• Thu
  • Dec 18, 2014
  • Updated: 1:21pm
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

You understood not a single word I said. Never mind.
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.
Isn't your quote a strawman? Read my comments to another reader above.
Churchill: “I do not agree that the dog in a manger has the final right to the manger even though he may have lain there for a very long time. I do not admit that right. I do not admit for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly wise race to put it that way, has come in and taken their place.” (To the Peel Commission 1937)
I fully understand some dislike "me" because of my comments
I've heard enough threats about beating me up
and suggestions that I should kill myself
But the facts remain as I've disclosed or reasoned
with or without me
Challenge my facts and reasons if you could.
pslhk: refer to my "comprehensive" response above.
Yes, reciprocating insults is both fun and intent.
"Mr. Tai is a good man if I were him I would punch Mr. Chow out of the stage"
" ... slit your wrists"
Physically weak and spiritually coward
they can't face the triads they carp about
expressing their imagined physical power in this discussion forum
Tantum religio potuit suadere malorum
such is the evil that can be brought about by religion
e.g., occupy supporters blatant prone to violence
vs occupiers' advertised peaceful demonstration
e.g., hypocrisy and lack of self-understanding
" I think the pan dem are mostly middle class not worrying about property" i mean poverty.




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