Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Confucian Confusion in un-Democratic Hong Kong

Guest post from our roving Asian correspondent Suzuki Samurai

Wasn't it easy a few years back to see who were the good guys and who were the bad guys? Our team were the free(r) societies. Their team, the dictatorships. Or another way of saying: capitalists vs communists. The Hong Kong/PRC & West/East German borders were the front lines in an ideological battle (which at close range must have seemed like an imminent fighting battle).

We in the West proclaimed that what set us apart were free speech, free movement, free(ish) markets,rule of law and democratic elections; and while not the whole truth it’s still mostly true.

I say mostly in this context because rich, prosperous, flourishing Hong Hong had all those attributes except the last: democratic elections.

Yep, it turns out no elections were necessary in a society based on the sound principles of low taxes, low regulation, free movement, and rule of law – it made them rich extraordinarily quickly. Who'd want to vote that away? Well quite a few folk if elections around the world are any indication.

So what are we to make of the Hong Kong 'democracy' protests? On one hand I find myself saying, 'go get ‘em tiger,' in support of the protesters. On the other, I'm wondering if they should be careful what they wish for.

Now, to qualify this last statement: I'm positively opposed to the cold blooded mandarins in Beijing mandating who can and can't stand in the 2017 Hong Kong elections. But then I've seen nothing from Beijing that would suggest that they've anything in mind for Hong Kong outside of the existing state of affairs. A state of affairs that is a damned fine example of a free society. To put a dystopian slant on it (no pun intended), if you were a Hong Konger then ask yourself which would you prefer if these not impossible choices confronted you:

  1. A Beijing mandated official is 'elected' and keeps the freest economy in the world as it is,
  2. A freely, democratically elected socialist comes to power and starts to turn Hong Kong into a regulated, highly taxed, welfare state?

Impossible? Yeah, nah.

This is the problem with confusing freedom with democracy. The western media, and various PMs and Presidents fall over themselves telling us and the rest of the world that is all we want and need - a nice democratic election and it's Ginger Nuts for everyone.

But these same people don't like to talk about how this was such a shit idea when applied to the Palestinians electing Hamas, or the Iraqis electing a Shia-backed incompetent Nouri al-Maliki; or very country in the western world (and many more elsewhere) voting themselves enthusiastically into socialism. Not to mention our favourite Greek who was made to drink hemlock by the democratic Athenians he’d annoyed; and our favourite elected nut-job, the Austrian the Germans fell for in 1933.*

For further media propounding of this 'democracy is everything' nonsense, think back to the dark days of Tiananmen Square. The western media had most of the rest of the world thinking that the demonstrations were a call for democracy. Bollocks!

As much as can be made out from the pick-and-mix demonstration sanctified by the wholesale slaughter that ended it, the main demands eventuating from a spontaneous get-together to commemorate a dead moderate communist were: an end to corruption (like we don’t that in democracies!); and/or a call to return to nationalised industry by the many millions being laid off in Deng Xiaoping's semi-denationalising and introduction of competition & foreign investment. The “democracy” calls didn't start coming until western media, on the ground, started to suggest the idea themselves. The chants started of something along the lines of, “What Do We Want?” “Something!”. “When Do We Want It?” “Um, I dunno, um, how about soon.” In comes Dan Rather, ''Tell them you want democracy; everyone likes that...do you like Ginger Nuts?”

So what's the solution now for Hong Kong?

In my fantasy world the students would ask themselves what it is they really, really want.

Is democracy enough?

What about cementing in the low taxes, low regulation, free movement, and rule of law they already enjoy?

What if the freedom they still enjoy is democratically voted away?

Well there is no short or sure solution. But again, I hope they know what they are doing, and what they may be in for. All the same I wish them the best of British luck.

>>Suzuki Samurai is NOT PC’s roving correspondent from all places north and west. He is currently on secondment to the trustees of the Sir John Cowperthwaite Memorial Museum and Estate.


* Before someone says, 'but he fooled them...hijacked the

Reichstag…told Porkies to the voters, etc.,' consider that he was more popular in 1941 than he was in 1933 (at least until the Russian winter messed it up) .He didn't need an election, just victory).

3 comments:

  1. What an interesting article. There is another aspect that has been missed in amongst all the noise. It is the matter of who funded it all. Where did the opposition come from and how did they get resourced and organised? Why do HK Chinese rail in favour of uniquely Western political slogans? Who paid for all this?

    And the answer is not that difficult to locate. You'll find the list of "NGOs" and the endowments they received for expenditure in HK in the Congressional Record (just as for the ones in the Ukraine). It is in the order of millions of dollars per week!

    Never mind.

    Forget about it.

    Except this led to violence in every single instance where it has been funded in this manner from this source.

    Amit

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  2. Excellent article. I had the distinct impression that many of the demonstrators in HK are demanding the right to vote themselves other people's money.

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  3. Yes, thanks Suzuki, for this good article. I will mention recent history of democracy and malfeasance in Thailand.
    Military coups here are a matter of common occurrence. However the military rule here since May, has met with approval by many, in realty most Thais.
    Before the military takeover in May, the County was in an economic, legislative and moral quagmire .
    The previous [ voted in democratically ] ‘red’ Government lost about $27billion in a ludicrous rice buy scheme where the Government paid over twice the market value for rice. Govt expenditure $102 billion per year. Losing about one third of your Government income in a year, by stupidity is not good for the Country you are running.
    I agree all redistribution can be called vote buying but the policy for election; paying double value for rice was a pure bribe made to the poorer Thais in the North and North East, about 20 million of them.
    Now, once purchased by Government, this rice was then left to rot in store, because the International market didn’t want overpriced and rotten rice.
    This vote buying rice scheme was invented by a criminal in exile, the former Prime Minister Thaksin, who directed the new Government from Dubai, with his sister appointed as prime Minister.
    In fact this recent democratically elected Government of Thailand was something out of a story book on stupidity, corruption, and criminality.
    The Prime Minister was famously inept She once ordered the flood gates opened in Ayuthaya to let water drain out, and someone had to tell her that water does not float uphill.

    But incompetence aside, The election of the Thaksin Government in 2011, marked the end of any attempt of democratic pretence within Governance,
    It was now about personal benefit, receiving bribes, and manipulating the Constitution for family, and institutional benefactor benefit.
    The level of corruption in Thailand is somewhere about 15%. Total Government expenditure only $100 billion [ similar to NZ but population 65 million here as compared to 4 million NZ ] so potential redirection to the Thaksin fiefdom maybe $10 billion dollars each year.
    This is extraordinary. . A democratically voted in Government which was voted in by open bribe, and the corruption [ kick backs ] level at around 15%
    Those corruption benefits started at the top, and worked their way through the bureaucracy, so that everything was done to favour those in power.

    The Military Coup changed everything. At long last education, health, internal infrastructure, agriculture; the entire neglected mess that was Thailand, is to be re-visited and advanced into a modern world.
    The Police were known to have to finance themselves from Street and road fines. Now everywhere I go, drivers are being subjected to the rule of traffic law, something which utterly astounds them. . The USA Government, and the UB screamed and made idiot sounds when the Military coup took place. Thais just shrugged their shoulders and said ‘ This is Thai way democracy”
    Government is now loaded with Military people, its number. one priority, the big beast of corruption.
    There are some complaints but in general democracy doesn’t help Thailand, at least not so far .
    This is a relatively straight forward account, necessarily simplistic. paul scott

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