“Greek, ‘rule by the people’.” This is the definition of “democracy” given by Oxford Concise Dictionary of Politics. It adds, “Since the people are rarely unanimous, democracy as a descriptive term is synonymous with majority rule.”
Who are the majority in Hong Kong, especially in this chaotic situation? According to recent polls conducted by University of Hong Kong, as of October 2014, 54 percent of the interviewees in Hong Kong opposed “Occupy Central.” By contrast, only 27 percent of Hongkongers support this movement.
Interestingly, those who oppose the Occupy Central movement (including groups like “Silent Majority for Hong Kong”) have been quickly labeled as “pro-Beijing” by the “pan-democratic” camp in Hong Kong as well as the West. In general, the term “pro-Beijing” is used to differentiate these groups from others who identify as “pro-democratic” or “pan-democratic.” But this begs the question: Does being “pro-Beijing” naturally equate to a moral and legal “anti-democratic” stance? After all, the Occupy supporters are in the minority. Does the West believe that the minority’s violation of the rule of law and their destruction of social stability is a genuinely pure democracy? Should the Oxford Dictionary revise its definition of “democracy” to include the rule of the minority?
Robert Chow, spokesman for the Alliance for Peace and Democracy in Hong Kong, clarified in a discussion with Bloomberg TV that the alliance speaks for Hong Kong people. Chow said his group started to speak out since the Occupy movement has been holding the “silent majority” “hostage” over the past days. It truly has been a political kidnapping, especially when we remember that “Occupy” was a worldwide, impetuous movement mainly carried by an agitated younger generation. Isn’t this movement a violation of the rule of law, a central value upheld by true believers in democracy? Meanwhile, if people want to criticize the Hong Kong police’s recent move to restore order and the rule of law in Hong Kong, please don’t forget that nearly 8,000 protesters have been arrested in the U.S. since the Occupy movement began in 2011.
Some protestors may truly wish to realize an ultimately pure democracy in Hong Kong. Still, the fact is that this Special Administrative Region, as a part of China, has actually enjoyed a higher degree of autonomy and democracy than it had at any time during Hong Kong’s 150-year history as a British colony. Prior to 1997, the heads (governors) of Hong Kong were never elected by the Hong Kong people, much less chosen through a “one person, one vote” direct election. It was not until 1997 when Hong Kong people (the 400 members of the Selection Committee) truly voted and elected their first chief executive.
Yes, pure democracy is a good thing, but it definitely requires a long process. Without a progressive approach that includes a process of “localization,” pure democracy risks causing uncontrollable social chaos and political disasters. We’ve already seen this happen in some Arab and Eurasian states after the so-called “Arab Spring” and “color revolutions.”
In Hong Kong, these young college students and even high-school teenagers could have won good will for seeking a more democratic and better future for Hong Kong. The problem lies in the extreme, irresponsible, and impetuous way they have chosen to express their political will. Ironically, they themselves are providing the most direct challenge to their original ideals. Their idealism and impetuosity is a dangerous combination.
Meanwhile, the Hong Kong government and Beijing have remained relatively moderate. Their advantage (and their confidence) comes from the majority’s support. Their attitude, a sort of realist constancy, has proven much more effective than the protestors’ actions of blocking streets and occupying public spaces (especially after perceptions grew that the students were using these spaces as their personal playground).
And, of course, there’s an even thornier question: who is behind these college students and high school teenagers? It’s needless to speculate now; the truth will eventually come out.
I’ll leave readers with Robert Chow’s incisive argument from his Bloomberg interview: “At the end of the day, democracy is giving the vote to the people, let the people decide… It’s not going out to the street, blocking everything and say, ‘Right, I have the might, I have the mob, then I win.’ No, sorry, that is not democracy.”