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spikegifted - China's National People's Congress Standing Committee's Refusal to allow the Chief Executive of Hong Kong to be Democratically Elected (April 26, 2004)

One Country, Two Systems? Don't hold your breath!

After months of heated public debate and campaigning in Hong Kong, the decision was finally made, hundreds of miles away in Beijing, by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress - Hong Kong will not have direct election for its Chief Executive in 2007 (Chinese), despite the aspiration being set out in Hong Kong’s Basic Law. I’m particularly puzzled by the Standing Committee’s claim that not allowing the citizens of Hong Kong to choose their own leader is ‘good for the territory’ as 'it will help to bring calm to the city'.

For the democratic movement and its supporters in the territory, this was one very sad day. Sadder still, this decision is something that I've been expecting. Some would say, China's decision is 'true to form'. As if to add insult to injury, China has ruled out directed elections for all members of the Legislative Council (LegCo) in 2008. Under the agreement between the United Kingdom and China, from which Hong Kong's Basic Law (its 'constitution') is built upon, which stipulated that for 50 years from the time of the hand-over of sovereignty, China will allow Hong Kong 'a large degree of autonomy'. Personally, I find it hard to imagine such a decision by the Standing Committee can be considered 'allowing a large degree of autonomy'. As a matter of fact, I would go as far as China is dictating it policy on Hong Kong and the territory has no autonomy.

At the time of the hand-over in 1997, the Chinese leaders then proclaimed to uphold the 'One Country, Two Systems' ideal which will allow Hong Kong to be left untouched by the mainland. However, my personal observation (and 'China watchers' and those who live in Hong Kong will no doubt agree) is that China has spent the past seven years overtly and covertly reining in Hong Kong's 'autonomy'. Although it was seven years ago, I distinctly remember that when asked by an Asian friend on June 30, 1997, whether I was going to celebrate the 'Return of Hong Kong', I lectured her that it was the darkest day in Hong Kong's history since its fall to Japan in 1941 and when looking back it would be the beginning of a long decline. I'll let you and history be the judges of that statement/observation.

What makes the Mainland do what it does?

Despite all the social and economic developments in past 25 years, politically speaking the People's Republic of China has not changed. Sure, the actors may have changed a few times and the stage may have been freshened up periodically, but the script remained the same. The only variations were the occasional 'improvisations' by one or two actors but once they passed (or have been brought back in line), the script went on. What I'm saying is: China is still a Communist country, run by Communist leaders at national, regional and local levels. Nothing will change until the day when the country is not run by Communists.

Another observation of mine is that Communist ideals basically run contrary to human nature. The story of human progress has been one of gradual developments over long periods of time, but punctuated by occasional leaps. Moreover, while these leaps were not frequent events, the rates of development accelerated after these leaps. On the whole, gradual development was due to talented individuals who, through generations, built up experiences and refined practices. On the other hand, leaps were due to many different things, but more often than not, they were due to people who dared to think differently, who dared do things different or who dared to be, heaven forbid, non-conforming. Naturally, there will always be only a very small number of individuals in a given population that are non-conforming and have the talent and ability to make the leap. Take science for example: there had been numerous talented scientists in one form or another since recorded history began, but how many Galileos, Newtons, Einsteins or Freuds existed? Well, no that many. The point is, real progress was not, is not and will not be made by people who're willing to accept the status quo. Real progress is always made by those who dare to ask questions and think the unthinkable. What has this got to do with Communist ideals? Communism is primarily based on central planning - you need to produce x tons of steel this year, you need to improve your production by y% in the next 12 months, etc. You're asked to do this or that because it has been planned by the state and because the state is all knowing, you don't need to question its motive, reason or logic. You just need to follow the orders. Do we see a problem here? Can you see why Communism runs contrary to human nature? We all have to one degree or another some non-conforming nature in us, however it takes someone with a little more drive and a little bit of vision to dare to think the unthinkable to break loose from the controlling environment.

But what has Communism or central planning got to do with the Standing Committee's decision not to let Hong Kong elects its future leaders? Hong Kong, under the premise of the Anglo-Chinese agreement, is exactly such a non-conforming entity under the Communist-controlled China. The underlying motivation of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is fear - the fear of being driven from power. Now with Hong Kong behaving in a non-conforming manner, daring to question the decisions of the state and wanting to elect its own Chief Executive, it would not be long before other Special Economic Regions want the same kind of autonomy. The fear of the CCP is that if one city is allow to do this, soon there will be many and before they can do anything about it, the whole country will be questioning the state’s decisions and will want to have some autonomy.

Just like any kind of progress, once people start questioning their own state, it builds on it own it own momentum. Sooner rather than later, the growing wall of noise will be so loud that the voice of the government/party/state cannot be heard. (That nearly happened in June 1989, but the PLA, People’s Liberation Army, came to the rescue.) Therefore, applying ‘Communist logic’, it is far better to rein in the non-conforming Special Administration Region (SAR), namely Hong Kong, deny further democratization of the territory and increase the controlling grip of the city by the state. Such steps will deter other economically developed areas in China from seeking political liberalization.

Love thy country

During the last quarter of 2003 and the first quarter of 2004, there was much muttering about ‘authoritative voices’ in the mainland ‘lecturing’ and ‘educating’ the citizens and politicians of Hong Kong for the need to 'patriotic' and ‘love thy country’. While the notion of being loyal to one's country has been round since the time of Confucius, it is rather perplexing to see the CCP chose not to disregard such teachings but instead adopted it along side Marxist-Leninist-Maoist philosophies. Furthermore, the CCP was/is deliberately confusing the issue. ‘Love thy country’ should be free of political influence, it is about doing one's part or one's best to aid the country, for the good of the country, without prejudice. However, in case of Communist China, the party and the state are so intertwine that it is impossible distinguish the difference between party and state. The fact that what is good for the country is not necessarily good for the party and visa versa is not even considered.

Having seen the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe during the late 1980s and early 1990s and having seen the economic and social developments of former Communist states in the past dozen years, particular those that are about to join the EU, it is abundantly clear that Communism has failed those countries. At the same time, we’ve observed in the past 20 years the ‘economic miracle’ of the People’s Republic of China, the triumph of 'Communism with Chinese characteristics'. It can be argued that this ‘extension’ of Marxist-Leninist socialism being practiced in China has brought the country from the blink of collapse and disasters to the verge of becoming an economic and political powerhouse. However, I would argue that Communism is merely the ‘vehicle’ that has united the people of China, to direct its vast human and material resources to reconstruct a country that has nearly been torn apart by internal strife and external threats. The fact is, in my opinion, China will reach a point in the near future when Communism exhausts its ‘usefulness’. At that point, ‘love thy country’ will mean ridding the party, just like the former USSR and Eastern European Communist states.

China may not have come to the point where the CCP has outlived its ‘usefulness’ yet, bit I feel it is rather pathetic for the CCP to try to manipulate the people of Hong Kong and mainland China by ‘lecturing’ them their ‘duty to love thy country’.

Communism in China is running out of time

I've found two quote that are particularly useful in summarizing my thoughts:

"What is the essence of extreme leftism? It is mutual despite, mutual destruction, and mutual cruelty. It makes human inhuman. It makes a free man unfree, It turns a person of independent personality into a submissive tool. It turns man into beast. In the process, the conscience is lost, and the sense of self-reproof disappears. It their place, there is mutual hostility and hatred, and mutual suspicion and cruelty. Finally, fear fills the air - fear of brutal power, fear of leaders, and fear of authorities... Hence, I must submit that the essence of leftism is inhumanism."
Liu Pin-yen, investigative reporter for the People's Daily, the CCP's party newspaper, who was asked to leave the CCP in 1987, for criticizing the party.

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men."
Lord Acton, in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton, 1887

By its decision not allowing the people of Hong Kong to democratically elect their Chief Executive and the ‘love thy country’ argument in the months prior to the decision, it would appear to me that the CCP is running out of tactics to convince Hong Kong’s citizens that Beijing has the best interest of the city in mind. The ‘love the country’ appeal seems to be the last desperate attempt to hold the sides together, short of asking the military to help ‘restore order’. While that option may have worked against the students in Tiananmen Square back in 1989, I doubt it would work in Hong Kong and I doubt it will ever be seriously considered. Hong Kong has long been the haven for those who escaped the Communist terrors in the mainland and it has remained the only place in the PRC where people can see and feel how life can be like outside the Communist regime. The mere act of allowing the people of Hong Kong to select their leader would send the signal to every other city or economic zone in mainland China, which in turn may precipitate CCP losing its tight control over the country.

This was a rather desperate tactic to convince the people of Hong Kong that the CCP can be trusted. I strongly believe that if other cities and economic zones in the PRC express their wishes to gain more autonomy publicly at the same time, the leadership will have a difficult time dismissing them all. If they dismiss them all, it is a clear demonstration to the whole nation that the leadership is out of touch with the wishes of the people and hence has no right to govern. If the CCP chooses to allow even one election to take place, it will nearly impossible to justify further restrictions. In either scenario, power will gradually slip from the CCP’s grip.

Opinion 點評

March 3, 2004: 北京可能輸掉唯一的資本
May 5, 2004: 筑起香港政治"防火牆"

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