Sunday, 2 November 2014

Hong Kong Chapter in Democracy

Democracy 2014 – Hong Kong Chapter
What Hong Kong Protests Taught Hong Kong, China and The World

Democracy is Not Easy.  It is learnt only through failures and errors.  The Lessons are perpetual with endless emergence of newer Lessons. The IDEAL Construct of Democracy is most seductive and desirable – Pluralism, Equality, Justice, Fairness, Universal Franchise, Accountable and Representative Government. Mankind has never achieved this to any significant degree, for even as the most ardent Disciples of Democracy had to engage and battle human failings and natural tendencies of selfishness, corruption, prejudice, greed, immorality, exploitation, distrust and apathy.

In Truth, the Hong Kong (HK) student protests have also reminded the World the Promises that Democracy had never made nor can Democracy ever deliver, at least not to the current specie of Mankind at our level of morality, alienation and lack of compassion for one another.   

After nearly 5 weeks of “pro”-Democracy sit-downs, disruptions and infringements of the natural “democratic” rights of other Hong Kongers, the protesting crowd simply fizzled and dissolved as it depleted itself of non-existent political sustenance, as well as the folding goodwill shelter of Democracy’s Umbrella.

To observers around the world, it became blatantly clear that however it had begun with whatever perceived “issues”, and in spite of increasing thousands of nightly cheering spectators and bystanders, the HK student protestors were UNABLE to establish a connection with the larger HK Community to develop a critical collective identity for sustainable political action to obtain the greatest good for the largest number.

In the end, the HK Students and their political and financial supporters were exposed to be just another noisy and mischievous rabble that were merely opinionated with deep prejudices but no convictions; and that while they had energetic determination, they did not possess any credible political will because they, albeit a tiny group, had only wanted for themselves instead of incorporating the greater good that the vast majority of other Hong Kongers may prefer.  Democracy is for the Whole and not just for a few persons in Society, no matter how vocal and destructive the few may demonstrate.  That’s why Democracy has become the better, yet imperfect, system when compared with others eg Feudalism, Autocracy, Monarchism, Communism, Elitism … etc.

Calling HK student protestors “pro-Democracy” was of course a deliberate ‘faux pas’ by the Western foreign press and by mostly Western journalists writing in the Asian and local newspapers. The protestors were in fact exercising their “democratic” right to peaceful protests, and were therefore already in a “democratic” political environment. It was disingenuous and superfluous to describe them further as “pro”-democracy.

Examined closely, the issues of the HK student protestors and political sponsors were NEVER about having or not having Democracy in HK.  HK today enjoys more democratic rights than she ever did under 103 years of British Colonial servitude. The parents and grandparents of the same HK student protestors were prohibited from mounting the same kind of protests which their children and grandchildren now openly go to without the fear of arbitrary arrests and imprisonment under British rule.

Consider – HOW Un-Democratic are the following issues?

1)  Democracy arrived in HK in 1997 when the British "… restored HK to China" and for China to "resume the exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong", so proclaimed by the 1984 Sino-British Declaration.
2)  Since HK belongs to China, the Duly-Elected CE by the HK People shall be Formally Appointed by the Chinese Central Committee in its exercise of Chinese sovereignty.  
3)  In 2017, Hong Kong people shall DIRECTLY elect their Chief Executive (CE) by universal suffrage method of "one-person, one-vote".
4)  Nowhere in any Documents from China or HK Government provided for China to “vet” HK Candidates for Chief Executive.  This “myth” is actually created and perpetuated by the largely Western, English Press.     
5)  Basic Law Article 45 stipulated ".. the selection of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures". The composition of CE Nomination Committee Members shall be selected or elected by their respective Functional Constituency in 2016. Again the largely Western, English Press had continually alluded without any evidence that this “yet-to-be-formed” Committee would be pro-Beijing. 
6)  Successful Candidates for CE Elections by universal franchise must be nominated by at least 50% of the Selection Committee votes, which in 2012 required just 12.5%. Democratic procedures commonly require a 50% acceptance threshold.
7)  China had “suggested” for “consultations and feedback” that a List of 2-3 Candidates shall be sufficient for HK Voters to choose. 

Why did the Hong Kong protests Fail? 
Because the Protestors had Acted out of Fear of the Unknown, instead of Having Faith and Trust in their follow Hong Kongers.
Issues of Identity and Citizenship

Too many speakers, news articles, politicians and so-called “pan-democracy” activists have speculated without facts to generate so much panic and uncertainties over the next Hong Kong CE to be elected by universal franchise in 2017.  Fears were planted and exaggerated.  Fears that the next HK CE will be pro-Bejing and anti-Hong Kong? Fears that a “good” Pro-Hong Kong candidate will not be allowed for the final ballot? Fears that HK Democracy (what this?) will die? Fears that the Nomination Selection Committee would be more pro-Beijing than pro-Hong Kong?  Fears, fears … and more fears feeding itself in a frenzy to drive out RATIONAL THINKING and TRUST towards the paranoia of the worst of bad scenarios.  

The Absence of a Collective Hong Kong Identity further explained the failure of HK student protestors to establish a connection through their protests with the vast majority of other Hong Kongers. They occupied, stood and sat ALONE on major public roads, property and space, becoming increasingly an unnecessary nuisance to fellow Hong Kongers who rightfully demanded the legitimate return of their shared “public space” so rudely expropriated weeks earlier by the students for purposes which were never articulated in the language and terms of the public good. 

No significant “common problems” were defined by the Protestors, let alone understood by other Hong Kongers especially businessmen, taxi-drivers, bus and truck drivers, shops owners, entertainers and prominent leaders whose patience worn out as their livelihoods became severely impacted by the “meaningless” blockades choking off vital supply chains and economic activities.

The Protestors’ insensitivity to the growing economic plight of their fellow Hong Kongers betrayed the fragile absence of the perequisite social norms of trust and reciprocity necessary to promote civic co-operation in a Democracy.  There were no shared bonds of affiliation and trust between the Protestors and other members of Hong Kong society.

It was evident that the Protestors (students, politicians and adults) were not aligned or in touch with the larger HK communityOne Key Student Leader actually claimed that his chief motivation was his anger at a New Mandated “Moral and National Education” Curriculum, introduced in 2012 but has been postponed to 2015, which he objected to be mostly about the Chinese Communist Rule in China since 1949.  Surely, this motivation could hardly “qualify” him to be hailed and crowned the “pan-democratic” leader of Hong Kong by several major Western newspapers and magazines.  

Never mind that the proposed “moral and national education,” was aimed at promoting a deeper sense of identification among local Hong Kong residents with mainland China.

Indeed, during the 17 years after the 1997 return of HK to Chinese sovereignty, many Hong Kongers have continued to feel alienated from their fellow mainland Chinese.  And there were very little attempts by HK political and community leaders to encourage and develop the vital social capital infrastructure of community networks that would be capable to build overlapping social networks and information exchanges needed to mobilise Hong Kongers to cooperate in collective action for mutual benefits.  

The essence of the “one country, two system” arrangement whereby HK “shall enjoy a high degree of autonomy except for foreign and defence affairs” requires Hong Kong’s investments into the social capital stock of trust relationships, collective norms and consultative networks that would entwined Hong Kongers in overlapping webs of obligations and responsibilities for common problem-solving

The failure over 17 years of opportunities to create a collective HK identity within a greater sense of Chinese citizenship is responsible for the “lost” emergent HK generations who grew up after the British departure to see themselves as neither Chinese-Chinese nor HK-Chinese. Their loss of identity and “citizenship” resulted in a fragmented HK society fractured largely by class, education and social immobility.  And as HK rolled out its deployment of universal franchise to advance into a more functional democracy in 2017 and 2020, the cultural and inter-generational clash of non-collective HK identity and non-existent Chinese citizenship would make it even harder for the development of critical active communities, which are the basic units and building blocks of a democratic society.       

Democracy is for the benefit of the majority exploited, weak and poor in society. The use of functional constituencies as proxies for democratic leadership selection was a non-brainer from the beginning when the British introduced it to HK in the dying days of its colonial rule to provide the Mirage of democracy as a cover-up for its century of undemocratic neglect in the Colony. It had bred corruption and narrow selfish corporate interests among HK elites and imbues in many a total disregard for the poorer segments of HK society.

HK CE personified this phenomenon by his remarks that “giving too much power to low-income voters would lead to populist government policies”.  The fact is that while the rich could leverage on their wealth and power to mediate for favourable solutions, the poor could only obtain fairness, justice and the equality of opportunities through the universal franchise rules of democracy.

Hong Kong politics is NOT about Beijing vs Democracy. Hong Kongers, not educated in democratic processes during 150 years under British colonial servitude, have to choose between its future as a prosperous Chinese city vs being an unstable anti-China bastion. Fear is birthed from ignorance, and driven by loud rhetoric not grounded in facts. Fear is frightening, no pun intended. Education can drive out fear.  

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