“I have been too comfortable”

Hong Kong tries hard for democracy but China will not stand for it. Imposing democracy from top is a difficult exercise (as seen in India), it will take decades for the masses to catch on (if at all).

Still an imperfect democracy is better for people like us (we like to talk freely, we would like to talk even more freely but democracy constrains us), others may prefer the higher growth standards of autocracies (based on anecdotes it appears that the Indian middle and elite class – like Robert Young quoted below- heavily favor autocracies where the rights of the poor people will be even more curtailed than it already is).

As he lay on the tarmac of a central Hong Kong
street, gazing up at the skyscrapers, Chan Kin-man came to a
realisation. “I have been living a very comfortable life – up in an
office, writing articles, encouraging people to negotiate. Suddenly, I
have to prepare myself to go to jail. “It was a very striking
moment for me,” said the 55-year-old academic later. “I have been too
And at some point, Hong Kong people have to sacrifice
something to make people believe we are serious about democracy.” His
epiphany came during a test run for Occupy Central, a pro-reform civil
disobedience campaign that wants to see thousands take over Hong Kong’s
financial district – much to Beijing’s alarm.

On Thursday, one of China‘s
top leaders reportedly said that importing a western-style democratic
system to the region could prove catastrophic.
Zhang Dejiang, who heads
the leading group on Hong Kong affairs, said that copying a foreign
electoral system could “become a democracy trap … and possibly bring a
disastrous result”, Ma Fung-kwok, a delegate at Thursday’s closed-door
meeting, told Reuters.

showed little interest in developing democracy in Hong Kong until the
1997 handover to China loomed. Then, under the “one country, two
systems” framework, it negotiated greater freedoms for the region and a
commitment to eventual universal suffrage.

Authorities agree votes for all should be adopted when the region has a new chief executive in 2017, but want to ensue there are no unwelcome candidates. “It
is obvious that the chief executive has to be a person who loves the
country, loves Hong Kong and doesn’t oppose the central government,” the
region’s chief secretary for administration, Carrie Lam, has said.

complain that nominations will be channelled through a committee packed
with Beijing loyalists, and want the public to gain the right to put
candidates forward too. Unless Beijing shifts by the end of the
year, Occupy’s organisers say they will risk their careers and freedom
to press for change.

Chan and his co-founders – Benny Tai, another
academic, and Baptist minister Chu Yiu-ming – hardly appear rabble
rousers. Chan peppers conversation with references to the sociologist
Jürgen Habermas. The full name of the movement is the hippy-ish Occupy
Central with Love and Peace. Non-violent civil disobedience – modelled
on the activism of Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi – would be the
last resort, after mass deliberative meetings that would form the basis
for negotiations by the opposition pan-democratic parties that are
backing Occupy.But opponents claim the campaign threatens chaos.

Chow Young, a television host and a leader of the pro-business Silent
Majority group, called the campaigners evil. He paints a graphic picture
of a paralysed city and plunging stockmarket, with law and order
breaking down. “Let us not let some dreaming, wild-thinking person
think they can be immortalised by doing something crazy. Why should we
suffer for them? What do we stand to gain?” he asked. “Nothing. What do
we stand to lose? Everything.”

A poll by the non-partisan Hong Kong Transition Project
(pdf) found that 54% were opposed to Occupy Central, and only 38%
supported it – though were Beijing to warn against participation,
campaigners would gain support.


Brown Pundits