• Sat
  • Dec 27, 2014
  • Updated: 9:34am
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 Adams
Mr Chugani you are absolutely correct, for the second time this week !
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And big chuckle ! Because of all the millions of Mainland tourists our oh-so-wise government has allowed into HK to swamp us, everything that happens in the following few weeks, including the July 1 march, will be both seen and believed, then filmed and blogged throughout the Mainland.
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Seriously ! HK is a very happy place, and so , believe it or not all ye neah- sayers, is the Mainland. When I first started working in the Mainland in the mid -1980's I found to my surprise and delight that the PRC was nothing like the "terrible" place it was then popularly believed to be in the minds of the older HK generation and portrayed in the press. It was actually a pretty good place then and immeasurably better so now than then. .
I like the white paper. It spells out the truth about where we are at, and I'm happy with it.
And I'm happy with HK the way it is and the high degree of autonomy we enjoy in practice.
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Sometimes I wish the PLA would come in to lock up the ranting , idiotic "democratic" politicians to whom we have sadly given **** birth : bald Albert, long (now temporarily short) hair, mad dog, screeching harridan Emily (don't the nick names say it all? ),
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Yes you ranting idiots : go ahead and protest . Make my day !
chaz_hen
Well at least Michael can write his columns and submit them via email from the country that gave him a passport once he deems it time to high tail it out of HK...
kctony
"Is life really that bad now?" How can you be so insensitive?
kittychan1978
Very disappointing coming from you Chugani.
blue
I remember you used to complain that people accused you of being a Pro Beijing stooge. You ARE a Pro Beijing stooge. You're also a total coward and a sycophant.

What makes the above even more pathetic is that you're an Indian living in a foreign land with a US passport. You're nothing more than an opportunist, but unfortunately for you you're on a very low rung of the ladder.

When chaz_hen trolled you, I'd roll my eyes. Now I think he's probably right in his remarks.

jenny@asian-emphasis.com
So much for One Country, Two Systems. All SCMP columnists are just rolling over and dying.
It's very disheartening.
HK people are always being told to lower their expectations. HK people have never, and I repeat NEVER had much of a say about how they are governed. Even if they didn't protest, the outcome is all the same.
whymak
Mr. Chugani,
An important correction. There is still the word COUNTRY in one country two systems. In this context, CCP is not our master. The central government has 86% approval rating compared with the 12% in the US. Now tell me this is not mandate.
Sane people will avoid provocations that lead to gridlock and violent confrontations. But this doesn't apply to nut cases abusing you in these pages.
You are a US citizen. Tell me what President Clinton did when he couldn't buck the discrimination of gays by the US Armed Services establishment. "Don't ask don't tell" was the compromised solution.
During the height of Vietnam War, student demonstrators demanded a MacDonalds branch close to University of Wisconsin Madison campus to lower the national flag in support of their antiwar cause. Doing so would have offended many patriotic folks in town. The restaurant manager solved this problem by telling the delivery truck to back into flag pole. The insurance company would pick up the tab. Problem solved.
If these know nothing fanatics want to stage a violent revolution and storm the PLA barracks and Tamar, my advice is the same as Dirty Harry, Inspector Callahan, "Go ahead, punk, make my day!"
Will.I.Am
Too many trolls on here, get a life and meet some friends.
321manu
Pew survey? Again? For a self-proclaimed "science" guy, you sure have a high tolerance for lousy methodology. I guess you make exceptions for crappy science as long as the message coincides with your ideology. BTW, you don't derive a mandate from "approval ratings". But one step at a time for the slower members of the group, right?
If you want to see what a decent survey looks like, check out the HK Transition Project. Especially poignant now with the white paper and all.
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.

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