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CommentInsight & Opinion

Hong Kong people can't just wait around for democracy; they must act

Martin Lee says Hong Kong people now realise it's no use just expecting democracy to arrive one day soon. With universal suffrage being redefined, it's time for them to do something

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 May, 2013, 2:32am

My story begins with the appearance of the pro-democracy legislators on the balcony of the former Legislative Council building at midnight on June 30, 1997. We said something very simple: "We shall return." We knew we would be thrown out of the Legislative Council by what was called the Provisional Legislative Council. As it was a provisional council, members did not have to be elected.

Articles 45 and 68 of the Basic Law say that the ultimate aim is the election of the chief executive and all members of Legco by universal suffrage. The Law's annex effectively said that, by the 10th year, Hong Kong could - unfortunately, not must - have genuine democracy.

I was very angry that night, but we did return. I asked why we had to wait 10 years; are we not ready? Doubters should look at any nation or territory with democratic institutions to compare their conditions when they started out with those of Hong Kong in 1997. Hong Kong was more ready, so why should we have to wait?

But, as I look towards the future, I can't even tell you when we will have democracy. I don't think anyone in Hong Kong knows. Maybe the leaders in Beijing know. I believe they may have a date in mind.

One person, one vote, according to international standards, will come when leaders in Beijing are assured that Hong Kong people will elect whomever Beijing wants to be the chief executive and Hong Kong people vote for the pro-Beijing parties to form the majority in Legco. When they are assured that Hong Kong people are ready to elect their "puppets", they will let Hong Kong people have "genuine democracy".

That day may never come because Hong Kong people treasure their core values and the pillars that keep our systems going. The core values are obstacles to Beijing, as it wants to control Hong Kong just as they control the mainland. It wants to see the core values - press freedom, for example - go. Without press freedom, the government will have better support. People won't know the "funny things" the government has been doing.

Getting rid of the core values will be a problem. I have always said that unless we can export our rule of law to mainland China, they will export their corruption to Hong Kong. This is happening. There are allegations that our last ICAC commissioner used government money to fund his own dinners with friends from Beijing or provincial governments of China. The legislator who reported it to the Independent Commission Against Corruption should have reported it to the police.

What are we going to do? In the past, Hong Kong people, including me, had been happy to wait. Ten years after 1997 came and went. Nothing happened because Beijing was worried about July 1, 2003, when half a million took to the streets to protest against Article 23. If the bill had been passed in its original form, it would have impinged on our freedom of religion, of the press and of association.

In June that year, I received a letter from Condoleezza Rice, then the US national security adviser, who thanked me for bringing to her attention the debate in Hong Kong. The letter said the US government was against the passage of the law and called on the SAR government to establish democracy as soon as possible. A few days later, a press release from the White House contained word for word what was said to me in the letter.

A number of foreign governments followed suit, calling on the SAR government to introduce democracy. But it was the US government and not the British government, the contractual party of the Joint Declaration, that made the first move. Why should other governments get involved? In 1984, many governments supported the Joint Declaration as they saw the possibility that Hong Kong could function under the principle of "one country, two systems", and Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong with a high degree of autonomy. If these governments still support the Joint Declaration, can they really sit quietly and watch Beijing break its promise towards Hong Kong?

Ten years after 1997 have gone by, and now the promise of 2017 is being postponed again. Promises were not just made to the people of Hong Kong, but to the international community as well. If a government were allowed to break an international obligation in relation to Britain, one would be encouraging the same country to break other treaties.

I say to all governments who supported and still support "one country, two systems", they owe Hong Kong people a moral obligation to support Hong Kong's fight for democracy.

We are not asking for anything that has not been promised. We are not asking for new things. We are asking for promises to be kept. If the free world were to allow the Chinese government to break those promises, the Joint Declaration would become a litany of broken promises. And then it may become a big lie.

The people of Hong Kong now realise that the days of waiting for democracy to descend upon us are over. They must do something about it, otherwise that day will never come. Will it come in my lifetime? Why must I see democracy before I close my eyes and go to heaven? I want to make sure democracy will arrive.

In the short term, I am pessimistic as democracy is being redefined. One person, one vote may be allowed, but the nomination process will be controlled through a committee that will only nominate two or three "puppets" selected by Beijing. More than half of the population, who have voted for pro-democracy candidates [in the past], will be shut out. That is equal to disenfranchising the majority of the people of Hong Kong.

In the longer term, I am optimistic as the whole world is marching towards democracy and the rule of law. Even if China were to be the last to get there, it will still get there. I also hope that the international community will at least honour their moral obligation to Hong Kong.

Martin Lee is the founding chairman of the Democratic Party. This is an edited version of a speech he made at a luncheon organised by the Hong Kong Democratic Foundation on March 25

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This article is now closed to comments

SpeakFreely
"One person, one vote, according to international standards, will come when leaders in Beijing are assured that Hong Kong people will elect whomever Beijing wants to be the chief executive and Hong Kong people vote for the pro-Beijing parties to form the majority in Legco. When they are assured that Hong Kong people are ready to elect their "puppets", they will let Hong Kong people have "genuine democracy"." Days are counting as HK is relying more and more on China on its economy. On the contrary China relying less and less in attracting international investment or moving forward as being a superpower, why would China want to give democracy to HK? What is the pressing issue for China? If I'm China, I will wait for the end of 50 years and decide what to do.
the sun also rises
this Old Hong Kong thinks that many Hong Kong people think that instead of Martin Lee (our father of democracy here ),the old guy (so-called patriotic one)Ng Hon-man should be called a grovelling creep.Martin Lee went to the United States after the June 4th crackdown of democratic movement around Tinanmun Square to ask for a sanction of the brutal Chinese Communist government. What was wrong with his act ? He loved his compatriots and his country(as our National father,Dr.Sun Yet-sin did ) but not an autocratic brutal and corrupted ruling regime ! Without a democatic political system,how can Hongkongers live a good life ? Only when the chief executive is elected through'one man, one vote'then he/she has to be responsible towards his/her people ! Right ? You are trying to mislead the readers of this Comment column, shame on you and your mailicious words !
whymak
Were it not for the financial crisis, John McCain, who graduated bottom 6th out of 899 in his Naval Academy class, and Sarah Palin, who took 6 years and a tour through 7 no-name schools 野雞大學 to get a fluffy bachelor's degree, could have been a heart beat away from another 16 years of GOP presidency. King George the Moron, who initiated 2 foreign wars and presided over two recessions and destroyed 70 trillion dollars of global wealth, was elected by Americans for two 4-year terms.
Could lowly Hong Kong with a measly 7 million people afford this kind of stupidity?
So you think voters are free from brainwashing. Walter Lippmann remarkable insight of media manufactured consent is now a century old. Year after year, elections in the US and UK have validated his prophesy. The latest expose of UK politics featured Rupert Murdoch as the kingpin to whom Tories and Whigs pay homage. Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron all answer to his beck and call.
Of course, even real royals like Murdoch could lose their mandate when the tide turns. Then lapdogs like Blair and Cameron, the fresh elects, all of a sudden are turned into 3-minute heroes.
It is a pity dumb yellow people never see through this Democracy façade.
Democracy, Democracy on the wall, who is biggest fraud of them all?
captam
Martin Lee has been brained-washed by the West. He won't even examine or consider Western style (parliamentary or congressional) democracy's not inconsiderable failings. Witness the many basket case nations of Africa ( now free of the "tyranny" of colonization for nearly five decades) or look at ungovernable Europe, now with almost a full 40% of its youth unemployed, an imbalance just waiting explode.
And the ever-trumpeted 'Rule of Law' ? Excuse me? Why do Britain and USA still conspire to detain people they don't like, without trial or have them murdered by drone-dropped bombs. The USA still has it 'off shore' prison cells to avoid constitutional jurisdiction and Britain still detains prisoners without trial and, believe it or not, has three of these who, collectively, have been detained for a total of 42 years without ever having been tried and convicted of any crimes.
The pan-democrats here are not only delinquent in their political and economically destructive behavior, but are blind to reality.
Sugelanren
Captam,
Western democracy has its flaws but at least the people can change it. I have just one simple question for you - How many people emmigrated to China last year compared with UK or USA? If China system was so great, surely more people would want to go there?
pslhk
Thank you, mail delivery sub (2nd May 1:15pm)
-
I’m much impressed by your altruistic heuristics
offering your mother whom we all respect
to illustrate your amusing analogy
-
“democracy is democracy just like 'my mother is a woman'”
[democracy = democracy] : : [my mother = a woman]
Let’s overlook your embarrassing equation
[my mother = a woman] 有奶就是娘
-
[democracy = democracy] is tautologically axiomatic but empirically problematic
democracy in Alexis de Tocqueville’s America isn’t democracy in Barack Obama’s America
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Here lies the moral: Democracy is a variable and not a constant
-
Here I postulate a logically and empirically true statement:
Some people who speak and write English don’t know how to think
My personal opinion is, in HK we have a very significant number of those
whymak
In the kind of democracy craved by the moron you just mocked, he would be arrested for voter fraud. His illiterate fingerprints are all over the fake ballots cast here. In a court of law, this is way beyond prima facie.
BTW, I love your Chinese diction.
Do you think Benny Tai might give him a customized dunce cap for the 走狗大出洋相 gig in the upcoming Occupy Central?
the sun also rises
Martin Lee should be pessimistic in the short term of our democratic political development as in the upcoming election of our chief executive in 2017----so called a universal suffrage one but according to the plan of Beijing and disclosed by its local loyalists in recent months: the Nominating Committee might only choose two to three 'puppet candidates' controlled by Beijing to let Hongkong qualified voters to cast their votes on---------so-called,'one man,one vote':a universal suffrage in the eyes of Chinese Communist government ! What a farce it will be and how disappointing we Hongkongers will be ! the majority of the people just can not pick their leader in 2017 ! No wonder Martin is not so optimistic in the short term but we can fight and strive for a geniune universal suffrage according to our Basic Law and the UN's International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights article 25(b) which states that all people should enjoy the right to vote and to be voted in a universal suffrage or that universal suffrage is a faked one and our civil-disobedience movement,;Occupy Central' will definitely take place even facing the machine-guns of the stationed PLAs or their special squads !
the sun also rises
YEAH ! We Hong Kong can't wait for the democracy to come /bestow by the authorites in the North but must act as our respected and trusted experienced barrister,Martin Lee said.Let us act together ! Comrades ! Those that don't want to be slaves or slave-servants, act now and arise ! Tomorrow is in our hands and only we can determine our future through a geniune universal suffrage of our chief executive who will be accountable and responsible to his/her voters instead of now just being accountable to those who elected him ! Act now ! No more hesitation or even be misled by that malicious guy named, 'whymak'---a team(member) sent here to monitor our postings on the internet and mislead innocent readers. How evil-minded this nastiest guy(s) is !Shame on him/them !
the sun also rises
Bravo ! I highly appreciate the last paragraph of our 'Father of Democracy of Hong Kong', experienced barrister (in fact the No.1 on the list of experienced barristers in town),Mr.Martin Lee Chu-ming's ARTICLE here----------'in the longer term, I am optimistic as the whole world (except Cuba, N.Korea and Mainland China) is marching towards democracy and the rule of law (contrary to' ruled by law 'as on Mainland China). Even if China were to be the last to get there (probably it will be as it finally finds herself surrouned by the vast sea of democratic countries and become the lone orphan in the arena of the world) it will still get there as time passes by due to the 'Open Policy of Deng Xiao-ping and Economic Reform which bury the geniune communism in China which is now just a capitalist country of the powerful and rich, no more ideals of the communism at all ! As people's edcuational standard raises and more contacts with outside democratic countries,they will finally realize that democracy is a good thing though it has faults---to elect someone who is incapable or corrupted but he/she can be changed without bloody revolutions ! Right ?

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