• Wed
  • Jul 23, 2014
  • Updated: 10:08am
PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 June, 2014, 2:10pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 June, 2014, 2:43am

Will Hong Kong risk it all to defy Beijing on political reform?

Michael Chugani says with Beijing putting its foot down on political reform, we'll have to decide if we're willing to pay the price of defiance

BIO

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.
 

So now we know who is boss. Beijing had to slam down on us with a sledgehammer for that to sink in. We have been living an illusion. Some among us got too carried away with this thing called democracy. They confused our high degree of autonomy with full autonomy, believing they could define democracy any way they want and ram it down Beijing's throat. Well, now they know different. They woke up a sleeping master with their noisy threats of paralysing Central.

At first I thought Zhou Nan , former director of Xinhua's Hong Kong branch, was talking through his rear end when he warned that the People's Liberation Army would squash riots sparked by Occupy Central. Now I am not so sure. Beijing's policy document on Hong Kong issued this week makes no bones about where real power lies. It lies with the central government. Between the lines in the document was a starker message: Beijing will do whatever it takes to stop so-called external forces manipulating the democrats to thwart China's rise.

Does that mean PLA soldiers in Central? Who knows? But the tone of the policy document makes what seemed unimaginable now plausible. China's rise to superpower status has still not given it the self-confidence to shake off its past humiliation of being under foreign domination. The bogeyman of hidden foreign forces still haunts its psyche. Brash threats of Occupy Central stoked that bogeyman.

The trouble is brash threats cut no ice with today's China. It has marked its new place in the world and is fully intent on marching towards it. In its mind, allowing Hongkongers democracy their way could open up a bridgehead for external adversaries to trip that march. To eliminate that risk, it doesn't even mind spooking Hong Kong and the world with its bluntly worded document in seven languages spelling out who is boss.

In a way, we brought this on ourselves by playing chicken with Beijing on democracy, foolishly believing that Occupy Central would make our masters cave in. They upped the stakes instead. The document puts a new spin on the Basic Law by stating that even our judges, who are supposed to be independent, must be a patriotic part of the administration.

What next, now that Beijing has spoken? Do we defy it by still demanding democracy our way? Or do we wave a white flag and settle for what we've already got, plus a bit of icing on our democracy cake?

The consequence of futile defiance is an erosion of our high degree of autonomy. Beijing will rule us with a heavier hand. The consequence of waving the white flag is that we get to keep the freedoms we now enjoy but not much more. Beijing will put some icing on our democracy cake by allowing us universal suffrage to elect pre-screened candidates.

So ask yourself this: is life really that bad now? OK, we only get to elect a candidate pre-screened by Beijing. Is there any guarantee that unscreened candidates will govern any better by breaking the monopoly of our tycoons, fixing the wealth gap and making society fairer? Pick a fight, or surrender. Your choice.

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

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This article is now closed to comments

john.mak.12576
there is no need to be afraid of chi na
instead we should have faith in democracy and people power
whymak
Here is an email from a friend who commented on the picture:
"The couple of "leaders" are angling for, if not already recruited and guaranteed, green cards / visiting scholar posts ala blind lawyer Chen and TAM Sq and assorted " dissidents " . Did you notice the trial of the 3 PLA intruders? Turned out they are either unemployed or on welfare and can't afford to post bail of HK$ 300. 光棍一條木瓜身!"

His comments listed 2 types of dissidents, the outlaws and the subversives, 刁民, 反民. Generally, SCMP readers-writers obsessed with demonizing China’s CCP belong to other types as well.

Those who are English illiterate are likely brainwashed local bananas. The ones seemingly fluent in English vernaculars are either expats or empty suit bananas employed by multinationals stationed one time or another in either HK or China. In most cases, they are low achievers with little personal wealth, self-esteem and heap all blame of personal failures on the China bugaboo.
Business closures by failed foreign ventures deprive these China-bashers former employment and generous benefits. A good reason to scapegoat China corruption and HK oligarchs.

Their common profile is poor Chinese literacy, with no knowledge in Tang poems, Chinese classics and culture. They have no other theme other than demonizing China. In any event, these nihilists and anarchists 亂民 seek to destabilize HK in order to gratify a hate passion.
321manu
Your first paragraph is new, so that's at least a welcome diversion. But what's with the penchant for copy/pasting verbatim comments onto multiple threads? If it's stupid the first time, placing it in multiple places doesn't make it less so, and only serves to highlight your amazing degree of narcissism.
321manu
If I were those protesters, I wouldn't be carrying a blown-up version of a page from the state council-issued document. Why would they want to be seen with simplified Chinese? That time will come soon enough, sadly. But I would have had it reprinted in traditional characters first. After all, it's one of the things that makes HK HK, and sets it apart from being "just another Chinese city".
whymak
John Adams,
My late father, a Hong Kong immigrant from Guangdong at age 4, was a staunch anti-Communist almost all his adult life. On visiting his hometown in late 1970s he had a change of heart about the new regime. He went back frequently in retirement and gave generously to his birthplace.
Bless your soul! I am sure he's laughing in his cremation urn and approving every kind word you say about China and the Chinese today.
xeroid47@yahoo.com
Well, if you want to put it that bluntly rather than some face saving words, then white flag it is. After all the illusion of one country/two systems was essentially some face saving agreement for Britain's sake, and the fact China still needed Hong Kong then. China has been essentially ignoring the pesky flies of so called democracy advocates. Now that China is asserting herself in East and South China Seas, I don't think China will tolerate leadership in Hong Kong not pre-approved. I suggest those democracy advocates should expend their energies on something more noble like advocating the rights of those hundreds of thousands of Indonesian and Philippine maids which I think is sorely needed or they can start doing some house works to burn off their excess energy.
whymak
The picture attached to this column says it all. It resembles to a tee a scene in the most celebrated horror classics of all ages, "Night of the Living Dead."
Whoever took this picture should submit it to every major photography exhibit and competition in European and American venues.
Here is my suggested title. "Democracy Cult Zombies Marching To Destroy Hong Kong" with the byline: "All marching performers are certified by Multi-faith Institute of Prefrontal Lobotomy with all surgical procedures 100% guaranteed by Institute's brain surgeons."
Just look at the insipid, expressionless faces of this mindless chanting crowd with the media favorite teenage Joshua Wong on the left. Could anyone doubt these are not genuine zombies?
BTW, do Hong Kong schools have rules for truants like Joshua and his friends?
Talking a mile a minute will not get him past HK local examinations. But then his future may lie in entertainment industry with this auspicious head start ad in this genre of horror movies.
321manu
"China's rise to superpower status has still not given it the self-confidence to shake off its past humiliation"
---to be fair, it's tough to have self-confidence when you only keep power by maintaining constant oppression of those you govern. Self-confidence comes from knowing that people want you to govern them by choice. I don't see the CCP ever having "self-confidence" in that regard, until the end of time.
That's why it's always 'external manipulation', 'foreign forces', and the like. When you have no self-confidence, you always feel like you're being picked on and victimized by everybody, regardless of the situation or circumstances.
However, "is life really that bad now" is not the proper question. The question should be "how bad is life going to get, and how quickly". The white paper has exposed 1C2S as the myth that it is. Everything that makes HK, HK, is now up for debate. Freedom of press? We'll see. Freedom of expression and protest? Don't count on it. Judicial independence? Fuhgedaboutit. Traditional Chinese characters? Better fill your boots now. No telling how quickly HK will become just another Chinese city, but no one should hold to the fantasy of some protective bubble lasting until 2047.
Unlike some of the CCP stooges around here, I have no desire to see PLA on the streets. But I think your colleague Mr. Lo has it right: get that foreign passport, and firm up that exit strategy. The CCP plague is coming to HK. Better start running.
keithkklau@gmail.com
So in your saying, do you think being offensive against Beijing will get what you want? Do we have the bargaining power against Beijing given HK's importance in China is diminishing fast? A war will be declared when we are certain to win. The white paper is more or less reiterating its position with strong wordings and its issuance in a sensitive moment simply means China will not abide to any pressure from the opposition here. Over years, the Pan-demo and some media are tyring to create fear in people's mind and evilized those with different opinions for their own benefit. Look into the case of Li wai ling and Commercial radio. Ms Li associated her dismissal with the freedom of speech but if you listen to CR now, they are still advocating the "occupy central" and urging people to vote on June 22. There is no change in CR2 attitude at all and Ms Li is wrong. Nonetheless I echo with your question: " How bad is life going to get and how quickly". HK future is gloomy; not because of CCP but simply HK is damaging itself by a handful of its people which I refer to the far left, the far right and loads of rubbish legislators in both pro-government and pan -demo camps. At the end, it is the general public without foreign passport and money will suffer and it is particularly sad for our future generation who is supposed to grow in a hopeless place.
Will.I.Am
Too many trolls on here, get a life and meet some friends.

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