It’s “one of those weeks” where I’ll be essentially hiding out. But this story is too significant to pass up. It’s an old story, maybe as old as China itself – the government seizes land used by farmers for many years and tries to profit from it. The interesting issue here is the chain reaction of protests this is setting off in multiple locations.

About 1,000 farmers gathered in the village meeting hall here at 8 a.m. on Dec. 19 and proclaimed what amounted to a revolt against China’s communist land-ownership system.

The broad, flat fields surrounding Changchunling belong to the farmers who work them, they declared, and not to the local government. The farmers then began dividing up the village’s collective holdings, with the goal of making each family the owner of a private plot.

“There is no justification for taking the land away from the farmers,” said one of the participating peasants.

The redistribution exercise at Changchunling was not an isolated incident. Rather, it marked what appears to be the start of a backlash against China’s system of collective land ownership in rural areas….

But here in the Fujin area, farmers have not just exploded in anger, but have taken on the system that gives officials their power over the land. Moreover, they have coordinated with other farmers via the Internet and sought tactical advice from democracy advocates in Beijing who see an opportunity to advance their political agenda.

“It is a frontal challenge,” one activist said.

Is this more of the same, or a “revolution”? Whether it’s a revolution or just another of those countless demonstrations that erupt every year in the countryside here, it all goes back to the same issue – corrupt local officials trying to fuck their people over, and a central government too weak and insecure to do anything about it. That corruption, after all, is the grease that keeps the CCP power machine humming. One more embarrassment the Party will have to deal with as its day in the sun approaches.

The Discussion: 21 Comments

I read about an experiment in Malaysia where the gov’t gave local farmers complete control/ownership over their land to see how they would manage it. The farmers stopped dumping waste onto their own land, improved cultivation and more importantly sought gov’t action against people who dumped pollution into water sources they used for pollution.

Do these actions sound familiar? In the US, if you pollute the air, water or soil and that pollution ends up on your neighbors’ properties, you have committed a trespass (a misdemeanor and sometimes a felony) and are liable for damage to that property.

Correlate these rural actions, which have been happening for a long time, with what is now going on in Shanghai, where the middle class has turned out in force to protest illegal takings and potential health threat for the maglev extension.

Vive le revolution!

January 15, 2008 @ 8:28 am | Comment

Agreed, Richard. Except corruption is the grease that keeps ANY power machine humming. I am actually more concerned of a much greater corruption which has fueled a more sinister empire built on genocidal and supposedly revolutionary spirit.
Unlike the others, the African holocaust has yet to be officially acknowledged to this day. It has been referred to as many things: �The Slavery Question�, �The White Man�s Burden�, �The Negro Problem� and so on. But never what it actually was, except perhaps by a few contemporary intellectuals who are quickly dismissed. However, there is no denying that a holocaust is exactly what it was. Then there remains the “40 acres and a mule” ostensibly promised as redress to the African when they were �emancipated� that to this very day, White America have yet to honor. Without the official acknowledgment and redress that such an atrocity is due, together with the countless deadly for power & profit resolutions US have imposed on South east Asia, Latin America, the Middle East etc.since the end of WW2.
YES, power corrupts and America is absolutely the most powerful, therefore morally the weakest. Wake up America, it’s time to get our own house in order.
Ron Paul for President.

January 15, 2008 @ 8:52 am | Comment

Read your Kipling again. White mans burden was not a quote used in the context of slavery in America.

January 15, 2008 @ 9:20 am | Comment

You are right, Kipling’s poem is not about necessarily about slavery but William Easterly’s The Whiteman’s Burden is about economic slavery. The phrase has evolved but not the superiority God-complex and its ills.The West has failed, and continues to fail, to enact its ill-formed, Utopian aid plans because, like the colonialists of old, it assumes it knows what is best for everyone. Existing aid strategies, Economist W.Easterly of NYU argues, “provide neither accountability nor feedback. Without accountability for failures, broken economic systems are never fixed. And without feedback from the poor who need the aid, no one in charge really understands exactly what trouble spots need fixing. True victories against poverty, he demonstrates, are most often achieved through indigenous, ground-level planning.” The Chinese has a saying: 正心、修身、齐家、治国、平天下. Moral /heart, Bodily health, then the home-family-governance, country, then finally the peace with the world.
The wealth-accumulating (profit before people), instant gratification, complacent, brainwashed mass psyche of America need a thorough psychic cleansing; it’s time for another American revolution.
“If you set it up, they will come.” Wayne’s World. It’s time American regain its integrity and leadership.
Join the Ron Paul Small government Revolution.

January 15, 2008 @ 10:12 am | Comment

A thousand apologies for triple posting, please KINDLY delete the above two. Thanks.

January 15, 2008 @ 10:26 am | Comment

Don’t forget the protest in Shanghai against the Maglev monorail planned to connect Shanghai and Hangzhou. The fact that it took place in Shanghai, right at Pepole’s Square, really amazed/astonished me. It’s like the equivalent of protesting in the TAM Square in Beijing, an unimaginable deed. I am surprised that SH police allowed it to take place without resulting to violence, and I am even more surprised at the guts/will of the Shanghainese people to stage such a protest in the heart of Shanghai in open defiance of the government.

You can find a clip of the protest on youtube. I love the fact that the protesters called their gathering “É¢²½¡°– a “stroll” or “spreading the steps”, given their rights of assembly have been officially denied. Ingenious move! Reminds me of a saying in Chinese “ÉÏÓÐÕþ²ß£¬ÏÂÓжԲߡ° — “There are policies from the top, and there are counter-policies from the bottom”.

January 15, 2008 @ 12:09 pm | Comment


Your ignorance is sometimes simply amazing.
Do you know who drew Africa’s borders? Who created the Tutsi/Hutu rivarly? Europe. The Russians and Cubans did more than their fair share to support People’s Armies to counter the West and now China supports the last of the Big Men in Robert Mugabe.

And tribal and religious violence has always existed there.

January 15, 2008 @ 1:41 pm | Comment


“Tutsi/Hutu rivarly? Europe. The Russians and Cubans… tribal and religious violence has always existed there.”

Wow, Sorry, kebab boy, no offense, but what Richard here & many others in other blogs said of you, the kebab boy, are true. I have come across a lot of your comments, you’re everywhere! I hate to tell you, I think they are Mostly irrational bias garbage. Your ignorance & gullibility is incredible not to mention in this case totally irrelevant.
You have a good day now.

January 15, 2008 @ 2:42 pm | Comment

Ha ha ha,
Utopian is the adjective for Utopia, the political correct, perfect socialist island of Sir Thomas More fantasy…… , NOT Ethiopia, East Africa, you nitwit!

January 15, 2008 @ 3:05 pm | Comment

I’m so confused.

Honestly, I’m not sure what reparations for slavery in the US have to do with the story that Richard has posted. As a good progressive, I’m happy to discuss that issue, but it doesn’t seem relevant here.

Likewise what’s going on in Africa. For one thing, Africa is a continent, not a nation, and there are so many different dramas being played out that one really shouldn’t generalize by what’s happening in one region or another.

OT, one of these days I will visit Eritrea. On my list of must-sees.

January 15, 2008 @ 3:25 pm | Comment


Here’s some real history for you:

Hutus vs Tutsi:

border politics:

This ought to keep you busy for a while, especially with all of the big words and complex grammar.

January 15, 2008 @ 3:36 pm | Comment

You are right Lisa,

1) Africa has no relevance to Richard’s post. The Africa confusion is Nanhe’s doing, apparently confusing Rwanda and Burundi to perhaps Utopia to mean Ethiopia. But then With Nanhe, who the hell knows….

2) As for “reparations for slavery in the US,” it was the line “the government seizes land used by farmers for many years and tries to profit from it.”…somehow reminded me of the unresolved issue of “40 acres and a mule” in America that’s all.

While we’re on irrelevance, What does

3)Chestnut’s “protest in Shanghai against the Maglev monorail”… have anything to do with revolt in Fujin area and neither does 4)OT, one of these days I will visit Eritrea…. just kidding with you Lisa.

January 15, 2008 @ 3:54 pm | Comment

Could we all stop commenting on what 2008 says until he/she starts saying something relevant to the thread? You can’t just turn up and say “that’s interesting and reminds me of sthg i want to rant about”.

good luck to the farmers, but haven’t we heard this a million times before? though perhaps it might work, in much the same way as the reforms in the countryside started with the farmers and not with the govt, who went along with what was already happening

January 15, 2008 @ 4:34 pm | Comment

Interesting report here:

Middle class people again complaining about pollution/health issues. It’s the one thing their new-found wealth can’t deal with. Only the super-rich are mostly immune.

January 16, 2008 @ 4:11 am | Comment

My first post here. If comments are not limited to those sent by people with real names, it will be my last.

P”Duck, your entries are always on target, but after that, the decline is sickeneing.

January 17, 2008 @ 1:34 am | Comment

Methinks it’s just another of those countless demonstrations … that’s all.

@dave zimmerman,

“If comments are not limited to those sent by people with real names, it will be my last.”

I’m afraid this will be your first & last post because Richard’s excellent co-writer Raj is not his real name. Sorry.

January 17, 2008 @ 8:00 am | Comment

“Middle class people again complaining about pollution/health issues. It’s the one thing their new-found wealth can’t deal with. Only the super-rich are mostly immune.”

Only the super rich can afford the drinking water systems and interior air scrubbers needed to keep their home environments up to standards needed for good health.

January 17, 2008 @ 10:09 am | Comment

Democracy Simplified

– an essay on democracy in Hong Kong, China


This essay intends to present and discuss, form a synthetic historical stand, yet in simple format and language, what is the status of current development of democratic society in Hong Kong, and whether such status quo should be maintained, and if the answer is affirmative, how should it be maintained.

In attempting such, large parts of this essay are used to uncovering China and what is becoming of it. It is the intention of this article to present China truthfully as it is, and to carry out this intention it is necessary to be critical of China, and to lesser extent the West. It may seem to strange eyes that this essay has put China under too stringent negative spotlight, thus revealing the art and tradition of Deception that has never been practiced with more vigor and less constraint than it is presently being deployed in relation to China, but actually this critical analysis is not very dissimilar to high-definition television broadcasting – both were made possible by accumulation of human knowledge and merely serve to reveal slightly more truth.

It should also be noted that this essay does not intend to include a discussion on political science as being/to be applied to China, not purely for wanting of such academic abilities but also because this largest nation in the world is infinitely more complicated than any rationalist theorist could dissect from without.

It is also hereby claimed that this article is not primarily intended to be construed as criticisms against any individual person or any convenient grouping of people.

Last but not lest, the spirit in which this article is undertaken is sum up in the following sentence of the Roman comedian Tenrentius – Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto. Simply, I am a man, therefore nothing human is ever alien to me.


After over 10 years of bickering and complaining of interference by all types of mysterious “outside forces”, falling only unnoticeably short of actually alleging direct foreign transgression, and replacing one inept Chief Executive with the fitting servitude of another, the ruling political and social powers of Hong Kong have not only become more polished but vividly a great deal more effective, from the viewpoint of most Chinese conservatives that wish to preserve the status quo. The differences between Chinese conservatism and its American counterpart are not within the ambit of this essay, sufficient to say they mean different things.

At the centre of the ongoing reform crisis is “universal suffrage”, by which it means that each and every man, woman of Hong Kong citizenship would have am equal vote in deciding who should govern and serve this Chinese special administrative region. As a result of Beijing’s persistent hard work on behalf of the People and, to no less measure, its magnanimous tolerance of Hong Kong’s radical elements, and in the spirit of promoting social harmony, finally the Government has got the perfect resolution to the current crisis or, as they would prefer to call it, “the stalemate caused by the non-cooperative and non-patriotic forces of irritation exist(ent) in the SAR”. It has been recently announced in a celebratory ceremony in HK (which was unceremoniously interrupted briefly by Hong Kong’s Grand Irritator – Long Hair before the parliamentarian was hastily carried off by force) that the people of Hong Kong may-be allowed to have a free and fair election of its Chief Executive in 2017. There will be a “gradual process” in order that the existing social structure will not be displaced.

China, its culture, history and Government in a Nutshell

With that announcement, there may well have been a banner written “this Government resents revolution” hanging in the background. Indeed if one were to listen carefully, one can even hear the tirades of Edmund Burke against the French Revolution coming out of the mouthpieces of the CCP. For Edmund Burke, the French Revolution was nothing more than a chaotic and disastrous attempt to subject nature (and thus the natural order of things which also include the natural hierarchy of men) to modern human reason that believes solely in progress. The Terror of the French Revolution had taught Burke that human reason was not a strong enough barrier to safeguard against the too often instances of human wickedness. In siding with Burke today, Beijing shows, perhaps even to its credit, that except family ties, it carries hardly any remnant of Communist fervor of the old regime. Only perchance, some of the too-old (as either they are part of the Ancient Regime or simply too wary of living) or the too-poor (as they have not to be counted or treated as people at all) are diluted enough to still naively believe in unqualified equality, the official objective of the “proletarian” dictatorship which is still acclaimed to be the nature of the Celestial Republic.

China was once the celestial kingdom because its Emperor felt it did not need anyone or anything from the outside, specially after those Franciscan missionaries had tried to stopped their Chinese converts practicing ancestor worship, as ancestor worship was and is still a pillar of Chinese society being deeply espoused with the Confucian dogma of filial piety, which itself in turn is heavily linked to one’s loyalty and total submission to the King/Emperor and feudal lords. Indeed it would not be imprudent to suggest that filial piety as a moral concept was created to suit the ancient Oriental despotic idea of natural right of the few over the many. Only in the sense that this feudal loyalty was encouraged and required throughout Chinese pre-1911 history can the old Chinese civilisation be termed “feudalist”. Surely even the Chinese people that frequent the term must admit, if they are being sincere, the usage of the term in China bears no link to its meaning as normally understood by sociologists and historians alike. Only curious, yet rigid, custom determines the application of the term “feudal” to all Chinese historical societies between the time the First Emperor of China was proclaimed and the fall of the Chinese-Manchu Empire. The period of recorded history prior to the First Emperor is likewise customarily termed “slavery”. It is not the intention of this essay to provide a glossary of historical and political terminology commonly used in China, although there are many and knowing them would disclose some the most viciously guarded secrets of China, the purpose lays in pointing out that such views on history and society as set out immediately above are widely held by the Chinese population because they are taught so in schools and universities.

As another example of China’s incessant distortion of its history, one which is perhaps of more direct concern for the West, it is her people’s honestly held public opinion which denies that China was once, in the same manner of ancient Roma, imperialistic. Imperialism and colonialism, both having perhaps deserved the stigma attached to it, cause still too much unease in China today than could be warranted by a reading of real history or be reflective of modernity. In every imaginable kind of Chinese books, of intellectual relevance or not, covering topics ranging from entertainment to philosophy, there more often than not print, at least in the preface, extremely rigid views on history authored by a fictitious omnipotent Propagandist whose presence is becoming ever more real. Thus the Boxers can never be questioned as to the morality of their motives or the righteousness of their actions; by the same token, every single revolution in Chinese history was said to have been initiated by the peasantry whose lives were repressed by the corrupt monarchs, whose mischief curiously were always the outcome of either the treacheries of the eunuchs or the deceptions of some evil-spirited women. It may well be that in such an illiberal society, as China has always been except during a short interlude between the Wars, where the rulers intend to and really does represent the interests of the state, historians would always have to find the causes of the most profound society change, or of the most devastating natural disaster, in the minutest details of some supposed individual wickedness, whilst being utterly and happily oblivious to the collective human folly of the era.

The fact that the Government still actively contributes the development of human society to that of the dehumanising and degrading Marxist invisible hand is a paradox that should not, could not, be even mentioned. It is this near barbarous disregard for the heterogeneity of opinions on history as well as on the present that causes the most concerns of all the good, the bad and the ugly that are coming out of China. If the Government does not even tolerate open discussion of history, how can they allow open debate on current affairs? Some of the ultimate decision makers of China, whom are proclaimed to be the benevolent types, courageously believe that the state should have authority over how history is written and interpreted to further certain undefined and indefinable objectives, the same rules only more rigid apply to any debate of present situations. This was the typical behavior of the Western governments perhaps up until the last War, and luckily is no more. But worse, there are surely other less benevolent types of rulers who mistakenly regard history as personal or familial property to be shaped, formed and discarded at whim to the advantage of their vested interests.

It is to the same end that we see in China an increasing emphasis on reviving traditional classic Chinese studies (国学). This is happening regardless of an obvious fact that nobody can scientifically define what traditional classic Chinese studies would be, and let it be warned here that anybody advocating a positive and exhaustive definition could be liable for harboring ulterior motives and probably should be avoided altogether as conversation partners. Even a narrower construction limiting the subject to that of Confucianism cannot uphold as Confucianism itself is prone to various divergent interpretations. Unless the proponents of neo-Confucianism could reform and revitalise their ancient creed to embody such modern ideas of, inter alia, science, progressive development, humanism and evolution, there is no real need in society for reviving any such ancient creed as a normal person of today should be able to learn more about morality by reading writings of the Enlightenment than Lao Tze’s Tao Te Ching. It has been over one and a half centuries since the first of modern China’s scholars tried to prove, through heavy-duty researching, and by deploying their own perfect understanding of Western philosophy, that Western philosophical ideas could be found in classic Chinese texts. Throughout the first two quarters of the last century, even many prominent Western thinkers lauded old China for its seemingly natural, but in fact superficial, tranquility which offered indeed the much needed restoration of hope to a Western people devastated by two Great Wars.

Thus both in China and abroad, many brilliant minds had since been devoted to that common purpose of elevating Chinese classicism to heights that hardly befits reality. For example, Bertrand Russell, whose writing having such influence on the race of Man that those who are fond of him affectionately refer to him as BR, thought of that exactly in the intervening years between the Wars, but again he was also advocating for anarchism, socialism and syndicalism at the same time. While his experience of China is rather limited, his findings and analysis on China nevertheless the most profound among all his contemporaries, though still he was then simply too optimistic about what China could bring to humanity which he much later rectified. It is apparent today that such approach failed miserably as a quick glance at rural China today or a short seminar on modern Chinese history would easily reveal that little, if at all, has been really improved. And it is China, not the West, had suffered the most when this fallacious hope busted as China sunk into the quicksand of mob revolution. It is China’s failure to become anew that failed BR et al.

The raison d’etre for recreating this fallacious hope in Chinese classicism, for it had been scraped amid the fervor of communism, is for the Government to assert its legitimacy, which no self-respecting government would ever feel compelled to undertake so constantly and devote so much energy as Beijing does today. On the other hand, the arrested development of modern international ideas, of which much are Western and liable to progressive and humanist inclinations, in China is the result of the same deliberation.

But surely, if someone still reads John S. Mill, and the more the better, Mill had put it then that China’s seemingly never-abating refusal to changes brought from without is but the product of its very tradition that harbored, and are still promoting, such ideas of despotism being good and individuals are cogs and the state the machine, the end as oppose to the means to enable every man, woman and child to try to have a better life, and of more direct relevance to the West, that of their respective uniqueness as a people vs. the West.

The only correct aim of any studies in China, be it Western or Chinese or else, should have been for the improvement of the present and future lives of the Chinese people, and of all peoples of the world, by promoting what is beneficial to such goals and rid of what is detrimental, regardless of place of origin, whilst being consistently reminded the essentiality of remaining tolerant. Sprouting out of utilitarianism and being almost universally highly regarded by every progressive schools of thought of the present time, tolerance of opposing opinions is the virtue of modernity.

“lies lies and lies, are that all they are capable of?”

Now it might seem that China wants to join the outside world, but in reality this present tendency is not only new and weak but was created only as the result of a pragmatic necessity as the annoyance of the West refuses to disappear, as was promised by the selected few great scholars of the first half of the 20’s century who were seriously disturbed by the hellfire of wars, and instead the West grows in terms of influence as wealth spreads and technology gets ready to make the accumulated human knowledge universally free and easily obtainable. While going through cursory reforms, China still demands itself to be treated differently from the other nations and be relived from the norms of international duties. Militant Japan once claimed at the League of Nations when confronted by the international community to withdraw its army from Manchuria that China had long been derelict in discharging her duty as a sovereign nation. A war, a civil war and 60 years of subsequent somewhat peaceful time have not changed that much.

Whatever positive changes China achieved, and there are plenty as the ever-growing skyscrapers of Shanghai or the excellent conditions of national expressways could show, were only made possible when Deng Xiaoping got rid of communism in China in its entirety. Under the name of socialism with Chinese characteristic, which is one of the two ingenious political terms coined by Deng, the other one being the currently failing “one country, two systems”, China’s economy naturally took the capitalist U-turn and has been ever shooting up since. Sadly, such a man can no longer be found among the leadership or the rank and file of the CCP. Despite the kind of opposition that must have been ferociously hostile against Deng’s reform agendas, Deng opened China to the world. At a small village bordering HK, he founded modern Shenzhen as a Tequ (特区) which translates into “Special (Administrative) Region”. While the legendary rise of Shenzhen is the better of Deng’s legacies, what will be the legacy of the 3rd and 4th generations of CCP leaders if they cannot even, under the perfect conditions of an ever-growing economy and an increasing confident populace, undertake to further political reforms in China by allowing HK to be exactly what it is purported to be, a Special Administrative Region, and allow its people to vote for their CE? The proposition of such a new Tequ in HK would definitely entertain more sympathy from within and out China and encounter less opposition in every theatre of the world. If reunification with Taiwan is as important as they never stop professing to be, certainly a free and liberal HK would help to persuade a few more “separatists” to abandon their evil [sic] pursuit.

But it is only the Olympics that is in the mind of the leaders. Vanity at its zenith is the legacy they will get then. They might host a successful event, and it is not unattainable to imagine and wish they would, yet challenges are plentiful ahead. For a starter, China’s elite sportsmen and women and more importantly their supervisors surrender to venality and corruption with more ease than eating tofu.

Is it not known that young sports hopefuls would and could pay to get into professional teams that are funded by the State? Is it not true that the head coaches of any sport in which China dominates would possess the god-like power of naming the final winners of a competition? Is it not common that after each sporting success, the champion would have to thank some lingdao (领导), which literally means the leaders, for their support and guidance that somehow mysteriously aided the athletes? The shameless self-glorification of the Government has finally reached every level of this fundamentally unequal and illiberal society. To look up, one see the moon, to where China have recently sent a probe mission to orbit around, on it will write one day soon the following “China too has its space ambitions!”. But surely it must be somewhat better for Russia to plant a flag underwater at the North Pole than China sending one astronaut to space wearing adult dipper.

The International Olympic Committee as an organization should have been indicted for accepting bribery in relation to the Salt Lake Winter Games. Moreover, it should be held responsible for the million and million of people that are labouring away to build the stadiums, roads, airports and everything for the Beijing Games while being treated like dogs. Yes, dogs, stray dogs, street dogs, not the puny pampered kinds the ladies like to love. Doesn’t dogs often than not have a place to sleep at night, and if a dog has an owner, and it “works” to the owner’s liking, wouldn’t the owner make the dog a comfortable shelter? Haven’t anyone seen with their own eyes the sleeping labourers under the elevated road bridge of 3rd Ring Road, Beijing? Should individuals who are not participating in competitions not boycott the Games for this reason along? Can there be true enjoyment at the Games? This lap of honor under the mighty Olympia is utterly bitterly unworthy.

Hong Kong’s Position

While at the outset there are sufficient reasons for a Hong Kong resident to feel that chilling shiver running down the spine upon discovering that Hong Kong is politically a mini-dictatorship, for it is a part of a larger “proletarian” dictatorship and dictatorships can only effectively be partitioned into lesser dictatorships, there are ample enough reasons to alleviate such worries. Fortunate to the cohort of capitalist factory owners, karaoke-hostess pamperers and other money-men of Hong Kong, the nature of China’s government has been neither communist nor proletarian for almost 30 years, if ever at all. By reason of that fact alone, and in proportion to its growing strength, we saw 30 years of economic growth under the aristocratic reign of the sons and daughters of the power-brokers of the 11th Congress of the CCP with their self-help doctrine of absolute laissez-faire becoming the economic foundation of China. The only crack in the pot is that, instead of promoting just that every man, woman and child to fend and work for themselves, the aristocratic ruling class afforded themselves too much privileges. As they control, distribute and squander public money, their wealth grows extremely rapidly. Their wealth has not only made them super-rich, coupled with their mastery of the State apparatus it has made them the de facto Owner of China. When one bargains with the Owner, the Owner always wins because the situation is one in which that the concept of “inequality of bargaining power” as termed by Lord Denning manifesting in its most extreme. If one is to take the view of the social contract theory, under which the members of a society undertake various personal sacrifices in order to live in and enjoy the benefit of collective society, Bondage is the agreement imposed on China’s common people. For it is really Better fifty years of Europe than a cycle of Cathy as Tennyson puts it in his Locksley Hall.

With this sombre outlook of China at large, we take a closer look at Hong Kong’s development of democracy as Hong Kong is the freest place of the country. This essay tries to show why the proposed electoral reform arrangement is likely to harm everybody’s interests. At the centre of contention is the issue of universal suffrage, where by each and every man, woman of Hong Kong citizenship would have a vote in deciding who should govern and serve this Chinese special administrative region. But let’s first go back into history a bit more.

A Brief Personal Historical Outlook – Why Democracy Should Triumph over other Forms of Governance

A quick look at history shows that various people have long in history used elections, free ones even, as a means of choosing their leaders. Ancient Roman citizens frequently elected consuls and tribunes at the risk of, or in spite of, irritating the Senate. But in Roma, the right to vote was not available to every individual. Indeed, few historical societies afford its women voting rights. It has been discovered that most historical civilisations, only allowed, if at all, the landed class or free citizens to vote in the affairs of the state. While thousand of Athenians may speak and vote at the Assembly, there were literally hundreds of thousands of unheard slaves who were undertaking almost all manual labour as well as, as occasion and talent would permit, being involved in arts and culture activities of ancient Greece. Today, the functions of the Athenian slaves are covered by the majority of the lower and middle class population.

When tradition was old, a man has to be born a landed gentry or a citizen, or else he cannot achieve such social status. Riding the change of tide in the affairs of Man, Julius Caesar granted citizenships and even senatorships to his conquered subjects, much to the dismay of the Senate, which was by then became the representatives of a corrupt and inbred aristocracy. It followed that democratic participation by Roman citizens in state affair was curtailed in the subsequent chaos to Caesar’s assassination. Benevolent as a ruler could be, Augustus had little choice but to abolish all but the name of the republic and replaced it with an authoritarian principate, in order to pacify both the Catilinarian revolutionary fervor of the poor and the brutality of repression by the rich. For in every revolution, as Alexis de Tocqueville puts it in reference to the European Revolution of 1849, society was cut in two: those who had nothing united in common envy, and those who had anything united in common terror. But even the mighty Augustus could not have founded a lasting benevolent dictatorship, as Nero would soon fiddle as Roma burnt.

Surely there ought to be alternatives to either repression by the corrupted or the chaos of revolution. Some in present day China would proudly point out that Imperial China, with its literati class of Confucius scholars and court officials selected under the millennial practice of imperial examination, was an effective meritocracy. Or the various peoples of the Book might point at any particular historical era and argue that theocracy is better than other forms of government, especially if the world is already predetermined.

However, each of the afore-proposed alternatives only leads us back to problems. Imperial examinations deteriorated into a test of memorising the Chinese classic texts verbatim rather than a test about ability and fitness to hold public office. As “eight-legged” essays became the only acceptable form of writing in the imperial exams, whatever left of any ancient wisdom was lost. Much of China’s literati class settled to become tax farmers and/or litigating Sophists, and to the latter China’s propaganda machine owe half its life, the other half of the lineage came from Stalinist Soviet Union. The classic teachings of Confucius et al have long been, and still are evoked for the sole purpose of subjecting the people to the rulers of China and differentiating the Chinese from the rest of mankind. Meritocracy, albeit tempering the negative effect of democracy – mediocrity, can never be practically adopted by any large group of people. Only in times of hardship would there arise persons of ability, in times of peace and comfort, persons of connection are instead sought after. Such is the wicked nature of all.

On theocracy, one only has to read Voltaire to discern its problems. The fact we do not read Voltaire today bestows upon that Frenchman and his everlasting smile of reason the ultimate honor and glory. The only thing to add here is to point out that even the Ayatollahs let people vote, that was exactly how they got that guy in that jacket that talks lot nonsense, isn’t it?

Universal suffrage is the child of the Industrial Revolution and subsequent mordernisation. In Britain, it was the Chartist movement that tried to obtain suffrage for the non-property-owning class. The Second Reform Act of 1867 granted one in every three adult male Britons the right to vote, making Britain’s working class men the majority of its electorate. As the base of electorate broadened, almost naturally that it could not stop but to embody eventual every men and women.

In the US, Jacksonian democracy evolved as America’s industry grew. The political rights of working men extended gradually to that of women and minority groups. Eventually this progressive tendency culminated in the Civil Rights Movement and perhaps to a lesser degree the Anti-Vietnam-War Movement, in the 1960’s. The Civil Rights Movement was in its own right a triumph of humanist value or divine rights, whichever creed is preferable, in that it emancipated millions of black Americans. There is still a continuing process of improvement of fairness and equality. As overt racism disappears from public life, private, covert racism unfortunately still remains one of the minor plagues of modern society.

It would be hard for anyone to deny that Hitler and Mussolini were the products of democracy in the broader sense of the term. Both men indeed had enjoyed more popular support than, say for example, Winston Churchill had perhaps even during the War but in any event at least before and after the War. But distinctions should be drawn between the British state and that of the German or Italian before the War. Britain was a liberal constitutional monarchy in which the principle of the sovereignty of the people was its cornerstone; there were widespread and century-old sentiment of distrusting the government/King. Germany was the dictatorial successor of the principalities and utterly lack of any conception of the sovereignty of the people, hence, freedom of the press and fair justice. Universal suffrage is only one pillar of three that support the sovereignty of the people, the other two being freedom of the press and fair justice with at least jury trial being universally availed to criminal litigation if not civil ones as well.

But in the final score of years of the past century, the world had experienced the fallacies of hope once more. The fall of the Soviet Union was heralded as the beginning of a new age, the age of truth. Indeed, the technological developments Man had achieved in those years laid out the foundation for a better, more educated and informed world society in this current century. Traveling between continents has never been so easy, safe and quick. Knowledge and the vessels of knowledge have never been easier and cheaper to obtain. Yet on the social front, progress has been limited. South Africa was desegregated, and reunited under rainbow colors, only to present us a troubled self-seeking ruling machine in the ANC, as can be shown in its latest leadership contest. Perhaps the only true social progress that will still influence posterity in a hundred years is the development of the European Union, its initiation being necessitated by two greatly terrible wars, and its continuing enlargement to this day, as the direct effect of which the world has seen more countries peacefully, as oppose to through revolution and/or war, embracing democracy. Maybe one day, let’s hope, people will look back and marvel that never had mankind achieve anything finer than the EU. And if certain mountain dwelling, snow skiing, Adolf breeding countries can be pacified, let them all welcome Turkey as the new brethren. Only by making the EU secular, and by the peaceful spreading of democracy, can we morally bankrupt religious fanaticism. War itself will not bring democracy as Iraq and Afghanistan can readily prove.

To Spread Democracy

So the question to be asked is how we bring about democracy to countries or regions that have not been blessed with it?

It is infinitely easier to spell “thus the fate of a tyrant” in Latin than to fight a real one face to face. Although war itself will not bring democracy, certain military deterrence and duress against the remaining hardcore totalitarian rulers are required. Muscle sometimes is the only language these people will hear as their ears are blocked by vast vested interests, in the same manner that serious criminals will very rarely submit themselves to the police.

But the application of force, threat and economic sanction will not suffice if unaided by the spreading of human knowledge. Every free nation today had to come through darker ages. Only through our brave and industrious ancestors that some of us today may live free. Let us all eagerly spread this gospel – only once a people’s mind is clear and heart is pure, then there shall be justice for all and its country a heaven on earth.

There calls for also an examination of the West, especially of its half-century old military-industrial complex espoused with the fresh energy of a renewed greedy financial-industrial complex.

Western companies must restrain or be restrained, par force if necessary, their greed for immediate profit of the present, and look ahead for only a few years into the future. A democratised China is a much better place for everyone to make lots of money. The best thing to do is to make its people prosperous, and therefore purchasing like the Americans, except perhaps at the same times to be more ecologically and environmentally responsible. Rather than trying, in cahoots with the Owner of China, to take advantage of its peasant-laborers, internationalist compassion needs to prevail before the persisting dangers of China continuing to pose to Civilisation can be alleviated. Anything short of full and true democracy for China could at best provide an interruption to universal agony, worse giving Beijing more time to build up its unrestrained muscles and its people more anger, at best only partially justified, against the West.

Let’s it be accepted that changes should come form within, but the international community still needs to help to serve as the Catalyst of change. Hope is still there, and we can achieve it, BR believed in it, why shouldn’t we? Once China is permanently pacified, Beijing will throw its lot to the West’s aid. The problems of Africa and relating to religious fanatics can only then be resolved.

Practically, the international community, especially the EU and the Anglo-American nations must assume the responsibility to spread democracy as their strategic goal. For the nations to be liberated, democracy of course is only a means to achieve other objectives, but until and unless the work is done and the world is one, playing democracy as a tool by the West runs on high risks of a backfire. Instead, more scholarships to be offered to talented young people of developing countries to study anthropology, journalism, media studies, philosophy, politics, political economics, psychology etc. need to be funded. Sadly, within the scope of this essay, MBA degrees do not change societies. Every year, business schools in America churn out thousands of Chinese business executives who upon returning to China for good, if at all, recklessly head straight into profit-making and consumption of luxury goods – good for the economy, not so good for everything else. (Note: The author of this essay collection is currently writing a fiction in the Chinese language which extensively portraits the lives of several overseas-returning educated modern Chinese persons as well as expatriates living in China.)

If everyone wants to make the world a little better, and if countries like China could be exposed for what they real are, then perhaps there will be less big-fat business people aimlessly trekking the globe but more people who sincerely are willing to help themselves as well as others to live better. Again, sadly, the rest of the world has offered its poor neighbor of a fat thug a lap of honor at the bottom of the Olympian Hill. How is that helping?

Hong Kong’s Road to Universal Suffrage

Both sides of the ongoing debate in HK on democracy agree that universal suffrage should be applied to HK eventually. So far, the augment for delaying electoral reform is confined to claims that democratising Hong Kong too quickly would cause chaos, or as the current CE puts it, chaos of the Culture Revolution scale; or that when Britain was ruling HK as a colony – the Chinese translation of the word colony “殖民地”, long being the target of propaganda smearing campaign, denotes negative alien rule and implies prevalent racial/ethnic discrimination – it was never bothered to grant its Chinese subjects voting rights; and finally, that a democratised HK might give rise to another Chen Shui-Bien, the much loathed president of Taiwan (funnily in China, anyone and everyone speaking publicly would always uniformly and heedfully add “so-called” before president of Taiwan).

Neither ground can withstand examination.

Modern democracy as being practiced in the West and many other nations around the world today rarely, if ever, leads to chaos. Poverty leads to chaos. In spite of the much trouble recent election dispute in relatively developed Kenya, talks of the country sink into a typical African civil war of the Burundian kind have not and will not materialised despite the fact Kenya also has its share of tribalism related problems. In any event, moderate and moderated chaos is artistically beautiful and acts to promote the much hyped social harmony. Take the example of a married couple, assuming one like to eat rice and the other bread, surely the best way to achieve harmony is not to having one to switch to the other’s taste, but to provide them with choices of the both kinds.

Any argument based on what the British failed to do should have no bearing on what should be done now. And there were ample reasons for the British to be wary of grating suffrage to a population that was and still is prone to excitement of nationalistic sentiments, and at times, communist leanings. Chris Pattern indeed tried his utmost to actually bring democracy to HK than any Chinese person has ever done anywhere, with perhaps the exception of a certain unlikable Lee Teng-hui, formerly the so-called president of Taiwan. Lest that be forgotten by the radical reds of the 60’s.

The suggestion that HK could harbour another Chen Shui-Bien is splendid nonsense. There is no societal desire to become independent in HK. Surely nobody is, quoting Jian Zeming in English, too simple, too naive, suggesting that Beijing is worried about Chen the person. It is the historical and widely held drive for independence in Taiwan that might worry Beijing, even though it is still be hard to comprehend why Beijing would take this stand given that they do not really wish to affect reunification. Between mid June and mid July every year for the past ten years, nationwide in China, the Government would withhold issuing permits for its citizens to visit HK for fear of their seeing anything other than the universal joy and love of the motherland so universally claimed to the Chinese audience. Would or could Beijing put up with Taiwan being a part of China? Would Beijing, not allowing publication of HK newspapers to the general public in China really fancy granting such privileges to Taiwan’s independent media? To cite fear of another Chen from HK as a reason to deny HK democracy is simply bad logic and of questionable sincerity.

As HK most likely does still enjoy the freedom of press and an independent and fair judiciary at the moment, there is no reason, indeed it would be absurd, not to grant universal suffrage to its people right now.

2017 is laughable. There is no indicator to show that Beijing is even contemplating real political reforms for the next 10 years leading up to 2017. What difference would such a long and undue delay make then? This delaying tactic is inherently risky as the ongoing prosecution of Citizen’s Radio reveals the eagerness of the DoJ to impress, and the willingness of a High Court judge, who found it necessary to add that he was not politically influenced, to entertain such nonsense argument of jamming the airwaves in granting an injunction to broadcast by the private civic radio station, even after the supposed offenders had been cleared of charges by a magistrate, who mysteriously suspended his own ruling within three hours of making it. The whole saga is bizarre. And the apathy of the general public in HK toward such a constitutional issue is exactly what Beijing wants to see. For the CE to accuse the opinion the pro-democrats have toward 2017 reform proposal as being biased is the most biased of all political opinions in HK.

All dictators claim to represent the people, because no-one can prove they do not, since they do not allow people to vote, especially not in a plebiscite. Sadly, that is increasingly what the CE seems to be getting too comfortable to do.

Going Forward

Society must take notes of the aforementioned issues. If people apply their collective energy together, anything can be achieved; we only have 3000 years of known human history to support that theory. Once true democracy is achieved, the following real issues in life can start to be resolved.

Minimum wage and bigger flats for the poor. Better school for the average people’s children so they perhaps one day can become not so average. Better hospital cares. And most of all, better individuals who are all allowed and afforded chances to bring the bits of artist, or musician or scientist or whatever out of themselves so that, eventually, more jobs for artists, musicians and scientists etc. in the real sense of those terms would sprout out of seemingly nowhere as they once did out of Florence or Venice.

Filipino maids – minimal equality – treat them as people!

Mainlanders – two types, rich and poor, how should each be treated?

People of color – ironic it would be an issue in a nation of color so to speak.

These are the issues at stake for democracy is the means not the end. But if HK could resolve some of them and gain experience in doing so, surely that would aid China to continue on its road to full and norm nation status among the family of nations, as surely that was Deng’s dying ambition and wish. Large part of the billion and half of Chinese people will be freed from mundane labour and 10 brilliant Japan would arise in the land of Cathy, for the Chinese, as having being shown everywhere, are industrious and resilient, not unlike that of the Japanese, nor the American, nor the British, nor the Russians, nor the Africans, we all only differ in what we as a people believe in. Only then the zeal for reviving China which is the dream of so many Chinese people today can be peacefully satisfied. And the greatest potential danger to a world war between China and the US led West that nobody likes to see can be set aside for good.


Layman’s Political Theory of Democracy

Democracy is a form of social government where by the governed collectively choose, using the means of majority rule, its government. Majority rule does not possess in itself any virtue. It is the genuine believe in debating rather than fighting, of which is promoted by a large number of free press, that has virtue.

Conservatism gives importance to existing social arrangements derived from past habits and customs. In good times where such shibboleths are suitable to achieving betterment of the largest number of the people, conservatism lends to stability. It also puts checks and balance on the desire for change, as, and this cannot be refuted, not all changes conceived by men are progressive.

But where the existing system of government is impeding the development of the majority of its members, those who feel being oppressed will like to revolt, and when the collective will and power are practically strong enough, they will. As conservatism is right in distrusting revolution, it is therefore required of the good and rational conservatives to help to avoid the danger of revolution. In attempting so, liberalism is born from within conservatism.

In China, as its conservatives are yet not so rational, resistance to revolt is affected only by more repression. The ruling aristocracy has not been fully established, the rulers today are mostly 2nd generation aristocrats aided by cronies for whom the loss of their privilege means the end of their lives as they know and many remember and observe only too well of the oppression that common people without privilege have to suffer. Thus resistance in China to positive change will grow stronger and stronger, privileges conferred to the few would become grander and grander until the aristocracy, if in the true sense of the term it may be labeled of them, turns into an all-consuming oligarchy.

But discontent will also grow stronger and stronger.

January 19, 2008 @ 10:48 pm | Comment


you don’t actually expect people to read all of that irrelevant spam and comment do you?

January 21, 2008 @ 4:35 pm | Comment

If the communist party is the mafia, where can Chinese people turn to for justice? Who will stop the communists from torturing people who stand up for human rights? Hopefully most people would support these good people, if we don’t, then theres no haven for them, and no justice….

This article is about how China researchers tow the party line to our unsuspecting doorsteps.

January 22, 2008 @ 3:44 am | Comment

“Who will stop the communists from torturing people who stand up for human rights?”

Seems like nobody will, unfortunately.

January 23, 2008 @ 1:30 pm | Comment

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