• Wed
  • Aug 27, 2014
  • Updated: 9:08pm
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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This article is now closed to comments

jkhleung, don't be too harsh on him. As hard as he tried, it seems he never got passed his Primary 6 external exam.
the sun also rises
This 'whymak''s English level is below kindergarten level------a shame to all local Chinese and all Chinese in the world as well. Shame on you ---the nastiest guy in the whole world and in the solar system too ! Right ? Maybe you should consider going back to nursery school :) ha ! ha !
the sun also rises
kkhleung, your task or proper job is to write on something related to the topic/news title given above and never upon any irrelevant points such as the identity of a certain contributor/writer here ! Don't you know ? Do your proper job and don't waste the precious space here in this Comment column,please ! if you find yourself just can't write something constructive or logical and reasonable,please put down your pen/ put away your fingers from the keyboard ! Okay ?
@mailer-demon: That you should find it worthwhile to use different names to launch attacks against people with different views is beyond me. I'm not merely conjecturing. I have solid evidence to support my observation. Comments from names like"pflim040", "speak freely" and "the righteous" all come from the same person. When I was commenting on another article, I realized that somehow comments previously denoted as coming from one name suddenly changed to being denoted as coming from another name. SCMP's system failed you on that occasion! Besides, the similar writing style, rudeness, content and low English standard scream out loud and clear that it's been the same person all along!
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.
"if Beijing had remained a totalitarian state...."
China is not a totolitarian state? Then how do you describe it?
the sun also rises
it is not a totalitarian state but an autocractic one which carries characteristics of being ruled by the powerful and rich.Right ? One-party rule rejects any forms of democracy,not even a limited one within its territory such as our beloved Hong Kong--------that explains why our promised universal suffrage won't turn out to be a geniune one which conforms to the UN's International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights article 25(b) which states that people have the right to vote and to be voted in a universal suffrage with no discrimination at all. And in our Basic Law articles 25,26 and 39 all state that,' all people in the territory are equal before the law',' Hong Kong people have the right to vote and run for office in a universal suffrage'. Yet regrettably,our mother country is not a democratic one !
I was a Martin Lee supporter very briefly too when I was an idealistic young man! China has grown, and so have I. But Martin Lee and his ilk are so disappointed that they cannot make martyrs of themselves! Let's be realistic and take democracy one step at a time. As it is, it takes a big leap of faith to jump into universal suffrage when the standard of the populace is so low and that of the politicians even lower!!
How foolish!! Hong Kong representds everything the Mainland is said to require before political reform can take place. An educated population, with a higher level of income and properity. There is nowhere else to go but down. Hong Kong is at a plateau now and will only sink ito oblivion under China's authortation dominance.
the sun also rises
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 ?




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