Among the confusion which reigns in Hong Kong, it is time to take an objective, macro view to remind our fair citizens about the particular situation of Hong Kong.
1. Hong Kong is still the most vibrant, free, tolerant, multiracial, multicultural community in Asia. With an independent judiciary, the rule of law, a free press, freedom of expression and of religion, it is an example that many could do well to emulate. In fact Hong Kong enjoys the full advantages of a democratic society, even if its political system is not fully mature. How could it be? Hong Kong started on that road 15 years ago, The Greeks first experimented with the democratic idea 2500 years ago and the “young” American democracy is over 260 years old.
2. Democracy is a form of government in which all eligible citizens are meant to participate equally either directly (such as through a referendum) or more often indirectly through elected representatives in the proposal, development or establishment of the laws by which they are governed. There are many forms of democratic government suited to the particular circumstances in which a particular society found itself in, but from most ancient times, legal equality, freedom and the rule of law have been identified as important characteristics of a democratic system. These three characteristics are present in Hong Kong.
The electoral system is only a way to structure the participation of the citizens to the political process. To say that without a direct election of the head of state or of government, there can be no democracy is simply untrue. Most of the European countries which have no lesson in democracy to receive from anybody do not have a directly elected head of state or government. In fact very few democratic countries have a directly elected head of state or government.
Democracy is about checks and balances between the executive and legislative branches of government and not about the direct or not direct election of the head of the executive branch.
This is where some the Hong Kong people have been badly let down by certain ‘leaders’ into believing that there can be no real democracy without an unrestricted direct election of the Chief Executive.
3. Hong Kong is not an independent country. It is a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. It has a mini-constitution (the Basic Law) and many attributes of a democratic system with an independent judiciary and well separated legislative and executive branches of government. The head of government, the Chief Executive has a dual role: he is the head of the Executive but he also embodies some of the attributes of national sovereignty vested in him by the National People Congress of the People’s Republic of China. To say that China has no right to have a say about the process of selection of the Chief Executive is to deny the right of China to exercise its sovereignty over Hong Kong. This is plainly absurd and, naturally unacceptable for China.
If Hong Kong democratic freedoms had been at risk two weeks ago, we would have known it. The Occupy Central movement is not peaceful though it may be “not violent”. It aims to bring Hong Kong to a standstill by stopping communication routes (in this case, roads). What would be the reaction of the US or British governments if New York or London Were similarly slowed for more than a week? The reaction would not be so restrained. The behaviour of the authorities in both Hong Kong and Beijing have been so far very restrained by international standards. Given our rule of law, it would continue to be so.
4. The discussion about the electoral reform must be conducted calmly in a proper setting and certainly not in the streets. This process will take time, patience and statesmanship. The protesting students have made their views known the world over. Now come the real test. Are they mature enough to call off peacefully their protest? Human rights should be exercised with consideration to the rights of others. A French union leader of old once said: “it is easy to start a strike, it is very difficult to be wise enough to know when to stop it”. Let’s see if the students leaders meet the test.
If they do not, the vast majority of the people of Hong Kong will equate democracy with anarchy. We should not let that happen. We have to stop the polarization of our fair city and we should all participate in the rebuilding of the faith in the future of Hong Kong, an integral part of the People’s Republic of China.
With best wishes