Wed, Jan 03, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Hong Kong’s march for democracy

By Joseph Tse-Hei Lee 李榭熙

Last year was nightmarish for Hong Kongers, not just because they were disenfranchised in local elections, but also because several promising pro-democracy lawmakers and activists were persecuted as the territory’s first political prisoners.

Despite these setbacks, it was heartening to see that tens of thousands of courageous Hong Kongers braved the cold weather and demonstrated on New Year’s Day, demanding direct democracy and fighting against China’s corrosive effects on good governance.

As an integral part of the local political calendar, the pro-democracy march offered Hong Kongers a glimpse of hope that they might embrace the universal values of human rights, freedom and individual dignity.

It has been 20 years since the British handover of Hong Kong’s sovereignty to China, and nothing was done to liberalize the post-colonial political structure.

Instead, the territory has been misruled by Beijing’s handpicked agents and local corporate interests.

Since the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) obsession with absolute control is identical to corporate greed and excess, the Hong Kong government ignores popular grievances and serves the top 1 percent at the expense of the majority.

Perceiving any autonomous opposition as a challenge against Beijing’s dictatorial rule, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥) used the judiciary and police to incarcerate protesters speaking out against injustices.

Meanwhile, China ignored the fundamental reasons for simultaneous occupations of several downtown districts by the “Umbrella movement” activists in late 2014. The official rhetoric viewed the pro-democracy struggle through a Cold War lens, demonizing anyone critical of the constitutional arrangement of “one country, two systems.”

Much has yet to be done to energize and advance the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong. As pragmatic idealists, many post-Umbrella activists recognize that democracy is neither a matter of gambling Hong Kong’s political future nor that of having more directly-elected lawmakers in an unrepresentative government.

They consider democracy to be a means of empowering Hong Kongers in the public decisionmaking process. What they want is the democratization of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government. Any failure to acknowledge this demand and grant Hong Kongers the right to create a self-governing administration would betray China’s “one country, two systems” policy.

Nevertheless, the past two decades saw too many instances of harsh reality falling short of the democratic ideals underpinning Hong Kong’s Basic Law.

When Hong Kongers were deprived of the right to achieve democratic change from within, they organized themselves for collective resistance and appealed to the international community for help.

In 1997, China regarded Hong Kong as a gateway to the liberal world and said that it would experiment with a system of democratic governance for the Chinese nation.

However, China adheres to strict authoritarian principles and treats Hong Kong as a potential base for subversion against CCP rule.

A rising China that denies Hong Kongers what they desire is bound to trap itself in a perpetual cycle of discontent. The widespread frustration and despair over many years of impasse can only deepen the tension and conflict with China this year.

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