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  • Apr 18, 2014
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My Take
PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 14 December, 2012, 2:42am

Will Hong Kong let democracy slip from its grasp?

Cometh the hour, cometh the man. I don't know who said this proverb first. There is something like it in Matthew and Luke, though the passages clearly refer to Jesus. But the way it has come down to us is what may be called the optimist's version of history.

It means that at crucial moments, a courageous leader will come forth to guarantee his nation's future - like Irish nationalist Michael Collins, who travelled to London to secure Ireland's independence, and Anwar Sadat, who made his fateful trip to Jerusalem to make peace with the Israelis.

I can't think of an exact equivalent of a cynic or realist's version of the proverb. But there is something like it; when commenting on the revolutions of 1848, the British historian AJP Taylor famously wrote: "German history reached its turning point and failed to turn."

Great historians work on the minutest devilish details to extract universal lessons. As Harvard economic historian Niall Ferguson said, Taylor's comment on Germany is applicable to most countries in most years.

In the same article, Ferguson made fun of journalists - who "have surely reported nine out of the last five revolutions".

But it does not seem an exaggeration to report that Hong Kong is reaching a turning point, a democratic transition, if not a revolution. Either we aim for full democracy, which is only possible if those who truly believe in it dare to pursue rapprochement with Beijing and develop a workable relationship based on trust and mutual respect.

Or we risk what we have now indefinitely - political and policy paralysis; permanent and intransigent opposition; and the hijacking of democratic politics by fringe groups and a yellow press.

All these simply spell irreversible decline for Hong Kong as other great Asian and mainland cities overtake us. Apologies to our anti-locust narcissists and I-hate-Beijing egoists and myopics, but the way the pan-dems behave nowadays is holding back democratic progress as much as the government.

Will Hong Kong reach a turning point and fail to turn? Or are there courageous and visionary democrats out there who will make that fateful trip to Beijing to secure our democratic future?

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whymak
Basic journalism according to you requires no analysis, logic and reason. Our youngsters will be happy to hear there is a profession that requires no schooling and zero effort.
If Beijing is incapable of reason, then revolution is the only solution. Why don't you volunteer for this noble cause? We Confucianists will cheer heartily your 殺身以成仁.
I am sure Mr. Lai Chee Ying, the Pope of Yellow Journalists, will provide ample banner space in his publication for your slogans. Moreover, he will provide unlimited funds for your give-me-freedom-or-give-me-death rant. Look, he had given most generously to Cardinal Zen for his unspecified anti-China activities. Even if you were martyred, His Eminence would ceaselessly pray for you in order to ensure your entrance to the pearly gates with 100 blondes waiting.
BTW, the blondes are a limited time offer for yellow people valid only before 2017 elections. They were donated by 18th Century white slave traders now domicile in Heaven as expiation of their sins. So don't miss out your once in a lifetime opportunity.
spunkyjj
I don't think it is necessary to get racist or sexist on this issue. In any case, it is true that China doesn't negotiate unless it sees strength. For example, China is now rattling sabre over the little Diayu Islands and it was only last year that China signed away large tracts of land over to Russia. Just kowtowing to China will get Hong Kong democracy? You are dreaming.
Camel
To show power? you mean HK power? you will show it? I am sure, you will be the first one in a plane fiying out HK when political turmoil breaks out.
Political and social change can only happen with help and approval from Beijing, no other way. Do you think Beijing, gives a sh..t on a handful protestors and Pan Democrates waving the British Flag? They already told them to leave HK if they do not like it here.
anson
Honestly how can you compare the Hong Kong situation with Russia? Alex wrote his piece, I think, to try and stimulate debate on what type of universal suffrage could be possible for Hong Kong. Earlier this morning I wrote about Article 145 whereby the Central Government states that the ultimate aim is to select the CE by universal suffrage. I was hoping for some debate on that matter. Instead all we get is the same old - Communist Party is bad rubbish which does not move us forward at all. Russia and China negotiated. Your thinking about only being able to negotiate from a position of strength betrays your sub-conscious westernized thinking on this matter. Hong Kong is a Chinese SAR. It is a part of China. It does not have to show its strength for BJ to take notice of it. Sadly people like you can simply never accept anything that the Central Gov't say, whether it is in the interests of HK or not. It is impossible for HK to kowtow to China, HK is a part of China!
ianson
And what, pray tell, would be the purpose of that "fateful trip to Beijing"? To trade away universal suffrage for something less? The Basic Law states the goal is "universal suffrage" which can mean but one thing. The horse-trading with Beijing was done nearly three decades ago, the deal was struck, and the blatant retardation of real or significant progress towards the agreed goal by Beijing is a betrayal of that agreement. The Communist Party are simply trying to squirm out of the deal and using every sleazy method at their disposal to do so. No more deals. No more games. No more obfuscation. Universal suffrage, as promised, now.
whymak
Universal suffrage a la Tahrir Square or Tripoli? Your wish of Hong Kong apocalypse is duly noted.
anson
In which case we will end up with nothing. You seem to want to operate outside the law. I suggest you actually read the Basic Law and try to grasp the reality of the world AND different types of universal suffrage democratic systems (there are many and we need to work out which one we want and negotiate for it). Your approach is simply confrontational and from this only the strongest will win. Hong Kong is not the strongest. Ask yourself, does the UK have universal suffrage (and check out Edward Heath), does Australia (and check out Gough Witlam). does the USA? What form of universal suffrage did the ancient Athenians practice, the supposed birthplace of democracy, was it everyone could vote or was it that 'qualified' individuals took it in terms to serve? Alex was simply pointing out the reality of our situation and suggesting a way forward. Universal suffrage means many things. What you are suggesting that it means is that HK has full political independence. Unfortunately we have to live in the real world and not your dream world.
rpasea
I don't see how Beijing can ever allow democracy in Hong Kong without pressure to extend this to Guangzhou and even Shanghai. Hong Kong democracy advocates are headed for a major disappointment when it becomes clear that Beijing's intent is not consistent with the aspirations of the Hong Kong citizens. When the time comes, Beijing will either kick the can down the road or find a new definition of democracy that suits their purposes.
Regarding the other comment about Beijing leaving HK well enough alone, I feel just the opposite. The ministerial system was introduced to subordinate the civil service to Beijing's control. Instead of tenured senior civil servants, we now have appointed ministers who serve at Beijing's pleasure. This gives Beijing complete control over policy making and policy implementation. The "accountability" Tung Chee Wah alluded to was accountability to Beijing, not to the people of HK. It is so much easier for a minister who displeases Beijing to "resign" than it is to fire a senior civil servant, an act that would be an overt admission of meddling in Hong Kong'a affairs.
Camel
HK now, is enjoying more democracy and freedom than any other city in the Mainland. What is your point?
anson
The fact that universal suffrage is an issue at all is because it is in the Basic Law (Article 45). While the wording is open to interpretation (nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures), the intention is to move towards this. The current crop of democrats needs to stop its disruptive pranks and accept that if they were to work within an established and agreed system then we could more speedily obtain universal suffrage. The Central Gov't has in the main adhered to the Basic Law in allowing HK autonomy in many respects but I feel that our democrats would make any government fearful about effective government. The Basic Law was actually a real gift to HK from BJ. Many nations that we now look to as 'democratic' have similar systems that HK could have. In the UK for example there is a constitional monarchy. At the outset, many centuries ago, the monarch still wielded enormous political power in the selection of the Prime Minister (and in actual fact at that time in the UK only landowners were allowed to vote and hence likely supporters of the establishment/monarch) but has developed to the point where any interference would be frowned upon. Such a system whereby the elected leader of HK needs to seek the approval of the Central Gov't is not a sham and may actually work. But the democrats need to stop working against BJ and work with them for the good of HK and the whole of China.

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