Fabulist Benny Tai lacks simple common sense

The Hong Kong government and mainland Chinese authorities have gone berserk over comments by the Occupy Central co-founder as to how the city could achieve independence. But his scenario is a fantasy that has no more plausibility than a story for a novella or a film script

PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 April, 2018, 2:29am
UPDATED : Monday, 02 April, 2018, 2:29am

Benny Tai Yiu-ting is a fabulist. Like any storyteller, he conjures up scenarios without much constraint from reality.

He may be a legal scholar, but he is curiously driven more by his Christian faith – with its beliefs in black and white, good and evil – than any plausible conclusions from the social sciences.

He has a certain idée fixe – call it genuine democracy, universal suffrage or what not – and every one of his tales leads to the same happy ending or perhaps heaven on Earth.

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For a long time, the University of Hong Kong lecturer and Occupy Central co-founder has professed not to support independence. Even after he spoke of how the city could achieve such a status at a political forum organised by a pro-independence group in Taiwan, he still claims he was merely talking about future scenarios, not about the present. Too bad the city’s government and mainland authorities have gone berserk over his remarks, giving him credibility he wouldn’t have earned on the strength and quality of his thoughts.

At the Taiwan forum, Tai imagines the collapse of the central government and the Chinese Communist Party; the whole nation’s conversion to democracy; ethnic groups across the country rushing to declare statehood. And “only then”, he says, will Hong Kong be in a position to consider independence.

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You can’t argue with him because you can’t argue with a fantasy that has no more plausibility than a story for a novella or a film script. Don’t get me wrong; it’s not that the consequences of the break-up he describes once the central authority collapses are unlikely. Indeed, they are very likely, but the consequences would not be at all peaceful. Somehow, he thought the Occupy protests would be peaceful, too, rather than tearing up the social fabric.

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In all likelihood, we would be looking at something like the collapse of the former Yugoslavia, or the bloodiest recent conflict you have never heard of – the deaths of millions in the war in Congo that spiralled into continental warfare in Africa over six years involving an alphabet soup of guerilla movements and tribal militias after the Rwandan genocide.

In such a Hobbesian state of nature, it would be irrelevant whether Hong Kong had democracy or independence. An idealistic simpleton, Tai has no sense of history, of human nature, or of tragedy. He lacks simple common sense.