• Sat
  • Sep 20, 2014
  • Updated: 12:08am
CommentInsight & Opinion

Hong Kong needs vision more than universal suffrage

Andrew Burd says a single-minded pursuit of universal suffrage in Hong Kong encourages the neglect of workable solutions for our social ills

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 April, 2014, 6:32pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 April, 2014, 4:40am

A recent editorial by the International New York Times suggested that Britain should speak out against threats to press freedoms and open elections in Hong Kong. The same newspaper also published a lament from Martin Lee Chu-ming, saying Hong Kong's autonomy was under threat. Both articles quoted Deng Xiaoping's blueprint for "one country, two systems", with Lee saying that without universal suffrage, Deng's legacy would be but a litany of broken promises.

Deng was an astute politician who travelled to France when he was just 16 "to learn knowledge and truth from the West, in order to save China". One thing he would have learnt is that, in Western politics, promises are a matter of expediency rather than commitment.

Universal suffrage in Hong Kong is an illusion; to believe in it is a delusion

Universal suffrage in Hong Kong is an illusion; to believe in it is a delusion. Democracy is currently failing in many countries of the world. Indeed, too often it is a mantle of deception that cloaks the true power of corporations, lobbyists and the super-rich. Democracy failed in Athens, its birthplace, after 250 years when the rich became super-rich and a law unto themselves. Hong Kong already has one of the highest Gini coefficients, an index of social inequality, in the developed world.

Hong Kong is like a precocious teenager who has had all the benefits of privilege and now demands the status but not the responsibilities of an adult. The next decade is going to be tough for Hong Kong, yet it can still become a shining example to the rest of China as proposed by Lee and Anson Chan Fang On-sang. But not as a democracy. Rather, a place where the core values are real and tangible, and reflect a society that is fair and just, and engaged in creating a meaningful legacy for future generations.

Lee enumerated the core values of Hong Kong as "freedom, the rule of law, a system for fighting corruption and an independent judiciary". But freedom without responsibility is a mere indulgence, and the inappropriate denial of freedom can be a neglect of responsibility.

Criticism of Beijing for wanting to exercise some influence over the media dissemination of seditious opinion should be viewed in the context of the UK Terrorism Act 2000 that effectively treats journalists as terrorists. Of note, Hong Kong has neither Article 23 national security legislation nor the "patriotic education" discussed in 2012, evidence that democracy is not essential to influence positive social change. Political will can suffice.

Lee can lament the faltering steps towards democracy. I lament the lack of vision in Hong Kong.

I am currently working in Qatar, whose government espouses a "National Vision 2030", aspiring "to undergo the transformation into an advanced country capable of sustaining its own development and providing a high standard of living for its entire population for generations to come".

What is Hong Kong's "Vision 2030"; just another "southern Chinese city" or a shining light which embodies core values that are both real and relevant? A place where wealth can be shared to achieve a high standard of living for all its inhabitants?

That is the example the mainland wants. That is what Hongkongers need, not universal suffrage.

Andrew Burd is a retired professor of plastic surgery at the Chinese University of Hong Kong


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This article is now closed to comments

And why, exactly, are we are supposed to care about the political opinions of a "retired professor of plastic surgery"?

Seemingly SCMP will publish any quack these days as long as they toe the indefensible pro-authoritarian line.
Should freedoms/rights come with responsibilities? Absolutely. But Dr. Burd is offering a false dichotomy in suggesting that unless freedom comes with responsibility, it is better to not have freedom at all. And it is always ironic when an individual who enjoys freedom tries to dismiss its value or importance. As the song lyric goes, "you don't know what you got till it's gone". For HKers' and Dr. Burd's sake, here's hoping they never have to find out.
"A place where wealth can be shared to achieve a high standard of living for all its inhabitants"? That sounds great. But considering the wealth disparity and lack of general high standard of living among mainlanders, why would anyone want to import that system into HK? Do HKers need authoritarianism? Nope.
How About
In Martin Lee's OS [operating system] it does. Half of US sobbed when Obama gave his acceptance speech and look what happened since? He will go down in history as the man who propagated drone warfare, Obamacare would be a footnote, if it survives. And poor Martin and Anson are paying pilgrimage to Biden for photo-op, bet your bottom dollar they didn't even get dinner.
In reality the good people of USA don't know or may be they don't care, ****www.economist.com/news/united-states/21599347-why-democrats-want-election-be-about-billionaire-koch-brothers-koch-fuelled
Everyday 'democracy' USA style is under threat, if any of the media have an editorial board or an editor with spine. So everyday their spin machine will go on the offensive to subvert CCP which lifted 30%+ of China poors in 1 generation. What have the GOP or the Democrats done for America in the past 60 years?
Rhetoric or not, democracy isn't the most stable system and the one they have in the USA, isn't one. That's something HK needs not aspire to. With my hope our legislators can still work rationally with the Chinese on a more progressive system towards 2020s and the 2030s, let's see how far they'll get!
How About
Tentalising start and valiant try Andrew. Martin's core values, i.e. freedom and rule of law, will not generate enough FDI or GDP and the Gini Index will likely worsen over time. But, agreed, HK does need visions, let's pester CY Leung to come up with some!
False choice alert. Rhetorical fallacy detected.

Universal suffrage does not in any way impede on having a vision. Nor vice versa.

Insofar that there is a relation between the two, it most certainly is not a zero sum one. If anything, implementation of universal suffrage will necessitate leaders to have more vision, or at least the appearance thereof. It is hard to have an election campaign without vision.
Dr Burd is clear and reasonable
But facts and reasons are beyond morons
like LeeChan and ME
For evidence just try what’s below
ME sermon repeated by self-hypnotized ME
Fatally deluded, clearly unsalvageable
There, Pierce m'boy. This is more on your level. Kiss the backside of those you agree with. That is really all that you're good for. Independent thought? Perish the concept.
The CCP must be so proud that their most fervent supporters in HK are also the most stupid. You types really deserve one another.
But I see your second paragraph already devolving into gibberish yet again. You really need to get a grip on that ADHD you seem to have going. It's something fierce.
Possibly, Hong Kong has too many lawyers like Martin, but too few medical doctors like Andrew...


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