Democracy Rising

"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable" ~ President John F. Kennedy

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Asian Window Dressing

Busy times in China today. The mainland Communist's have released a white paper on 'Democracy'. Unfortunately its only conclusions are; that the status quo is excellent and is to be maintained for a long while yet.

Hong Kong has announced what it is describing as limited reforms, allegedly furthering it towards the goal of universal sufferage.

The main suggestions announced by Mr Hui include expanding the membership of the election committee from 800 people to 1,600 people, and expanding the legislature, the Legislative Council, by 10 seats - five of which would be directly elected by the public.

This is NOT going to increase Hong Kong democracy. The election committee is stacked with Beijing loyalists, so no matter whether it contains 800 or 8 people, the PRC's candidate is guaranteed victory. Secondly, the five seats elected by the public will be directly counter balanced by the five appointed members. This effectively makes those extra seats worthless. If Beijing had wanted to further democracy it would have done so by increasing how many existing Assembly members are directly elected.

So why is Beijing stalling with such window dressing measures? Well, in the past the number of directly elected seats has increased with each election. Last years ballot however created a 50:50 split, giving Beijing a likely majority (provided just one of its supporters was directly elected). The next stage would reduce Beijings appointed members to a minority, and runs the risks (as is the case with Democracy) of an unfavourable result. If all the directly-elected seats were held by pro-democracy members, legislation could become hard to pass and control. Hong Kong would in effect slip out of Mainland control.

Unfortunately Hu Jintao is sliding further away from the goal of Democracy (not just in HK but in China itself) than any of his predeccessors. He mistakenly believes that the Hong Kong people will be fobbed off with such pathetic mirages of Democracy.

What will be interesting to see is the turnout for this protest against the ammendments on December 4th. If a small turnout occurs, Hu Jintao will have won, for now. If however, a large turnout, on the scale of the millions seen during the 1 July 2003 protests, is achieved Hu will be in a difficult position. He either ignores the calls for Democracy and faces problems with civil obedience in later years; tries to quash the protests in some way (I cant see another Tiananmen occuring in Hong Kong. International sanctions would follow, and if a massacre did occur Martial Law would have to be indefinitely imposed) or bows to the pressure of HK protestors. If the third scenario took place, it would severely undermine his position both in the SAR and within China. It would move HK beyond central control and make it increasingly hard to deny Democracy at home.

I don't believe by his actions of the past 3 years Hu will choose the smart option. If only the Communists could see that gradual political change accompanied with economic development will likely maintain their regime, they would avoid likely annihilation and violence in the coming decades. Those who dont learn from the lessons of History aye?


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