• Thu
  • Dec 25, 2014
  • Updated: 11:05am
My Take
PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 03 May, 2013, 3:52am

History has left Martin Lee behind

I still remember midnight June 30, 1997. I was one of dozens of journalists waiting outside the old Legislative Council building when Martin Lee Chu-ming, the late Szeto Wah and their Democratic Party comrades raised their fists and vowed "We shall return". I had tears in my eyes then. These were men who were ready to go to jail and face torture for democracy. South Africa had Nelson Mandela. Former Czechoslovakia had Vaclav Havel. Poland had Lech Walesa. Hong Kong, I thought, had Martin Lee.

This week, I read his commentary on democracy in this newspaper. I shed no tears; just kept rolling my eyes. Lee would have joined those great dissident leaders if Beijing had remained a totalitarian state. Alas, its behaviour has been benign and tolerant, at least towards Hong Kong. That rather spoils Lee's chance at martyrdom. Long on emotion but short on analysis, his piece would have done just fine for his fans. It is full of his old ideals, untainted by developments in Hong Kong and on the mainland since the handover.

He was angry, he writes, for being "thrown out of the Legislative Council" in 1997. Well, Beijing imposed the Provisional Legislative Council and overturned the "through train" for Legco because, with reason, it considered Chris Patten's unilateral political reform a breach of the deal it struck with the previous Thatcher government. Lee writes: "[Our] core values are obstacles to Beijing, as it wants to control Hong Kong just as they control the mainland." This was what everyone assumed in 1997. The past 15 years rather prove Beijing has honoured "one country, two systems" to an extent unanticipated by most so-called old China hands. Beijing may not be Lee's cup of tea, but it is a legitimate government.

On democracy, Lee writes: "I asked … are we not ready?" Of course we are ready. It's Beijing that is not ready. On this, everyone can agree, even if we can't all say it out loud. You can't expect Beijing to behave like a democracy when it is not one. But if Ebenezer Scrooge was willing to donate a significant sum to charity - that is, offering conditional suffrage to Hong Kong - you have to admit this is a real start, not window-dressing. And you negotiate from there, in good faith, not by vilifying Beijing at every opportunity.


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While China today isn't 20th Century South Africa and Martin Lee is not Nelson Mandela, there is nothing wrong with Martin's opinion unlike Alex Lo's disingenuous opinion piece. Anyone who thinks that we can negotiate Hong Kong democracy with China is seriously deranged. China's negotiation stance with the Senkaku Islands is to begin by refusing to negotiate unless everyone agrees that the Senkakus belong to China. No one was killed on June 4, 1989 in Tiananmen and anyone who says different is persona non grata. It is ludicrous to propose that China is open to any opinion different from that of the CCP leadership.
This is not a regime that will countenance anything but "Democracy with Chinese Characteristics". What they mean by this is that they will NEVER risk having a Hong Kong C.E. who might gainsay them The best that we will ever have is what we have now, a pre-selected C.E. approved by the CCP. With either more or less procedural window-dressing to make us feel like we had a fair shake at democracy. The only eyes that are rolling, Alex, is anyone who has had the misfortune to have read your frog-in-boiling-water compliments to the Communist Party of China. What's gotten in to you over the last half year? Is your first-born being held hostage by the CCP?
the scmp is owned by the kuok's of singapore. they have substantial interests in china in the form of kerry properties. shangrila hotel, and wilmar. they have installed a prc editor. alex sees the writing on the wall. so you are correct, in effect, his first born is held hostage by the CCP.
hard times !
of course Beijing can't behave like a democracy and so we just can't expect an autocratic ruling regime---the Chinese Communist Party to give up one-party rule (as the Kuomintang on Mainland during 1927-49 and later in Taiwan,1950-1987) which means that its power will be reduced and as power ebbs,so do all the other privileges: family wealth, beauties,friends and relationship plus..No way ! Asking an autocratic government for democracy is just like the Chinese saying:asking for fish from a piece of log ! Totally impossible.So the promised universal suffrages to Hongkongers in 2017 and 2020 can never be geniune ones and our civil-disobedience movement'Occupy Central' is destined to take place so do our martyrs who are willing to be put in jails for their ideals of a democratic Hong Kong. Right ?
A Hong Konger
I was in the crowd below when the democrats stood on the balcony and made their speech. These people were ready to face torture for us, fortunately for us, and to the dismay of Alex Lo, this did not take place. China has, quite wisely, controlled events in HK from behind the scenes.
Lo forgets two things. First, there would be little in the way of democratic reform had it not been for brave people like Martin Lee and his fellow democrats (or Chris Patten for that matter - and, no, LEGCO passed his highly popular reform bill in 92, hence it was not 'unilateral'). Second, we would not be permitted any freedom had we not fought for it. Our meagre freedoms exist due to the peoples protests, our vigilance against Beijing's encroachment and hard work of our politicians. Our freedoms were no gift from China, quite the opposite. The structure is clear: Beijing, as a matter of realism, must acquiesce to us as needed to maintain control over HK or risk revolt. But their control is at our pleasure. This society; the HK nation (not state), that we have built, is ours. It is up to use to decide how it is run and who has sovereignty over it, but to keep that right we must show, as a society, we are like the democrats were on that day in 97; ready to go to jail and face torture for democracy & HK. Beijing is many things, but the CCP does not suffer cowards, it is to brave men and women like Martin Lee that we owe our way of life, and we must always be like them if we wish to keep it.
hard times !
Why should Martin Lee and late Szeto Wah made martyrs of themselves ? May I ask ? They quitted the prestigeous posts of Basic Law Committee just after the June 4th military crackdown in Beijing in 1989 ! Soon Martin set up the Democratic Party which disappointed its long-time supporter such as this Old Hong Kong when three of her heavyweights made deals with devils (entering the Liaison Office where corrupted officials work here in Hong Kong ) like Dr.Faust made an agreement with Satan and finally had himself torn into pieces ! Martin pledged that he might become the first experienced barrister to be arrested for blocking roads in July 2014 in the 'Occupy Central' civil-disobedience movement ! Is it a type of martyrism ? In Hong Kong's term, it is ! We never demand people to die for democracy or even stage a revolution against the autocratic ruling regime but fighting vigorously for democracy has already deserved our deepest respect and applause ! You might be too old to hold any ideals (not even the ideal communism, I dare say!) Why not enjoy Moi Tai with disgraced Timothy Tong Hin-ming by inviting him privately for a drink/taste of the delicious national wine ?
hard times !
but after just a year, all the pan-democratic camp lawmakers returned to the Legco through a direct election ! Martin Lee and his fellow democracy fighters have since then ( 1998) fought for the development of our democratic political system and finally we Hongkongers are promised universal suffrages in 2017 and 2020.Wishing that they would be geniune ones or...
There is a blind belief that democracy is superior to alternatives. A very restrictive Singapore is perfectly competent and effective and much admired worldwide. Not for our absolutist leaders.
In the last 60 years our frontline democratic agitators were brought up, educated, got jobs and are where they are now - products of colonial rule without democracy and 16 years of lives of luxury under the communist Big Brother. Did they suffer ? If they were poor they were too busy making ends meet to have the luxury of ideals.They are only here because even without democracy they had every opportunity to fulfill their ability. Ironic?
Ill call your bluff. Who says we don't enjoy all the freedoms we need today? We have absolute freedom within the law to speak, write, protest and think. What can one man one vote add to that?
I refuse to be brow-beaten by the endless hectoring, posturing and street mobs to get media headlines to legitimize the disruptive behavior of politicians and justify their fat salary. It is intimidation to get support by saying 'It is so important it deserves a street demonstration.'
They are being paid to help govern not jaw and obstruct and disrupt. Due to their incessant incitement of unrest and dissent on almost any and every issue, Hong Kong is in a constant state of unrest, turmoil, unhappiness and seething discontent.
If this is democracy, stop it a thousand times. I long for reason, peace in the media and on the street and my life.
hard times !
This Old Hong Kong suggests you move to Shenzhen to lead a peaceful and quiet life as there are no demonstrations (except those anti-Japan protests allowed by the authorities a few months ago) nor any marches or even criticisms of the government in the media as there are no freedoms of expression or speech or journalism and there is censorship on the internet too so you can have a quiet envrironment while surfing your internet too.Of course, you can't expect such a free forum as here in this Comment of SCMP ! No way at all ! See you in Shenzhen,a prosperous and bustling city as days go by !
hard times !
Alex Lo, please don't be so harsh upon our respected old democracy fighter,Mr.Martin Lee who withdrew from the Basic Law Drafting Committee together with late Szeto Wah after the June 4th crackdown in 1989 (while Tam Wai-chu remained ) and founded the Democractic Party which has fought for our universal suffrages for over 20 years ! Now he maybe getting old and will sometimes be not so alert that he had presented that proposal concerning the upcoming universal suffrage of our chielf executive in 2017 which he had to withdraw soon after its disclosure (though applauded by pro-establishment element, DAB's Tam Yiu-chung !) and apologized publicly for his big error made.Anyway,he pledged willing to be put in jail for taking part in the civil-disobedience movement,'Occupy Central'.Just wait and see how he will end up in July 2014 ! Empty talks never count ! Right ?
The Basic Law is very clear on what was negotiated already. That was the very same deal 'Beijing' (aka the CCP) you refer to made with the Thatcher government. It is a deal promising universal suffrage by 2017. Not conditional suffrage. And no, we don't start renegotiating now.

And that was 1984 or 1990, depending on whether you want to count from the signing of the Sino-British declaration, or the adoption of the Basic Law by the NPC. Therefore, the CCP has had some 23-29 years to wrap their communist minds around this idea and get ready. They have another 4 years left even now. If they are not ready after 27~33 years of preparation for something they signed up for themselves in the 1980s, then that is their problem, not ours.




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