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  • Sep 17, 2014
  • Updated: 5:12pm
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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the sun also rises
Of course we are fully ready for our long-pursuited democracy ! Certainly it is Beijing which is not ready and will never get ready ! On this, everyone can agree, even if we can't all say it loud (especially those who are hired by the Chinese-capital companies and leftist organisations plus those blind-loyalists/ slave-servants in town !) You can't expect Beijing to behave like a democracy---of course not, it is never a democracy ! If Mr.Scrooge (the miser in Dickens' novel:A Christmas Carol) was willing to donate a significant sum to charity---that is, offering conditional suffrage to Hong Kong---we have to admit this is a real start, not just window-dressing !
the sun also rises
of course, now we are fully ready, though some evil-minded guys here in this Comment column fiercely attacking our road towards a demcoratic Hong Kong where people can choose their leader and all lawmakers in the upcoming years.Only when the leader of a place or country is elected by her people,will he/she be accoutable/responsible to his/her people and those who vote him/her in can also vote him/her out once he/she is found to be corrupted or incapable.Right ? Democracy is a good thing and is considered the best existing political system in our world---the 21st century world where most countries practise democratic political system.The recent ones are Egypt, Libya,Iraq,Afghanistan and Mynamar (former Burma).Even Vietnam is now developing into a more democratic government.The autocratic countries which remain are:Cuba,N.Korea and Mainland China only ! But their days will be numbered while being surrounded by numerous democratic countries ! Just wait and see !
the sun also rises
' an illerate writer enthuses here' ? I wonder if there is really an illterate writer as you addresses him to be---how can he dare to write here in this local English language newspaper since he is so illerate ? Your words and rude description of another writer here should be condemned by all other writers and readers with sense and righteousness in town ! 'More and more countries go democratic' can be written by one who hasn't even a primary 6 level ? I wonder.This 'whymak' claimed once taught briefly (at a kindergarten maybe ?) and now he even claimed to be/had been a scientist (politcal scientist at Beijing University ?---a joke !) Your level in politics especially those related to Mainland China is really poor and distorted indeed ! Go and learn world politics attentively for five more years maybe helpful to you, I think.Taiwan,Iraq,Afghanistan and Mynamar (Burma) have all gone democratic in the past two decades ! Do you know, you geniune moron in democracy !
An illiterate writer enthuses here, "more and more countries go democratic."
If everyone has HIV and tuberculosis, I wonder if he wants to have the same.
A moment's reflection distresses me no end. A moron's logic may be unfathomable. Yet guesstimating from writers' opinions in SCMP Op-eds as well as those of their most vocal readers, I find Democracy is still the ideology/religion of choice after discounting for the fraudulent "votes" from one single imbecile.
Unlike Hong Kong's ivory tower's pseudo intellectual airheads, I respect Mr. Lo's pragmatic intellectualism. (No one has yet told me this term is an oxymoron.) Naturally, I am curious why he sometimes seems to concede in this column, not exactly inconspicuously I must say, to the ungrounded hypothesis which implies Democracy is the End of History.
As teacher and scientist in my brief early career, I reject the superstition in the universal suffrage dogma, along with other myths about God of Abraham as no more than mankind's eternal mirage, a human condition that occasionally wreaks havoc on the progress of human civilization.
Perhaps as Mr. Lo unfolds his reasoned political philosophy piecewise in this daily column, we could hear his erudite arguments why troglodytes and eschatological fundamentalists still have useful roles in the 21st Century.
the sun also rises
The most illerate 'writer' here in this Comment forum is nobody but this so-called' whymak'---a group's name indeed who can write nothing logical or convincing but instead keeping on attacking maliciously at a certain writer here personally.How evil-minded you are---the shame of all intellects in the Chinese society and a shame of your ancestors who have such descendants----hired so-called 'writers' here to attack other democracy supporters ! Shame on you and your evil words ! 'Shameful 'and 'shameless' are the two most appropriate words to describe you and your group----'-redchinagroup' ? Right ?
the sun also rises
Alex Lo has to shed his tears not for the change of Martin Lee (not becoming a martyr for the democracy in the territory) but for himself-----changing from an idealistic journalist in 1997 to a 'practical' experienced reporter-****-columnist who has to be cautious on what he writes for fear of breaking his rice-bowl in SCMP which can never angers the giant in the North ! Right ?
A reader says: "An educated population, with a higher level of income and properity."
Does the word education cover the semi-literates commenting on Mr. Lo's column?
Where did our high income and prosperity come from in the first place? Early immigrant arrivals from the mainland built Hong Kong light manufacturing and textile industry. Before that, the be-all-end-all aspirations of an average Hong Konger consisted no more than civil service jobs, and for those more capable, a solicitor or physician. Later, these entrepreneurs leveraged mainland's cheap labor into Hong Kong capital formation.
How ironic? In less than three decades, we have turned our welcome into contempt.
Still same people, same language and same culture.
We ought to have our heads examined. Democracy and communism are just convenient terms for dim wits and morons who don't know how to frame relevant issues in this political economy.
Rabble rousers full of themselves are taking advantage of Hong Kongers' stupidity to propel themselves into power.
True, our subculture is not Chinese mainstream. True too, we started out from a different set of conditions. As a result, our separate evolutionary courses must be different. Any prediction of convergence for our two systems at this time is premature.
But realization of brotherly differences is a far cry from the deep hatred of China expressed in SCMP by self-hate Chinese.
The reader I quoted almost qualifies.
the sun also rises
several weeks ago, our frequent contributor here:pflim040 has kindly advised you to go home and brush up your so-called English before coming back here to attack the pan-democrats in town and their supporters.Yet regrettably you haven't taken his nice advice,your English is still below average and your message is far from understandable,not to say your concept of democracy and communism.As most people know,communism is just a type of authoritrarian rule only.Kuomintang (from 1927-1987) is an authoritrarian rule by Chiang's father and son but not communist rule at all .So did the rule of Macrcos in the Phillippines in last century:capitalism but authoritrarian rule ! You are definitely a moron yourself, I dare say !
@"mail delivery sub..": Your frequent personal attacks on people who hold different views are unwarranted. Your English is obviously no better than "whymak" and yet you've repeatedly abused him using different pen names. You're frankly doing the democratic cause a disservice. It's this kind of behaviour and mentality that turned me off from the Democrats many years ago! I will not even shed a crocodile tear for you and Martin Lee if you should be stupid enough to join the Occupy Central movement next July and get arrested.
the sun also rises
I am sorry to say,jkhleung, your so-called English is not better than your team member, a so-called 'whymak' whose English is really below average---according to international and Hong Kong standards as well. As all know,English,like other languages, is a tool to communicate and express oneself.If one can never/hardly express himself or herself clearly and properly ,then his/her standard of the language is below the average ! Right ? Both of you two should go home( across the border at Lowu maybe ?) to brush up your English before coming back to monitor our websites and attack our pan-democratic camp supporters !
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 ?
ML is living history of an epic
climaxed at the Legco Farewell assembly
which retrospectively looks like an end-of-the-world party
an embarrassment that refuses to exeunt
despite changed stage sets
the sun also rises
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...
the sun also rises
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 ?
the sun also rises
Democracy is always a good thing and a democratic politcal system is by far the best politcal system in the world. That explains why most countries in the world are democratic ones though some are found to be corrupted or poorly-run such as the Philippines, Italy, Taiwan (the Republic of China and ...) Now, more and more countries go democratic.A recent example is Mynamar (the former Burma which was ruled by an autocratic military regime). Even our late paramount leader,Deng Xiao-ping once explained why he didn't launch a democratic reform and practise democratic system in his time was that our compatriots/countrymen's educational standard was still not high enough to distinguish the candidates competing for government posts.He once claimed that might be after 50 years ( from eighties in the last century),Mainland China can have democracy since at that time, most Chinese are rich and learned enough to choose their leaders in every level of the government ,maybe.If democracy is not a good thing, may I ask why the Beijing authorities promised we Hong Kong people to let us have universal suffrages in 2017 of our chief executive and 2020 of our lawmakers ? Right ?
"more and more countries go democratic." If everyone has HIV and tuberculosis, do you want to have the same? Moron's logic is truly unfathomable.
the sun also rises
the moron that you mention might probably be you and nobody but you (or your team) only.your so-called writing or 'words' here have never been found to be logical or reasonable and ,i'm sorry to say, not convincing enough ! Shame on you and your teachers in the past years-----who have taught you well to express yourself in a porper way and logcially plus reasonably ! I pity you !
the sun also rises
of course,more and more countries go democratic so will Hong Kong in 2017 when we can elect our chief executive through a universal suffrage promised by Beijing and our lawmakers in 2020 through another universal suffrage. In Taiwan, President Lee Teng-fei was elected through a universal suffrage there and so did Mr.Chen Shui-bien in 2000 and 2004, not to say President Ma Ying-jeou in 2008 and 2012 ---though they were called leaders of Taiwan (actually Republic of China ever since 1912 !).Mynamar (former Burma) went democratc in the past years as well. And Libya,Egypt,Iraq and Afghanistan all went democratic after their dictators fell or killed ! Right ? Your knowledge of world affairs are just too poor or just ignore the changes in the world around you ?!
"A recent example is Mynamar (the former Burma which was ruled by an autocratic military regime)"

Mynamar's elections started off as "guided" elections, and the military ensured that its candidates won majority seats. The last by-election was far more democratic. It is possible that Mynamar's next election will be even more democratic and will allow the opposition to form a government. We shall see, but political reform there is still ongoing just as it's ongoing in Hong Kong.

Personally I don't think you would have approved how Mynamar handled its first election considering how idealistic you are.
the sun also rises
Anyway,the political trend of our world is on the road towards democratic government, though Mynamar's might be a primitive one and not ideal enough, but it is still a good beginning.Nothing can be perfect in its primitive stage.For example,the first airplane was considered simple and not fast enough and could fly for just a few minutes only ! Right ? A good beginning is the half of success to follow. Just wait and see how Mynamar will develop in its politcal system in the future.I myself am optimistic !
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.
Thank Heavens a refreshingly sane voice. And someone who can write too!
the sun also rises
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 !
the sun also rises
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 ?
John Adams
I agree with you Alex. Whatever criticisms are leveled at BJ since 1997, BJ has been generous to HK
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.
Kind of ironic, no? Singaporeans vested in media and journalism. But then again, it makes sense as they do it to protect and promote the ones that control the guns, courts and money...hence their own fortune. Lapdogs...
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.
where is big mouth martin looooser on the striking workers issue
oic he is charge or meaningless platitudes, leave the dirty work to elsie tu
the sun also rises
you should ask where is our Exco.member and the chairman of the Federation of Trade Unions---the most patriotic organisation in this city ever since the forties of last century---Cheng Yiu-tong and those lawmakers of that union such as Ms Chan Yuen-han ? What have they done to help those dockers on strike up till now ? Nothing at all ! How can we imagine the leaders of a so-called patriotic trade union didn't lend their hands to striking dockers at all ! Besides,it is found that there are two senior members of the FTU work as senior or middle level staff in the HIT which hire the contractors and subcontrators who employ these striking dockers ! How absurd and shameful it is !!
It’s fast backtracked in catching a moment of relief with tears. The rest is concisely and rationally living in the present. Time waits no one. Let’s see what comes tomorrow.


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