Sunday, December 15, 2002

Adriana Cronin has a piece over at Samizdata on today's marches against the introduction of a very broad anti-subversion law in Hong Kong.

One of the striking things about Hong Kong is that the terrirory's elites when interviewed always make comments about how "Hong Kong is an economic city and the people are not interested in politics", and "Democracy requires a level of sophistication to avoid being the rule of the mob, and the people of Hong Kong lack that sophistication". (Plus various western sycophants have echoed the same words. For one thing if you can make yourself believe this, it is easier to pretend that you weren't screwing the people of Hong Kong over when you handed them over to the Chinese five years ago). However, whenever the people of Hong Kong are given the opportunity to show some democratic spirit, they always do so in huge numbers. We had enormous demonstrations after the massacre in Beijing in 1989 (and on its anniversary every year). We had huge numbers of votes cast in favour of democrats when the people were given limited voting rights by Chris Patten. And we had another demostration today. (If you read the chapter on Hong Kong in Ian Buruma's recent Bad Elements he goes and talks to ordinary Chinese people in the New Territories and he finds a very strong desire for democracy). A comparable country that is also ethnically Chinese is Taiwan, and that country has turned into a vibrant democracy.

I don't know what you do about it, but seeing the rights of the people of a rich, sophisticated and fairly liberal city slowly being taken away by the thugs in Beijing is pretty depressing.

I don't believe that China's fate is to be forever ruled by thugs, and I believe that in the long run China itself may evolve to democracy in the way Taiwan or South Korea did. (If this happens, it will be slow and painful, but it is not impossible). However, in the short term, having Beijing assert its power over Hong Kong is not at all good, although it was sadly predictable. The people of Hong Kong can protest and march for now, but if things really come to the crunch, the mainline Chinese can and will assert their much greater power. A military crackdown is not necessary to do this: you simply use laws like this anti-subversion law widely and arbitrarily.

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