Referendums are democracy’s Achilles’ heel
Britain’s decision to leave the European Union has lessons for Hong Kong: beware what you wish for
If Nigel Farage had talked a casual lover into bed, I wonder if he would confess the next morning: sorry darling, it would be a mistake to think I love you.
The morning after the Brexit vote, the leader of the UK Independence Party admitted it would be “a mistake” for voters to think the Leave vote would put £350 million (HK$3.7 billion) into the national health system overnight.
Now he tells them.
The latest British adventure in referendums offers many lessons for Hong Kong people and mainland Chinese. Among these are – thank God – our Chinese constitution and the Basic Law do not allow the holding of referendums. Next time a pan-democrat or a Benny Tai Yiu-ting say they want to launch a mock plebiscite, you know what to say to them.
Democracy has many strengths; the practice of referendum is not one of them. By turning extremely complex questions into a yes or a no, it treats citizens like little children, yet grants them supreme power to make momentous decisions: chocolate or vanilla; coffee or tea; Leave or Remain.
Brexit is a vote against the European Union, which has come to symbolise everything that is wrong in the world of the Leave voters: the underfunded National Health Service and public universities; the widening wealth gap; lost jobs and stagnant wages; political elitism, its democratic deficit and the failure of its leaders.
Ironically, Brexit is one of those rare instances where even many experts and politicians admit it’s a leap into the dark: they don’t know what will happen next.
Then, there is the spectre of hordes of foreigners – those Poles and Turks – taking up British jobs and welfare while the rich ones drive up property prices.
Sound familiar? Instead of the EU, we have the mainland to blame for everything that has gone wrong in Hong Kong. Instead of foreigners, we have mainlanders to accuse of making life hell for us.
Funny enough, we have an independence party that wants Britain to retake Hong Kong. In case they haven’t heard, Scotland and Northern Ireland now want to break up the union to stay in the EU.
Hong Kong has no future outside of China. But our secessionists want us to become an island state or join that other fortress island, soon to be Little England.