• Thu
  • Jul 31, 2014
  • Updated: 4:31am
My Take
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 August, 2013, 2:31pm

Benny Tai is not evil, just misguided

Benny Tai Yiu-ting has been called many names. The latest by Robert Chow Yung of Silent Majority for Hong Kong, a sort of anti-Occupy Central group, is that his plan for civil disobedience is "evil". That's just silly. The problem is not that Tai is evil. He is perfectly sincere and is campaigning in good faith. That's precisely what makes his plan threatening, misguided and likely to spin out of control.

Over lunch early this summer, Tai told me someone called him "poisonous" and he agreed. Now the Chinese word for that has a slightly different connotation than English. It could mean someone who is cunning, with a hidden plan or agenda. Tai admitted to that. What he means is that his plan has forced people to choose sides and face their conscience.

To understand what Tai, a legal scholar, is trying to do, you have to look at his religion and his scholarship. Like Martin Luther King whom he admires and emulates, he is a committed Christian. It's no accident that he announced details of his Occupy Central plan in a church, with his pastor by his side.

He is also basing the other part of his campaign - to come up with a universal suffrage plan by mass participation during what he calls "deliberation day(s)" - on the work of US legal scholar Bruce Ackerman and James Fishkin, a social scientist. He is driven by his religious faith and is trying to force social and legal theory he reads about against the realities of Hong Kong. In fact, he described his campaign to me as a kind of social engineering experiment.

To Tai, his call to "occupy Central with love and hope" is probably being likened to King's march on the Lincoln Memorial in which he delivered his famous "I have a dream" speech. The problem is that racial segregation was a real system of injustice, a blot on the US Constitution. Every great struggle for freedom and democracy requires extraordinary oppression to fight against. We just don't have that narrative in Hong Kong, as hard as the pan-democrats have tried to create one. Our city has been and remains one of the world's richest, safest and freest, despite or because of its semi-democratic system.

Democracy is a means. The nitty gritty stuff such as the dispute over who and how many people should make up the election committee doesn't interest voters. Instead, Tai and other pan-dems should study how successful election campaigns are actually run in functioning democracies. They should inspire voters with how they plan to make Hong Kong a great place - in education, healthcare, clean air etc - to gain their support.


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This article is now closed to comments

The total absence in the use of logic really provides me belly splitting laughs. You must have learned liberal studies from Ms. Lam Wai-sze.
What does learning views of the silent majority have to do with elections? Here are facts about all elections:
1. Each candidate embodies a set of issues in the campaign platform. Many lie through their teeth about their beliefs of those issues.
2. An intelligent voter tries to elect a candidate based on issues of a political platform. But in my previous reply I explained why this is an absurd decision.
3. Voting or rejecting a candidate yields only one unit of information, i.e., logarithm of 2 to the base 2. It says nothing about the issues.
4. Many voters are like you, who will vote on resentment or hatred of China and HK governments and individuals. This yields zero information for the population going forward.
5. Measured volatility of public opinion shows why election at a given time is absurd. Your heart beats 100,000 times a day. Do you take only one measurement and conclude you have high blood pressure?
Only a regular scientific survey over a wide range of issues, not a populist election, reveals the silent majority’s satisfaction. Averaged over many issues, Beijing garnered 87% approval rating in Pew survey. Eat your heart out!
Response to survey must be mandatory. Surveys must be scientifically designed. In elections, voter participation is dismal.
Now go back and worship your God of Universal Suffrage.
Pew survey found US Congress has 12% approval ratings. The US has been running elections every 4 years for 236 years. The brilliant democratic ideas of the greatest republic in history, the US, are fast approaching criticality, i.e., out of power. Why?
Science of nonlinear system dynamics explains critical phenomenon in self organizing systems. Power law with a complex exponent (logarithmic periodicity and finite time singularity) can be used to describe symptoms of approaching "failures" in physical, biological, financial, and social systems. I know you don't have a clue because and you're still pestering me with a quote on democracy by a stone age white supremacist.
I know you find white men's rear ends smell better than yellow women's bosoms. We Chinese value harmony for conflict resolution over adversarial advocacy. I don't buy GENERAL elections for Chinese communities, which means no voting rights to yours truly.
K. Arrow's theorem showed why social choices - election results - are absurd based on a set of "democracy" axioms. Hence democracy is not rational. No vote to you because you're too dumb to know. No vote to me because I honestly can't sort out the mapping of different issues to different candidates and weigh them. Mandate must be based on scientific survey over election.
I have the humility to believe in reason, logic and science. You're petty by hounding me with questions framed around absolute truth of Democracy Cult.
@whymak: You seem to keep equating Democracy with Western rear kissing. Democracy is an idea, not a race. Although...it is for strong men. The countries where democracy fails is where weak men are abundant.
You understood not a single word I said. Never mind.
The Occupy Central movement is a heroic & necessary movement. China is in the same shoes today as it was during the Qing dynasty, when modernization was all but futile due to political & civil stagnation. We are blinded by dollar signs as were the people of the Qing, who believed that simply because they were the economic power of their time, they were on par with Western Powers (which they certainly were not, and which we certainly are not). This is not Chinese self hatred, on the contrary, this is Chinese self progress. Why are we Chinese so scared of Democracy? Because we're afraid of a little (yes, relatively little) chaos? Not all Democracies are great nations, but all great nations ARE Democracies.
Mr. Lo, since SCMP readers with 3-minute attention span have left the scene, I like to have my last words with you. I told reader pslhk we need a robust scenario analysis just in case Benny Tai succeeded in creating chaos. Here is why.
With PLA here to defend us against lawless and violent demonstrators, I think situations such as Egypt, Iraq and Thailand are low probability scenarios. Although we are financially strong, our politics, position, size and relation to China share many similarities with Greece in the EU.
I don’t think Benny Tai could pull it off. If he succeeded, what would happen next? A chain of events might lead to some nut from Civic Party or 社民連 elected CE in 2017. Worst, a coalition with pan democrats in Legco majority would embolden them to declare an unspoken war on Beijing government and HK institutions, which to them has always been a thorn on their side.
I dread an economic winter without recovery. I could see clearly the destruction of wealth that HKers have accumulated for over 3 decades from a Greek perspective. So I will tell you the Greek story first and let you ponder the consequences insofar as our wealth store is concerned. I will leave you to imagine economic and social hardships such as low wages and high unemployment...... (to be continued).
Greek GDP has declined to 76% of Year 2008 (projected into end of year). I have developed a simple formula so that anyone can use it to calculate the value loss of capital stock – plants, homes, etc., which is a proxy to a decline in store of value.
Let Y=GDP, D and g be the expected discount and growth rates respectively based on bounded rational expectations, and P the value of capital stock, P = Y/(D-g).

My guesstimate for 2008 and current values for D and g are (0.10, 0.065) and (0.45, 0.02) respectively. With current Y at 0.76 that in 2008, the ratio of values of capital stock between now and then is 0.19. The Greeks have lost 81% of their wealth! Expected values of D then and now are based on quick eyeball approximation from Greek 10-year bond time series.
To date, the 5-year stock market loss is 82%. Voila, like my easily impressed freshman physics students, I tentatively conclude that theory matches data.

Now any Hong Konger can use this formula to estimate the potential loss for his stock portfolio or his flat by using his own estimated inputs for Y, D and g. Given present chaotic situations stirred up by the hate China crowd, a robust estimate for potential wealth destruction must be communicated to HKers.
Scare tactics? I don’t think so. In decades of business scenario analyses, I had witnessed many improbable events come to past.
I condense for you this Churchill quote on Gandhi: “It is nauseating to see Mr. Gandhi, well-known in the East, now posing as a fakir, striding half naked up the steps of the Viceregal palace to parley on equal terms with the representative of the King.”
It reveals English democracy, imperialism, racism all in the same bag.
But quotations are less potent than using your own thoughts. Let’s focus on Tai’s supporters, a mixed bag of Churchill cult and Gandhi wisdom.
Without a definition on Democracy, doctrinaire folks defend it as the worst form of government except all the others. A reader pestered me repeatedly why I am afraid to give silent majority the vote. I will neither dignify mindless question with an answer nor allow imbeciles to dictate debate agenda.
Statement of facts will suffice.
Cultists frame all questions with the only “truths” they know from a single book or selected quotes. Anything beyond their intelligence elicits skepticism because God says something else. For some, governance mandate is reduced to a binary variable – presence of elections.
This is a clear and present danger to pluralistic societies, especially scientific ones where everything is falsifiable.
With no black-and-white answers to satisfy them, Democracy cultists have reached deep into their reserve – hatred. Demonizing China and Hong Kong is all they have.
For us, using failed democracies as examples could be shallow scenario analysis. Perhaps we could do better.
Dai Muff
What you were asked is why you pretend to care about the views of the silent majority when it suits you but then a few sentences later criticise the silent majority (only in Hong Kong and the PRC) as being too stupid to vote. And you still duck the question.
By the way, ad hominem argument, whether about Churchill or those debating with you is considered rather poor logical debate, even to Form 5 students. Argument from authority is pretty weak too.
And your line about demonising HK and China is getting tired. I have said elsewhere that I feel Tsang Yok-sing would be a better CE than many of the democrats. And if he were voted in he would have an unarguable public mandate. So your rather silly formulae do not work very well.
the sun also rises
agree with Alex Lo that our respectful Professor Tai Yiu-ting is both sincere in his peaceful civil-disobedience,'Occupy Central' Movement which is only the last resort to turn to when a geniune universal suffrage (according to the UN's International Covenent of Human Rights and Privileges) is not granted/allowed to us by Beijing in 2017 and he is never evil but is indeed campaigning in good faith.He is a true Christian indeed since he observes the spirit of Jesus Christ who sacrificed himself for his belief and ideal for the people-------never for self-interest of course ! If Professor Tai is not a scholar, how about the guy below named,'whymak' who used to severely oppose ' Occupy Central' ever since the Movement was raised ? I wonder.




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