 100% with Michael.
I clicked the 'like' button by accident.
I'll be most frank: considering that China is still in a tight grip over the freedom of its citizens and its media even after all these years, still has a political system crippled by corruption and mismanagement, and still denying its human rights abuses, there are more than enough reasons to fear for Hong Kong's future after 2047.
China may be concerned for Hong Kong's economic potential, but I don't think they're above eliminating the very core values that made Hong Kong successful and unique in the first place.
What, Michael's photo is labelled as "Supporters of Occupy Central " ?
Leung Chun Ying would not hesitate to do likewise as TianAnMen Square, maybe he thinks,not just Deng XiaoPing, he too should one day get the Nobel Peace Prize
I do not believe authoritarian rule Beijing will apply to Hong Kong at the end of the day as the world keeps an eye on the development of its political reform, especially the country which had signed the Joint-Declaration, handing over Hong Kong to the communists in 1997 without conducting universal referendum.
Just like the world keeps its eyes on Ukraine and Syria??


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