Taiwan and Hong Kong have been boiling over with pro-democratic activity lately, prompting attacks from Chinese officials and media outlets. However, since they possess neither a concept of democracy, nor democratic experience, these Chinese critics are shooting themselves in the foot by disparaging both places’ democratic movements.
In response to Hong Kong’s Occupy Central movement and its online “referendum” on “true universal suffrage,” Chinese newspaper the Global Times, which is run by the Chinese Communist Party paper the People’s Daily, has published a series of strongly worded pieces attacking the vote initiated by the Hong Kong movement, saying that the territory’s pan-democracy camp holds a superstitious belief in protests. It has also tried to belittle the movement by saying that even if many Hong Kongers vote in the “illegal referendum,” they will never equal or outnumber China’s 1.3 billion citizens.
The Global Times has gone too far in its criticism of Hong Kong affairs. Even Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying (梁振英), who normally follows China in everything, has spoken against the paper’s statement regarding the number of participants in the online poll, saying that no one should place Hong Kongers in opposition to Chinese.
Leung said that many of his Hong Kong friends wished that Chinese officials and media outlets would not criticize or comment on the territory’s affairs, adding that he has heard many Chinese officials express the same sentiment in wishing that Hong Kongers would not criticize or comment on China’s affairs.
With these comments, Leung expressed hope that Beijing will let the people of Hong Kong run their territory and that the two sides would not overstep each other’s boundaries by publicly telling the other how to handle its affairs. China can of course ignore Leung and continue to criticize and interfere with Hong Kong’s affairs, but that could cause anti-Chinese sentiment in the territory to rise further. Given Leung’s position, that tact would not be conducive to helping China promote stable development in Hong Kong.
Lately, China has been fond of talking about democratic majorities when trying to suppress democratic dialogue in Taiwan and Hong Kong. Earlier this month, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office spokesperson Fan Liqing (范麗青) said Taiwan’s future “must be decided by all Chinese people, including [our] Taiwanese compatriots,” denying that it should be decided by the 23 million Taiwanese. That also created a strong backlash.
These statements are off-the-cuff remarks that do not stand up to scrutiny. China understands neither Taiwan’s nor Hong Kong’s democratic values, nor their respective peoples, which is why it resorts to talking of the 1.3 billion Chinese at every turn. However, the more threats Beijing makes, the faster Taiwan and Hong Kong run in the opposite direction.
China has no democracy and if its citizens were able to elect their representatives, leaders and presidents in elections where every person has a vote, that would mean that China’s political system has transformed from a communist dictatorship to a democracy. If this were to happen, a democratic Taiwan, Hong Kong and China would have shared values and a shared decisionmaking system, and perhaps then it would be possible for them to jointly discuss the future.