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  • Aug 28, 2014
  • Updated: 10:33pm
My Take
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 September, 2012, 2:08am

Democracy may be the only way out

Hong Kong people are first-class protesters. We hit the streets at the drop of a hat. That has proved disconcerting to those in power, who have, time and again, warned that such tendencies will bring anarchy down upon us. The latest such dire prediction comes courtesy of Elsie Leung Oi-sie, Basic Law Committee vice-chairwoman and former justice secretary.

"Can we be more rational?" she asked, referring to the mass rally outside the government headquarters over national education. "If [protesters] always need to mount hunger strikes or occupations, Hong Kong will become anarchical."

Such comments from a controversial figure like Leung are guaranteed to pour fuel on the fire. Some people never realise how counterproductive their comments can be for the government, even if they mean well.

People bang on the government's doors with banners and stage rallies because that is the most effective way to get what they want. From villagers who demand the right to keep their illegal structures to students who reject national education, a mass rally is the surest way to get officials' attention.

Why? Because we have a weak government that does not respond well to popular demands. An executive-led government wasn't supposed to be like this. Modelled partly on the colonial government, it should be able to impose policies, however unpopular, on the rest of society like the Brits did. It nevertheless offers a modicum of openness and transparency through routine consultation.

However, with unpopular policies, and there are always vested-interest groups to run up against, the government's routine has become: consult and ignore. At the same time, Hong Kong is so safe and stable that people can bring children along to protests. So our protests become more large-scale, more frequent, and the players get younger and younger.

We do not face anarchy, but what we do have is government policy paralysis and intense social divisiveness. I hate to bring up the D-word but full democracy, however we define it, is probably the only way for Hong Kong people to take ownership of government policies - and to break the endless cycle of protest and rejectionism.


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This article is now closed to comments

People may ask, we didn't have popularly elected LegCo members in the colonial days, either, how could the British ran administration do it so fine ?
One thing is that they make good use of the consultants they hired (independent, not from UK or HK, e.g. from Ireland, Canada, NZ etc.). The ExeCo was made up of very competent people who could give good advice. Today ExCo places is used as a "reward" for the CE to give to those who supported him, not necessarily the best of the minds in town. There is also a syndrome of the officials trying too hard to prove themselves (or an inflated ego?). No matter what, the administrations failed to listen unless you protest. The administration is largely to blame.
Posting on behalf of reader Sheung Wan:
"I tend to agree with you but don't like the consequences. I'm not a fan of chaos any more than Hu Jintau. I hate demagoguery and blind obedience in equal measures. The two are in a way the same.
Your column today was absolutely right, but full democracy is simply not in the cards for us and I can't help thinking that the moment of truth for HK is coming soon, with results which are going to be less than pretty. The communist party simply cannot live with what (some, maybe most) HK people want. The Article 23 debacle was relatively minor, as its implications were not clear. With national education, the issues are more specific, and there is just no way the Party will accept textbooks in HK which openly discuss its failings. Scrapping is the only option, but with so much face to be lost, I'm not holding my breath.
To his credit, I don't think CY ("the fox") would have gotten into this mess himself. The hapless Donald, always trying to prove his patriotic credentials, is the culprit.
I am really happy not to be in the shoes of any of these guys right now.
On the positive side, I'm on my way back from Beijing, where I sat on a jury of a design competition. Unlike earlier juries I've been on in the mainland, the discussion seemed relatively frank, transparent, and at times almost defiant of the agenda of local party officials. I sometimes have more hope for democracy and critical thinking on the mainland than in HK...
Dead on the money.
Give Hong Kong nihilists enough rope they will first hang the rest of us -- the silent majority. After that, they will hang one another in their struggle to acquire power. The "death of Hong Kong" prophesy in the American media will finally come to past.
Silence, is just silence. Remaining silence is a passive consent to leave the decisions to those who cares to speak up.


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