Thursday, 14 May 2020

The case for the status quo

Early in the Hong Kong protests people were labelling them a new “colour revolution”. This was good branding. Because the various colour revolutions had mostly positive outcomes. 
But cursory analysis reveals the HK protests are nothing like those colour revolutions. Those were of peoples sick of their corrupt and inefficient governments and aimed to overthrow them. In Hong Kong things were rather more complicated. For a start there are two “villains” not just the one. Here we have the local government as the lesser villain and the Beijing government as the greater villain. But — and this is the critical part — the local government has been generally efficient and clean, while Beijing is popular with mainlanders, not least for having dramatically raised living standards and having fought corruption. Whatever one might think of Beijing’s human rights abuses (for which a loud boo), I can confirm from numerous visits to all parts of the mainland that people are generally pretty happy with their lives and their government. 
So whereas the colour revolutions drew on massive discontent across the nation, here in Hong Kong even mass local demonstrations count for very little in the grand national picture. Mainlanders were not “inspired” by the demos as many in the west speculated. They were baffled and resentful. They thought we were “ungrateful”. 
Thus it is risible to imagine that the rioters here could ever inspire mainlanders to overthrow the Beijing government, as, incredibly, some seem to believe. 
For those of us in the status quo camp have the tougher case to make. We are the stick-in-the-muds. Whereas the revolutionaries are idealists, the romantics. 
We do have a case, however, and it’s that the alternative is worse. That these revolutionaries, these idealists, will lead us to ruin. 
We believe that ongoing protests, continued violence and insistent stalling the business of our Legislature, will only fray Beijing’s patience and lead to more repression. And that will be a worse outcome than living with the Dragon and appreciating our  existing Seven Freedoms. In other words, protests will lead to the very thing they are protesting about. And it will be a result because of the protests, not despite them.
I acknowledge my privilege. We’ve been lucky and done well in Hong Kong. We’ve retired comfortably here after decades of work in government, in the corporate world and in our own business. We have children born here. We have very deep roots. We care for Hong Kong. 
Of course we don’t want people rocking the boat - isn’t that what any privileged person, comfortable retirees, would say? Sure, but that’s also the view of our friends and colleagues who are still out there, still working, still young, still raising families. They want peace and stability too. We count amongst them real estate agents, doctors, dentists, construction contractors, shop owners, pilots, technicians, lawyers, bankers, even some students. And - of course! -- the emblematic taxi drivers. All of them, all those folks we know here after forty-plus years, are against the protests and the violence. We all want and need stability in Hong Kong to get over the riots and the pandemic.
ADDED: Jing having read this, notes: that there are many friends and colleagues she knows who were kind of on the side of the protesters six months ago, as in “up you, Beijing!”, etc.... but who are now against the protests and the violence, because they see what harm they can do to our dear city and they are simply exhausted. It’s like “we need some peace, already! Settle down”!  (I’m freely interpreting her words here, you understand....).
And I’m also recalling that we ourselves were on side at the beginning and took part in the protests, marching  along with the chanting crowds. 
I also realise this seems like a counsel of despair. A counsel of appeasement, perhaps. What are we to do in Australia in response to China’s recent bullying of my own country? Are we to lie supine before the tyrant-dictator? Well, no, because Australia and China are two sovereign countries and the issues are economic and pandemic-related.  We must stand up to their bullying.
In the case of Hong Kong, we are under China’s sovereignty and it’s power and politics that are in dispute. The point being that continuing to challenge the sovereign can only end badly. Only badly. 
I looked up “world revolutions” in Wikipedia. It’s amazing how many there have been. They are colour-coded according to whether they failed, succeeded, or were neutral. A majority have failed. Not the American Revolution, obviously. But the French? The Great Proletarian Cultural? The Arab Spring? The Cuban? The Iranian Islamic? How many Syrians would prefer today’s deadly chaos to Assad’s pre-uprising Syria?
Below the fold is a letter in today’s Post, from a fellow DB resident.  He makes good points. Which are widely shared in Hong Kong.
Those people, mainly young, who have returned to the streets and shopping malls with the conviction that carrying out destructive and violent acts is the way to get their message across, would be well advised to investigate what happened during the riots of 1966. At that time the British, of whom I am one, were the so-called colonial masters and their reaction was far more direct and decisive than that of the current-day Chinese administration based in Beijing, who have been a model of patience and understanding in comparison.
On the first day the British army garrisoned here came onto the streets with bayonets attached to their rifles. On the second, since the bayonets did not scare the rioters, they began to fire live bullets. One person was shot and killed. The next day they had to do very little to restore calm.
So far, nobody has been killed by the Hong Kong police, a body which, despite the criticisms it has received – often from the “democratic” supporters of the protesters and rioters – has generally acted with the same patience and understanding as the Hong Kong government and the Chinese administration. However, this patience might be wearing thin!
What should be taken into consideration by the participants, and their apologists, in violent acts directed against the government, is the incontrovertible fact that the government, together with the fantastic medical staff and the cautious approach adopted by the Hong Kong people, have done a magnificent job combating Covid-19.
We must be the envy of the world in having only four deaths, however tragic they may be, in total. This isn’t an accident. One amazing statistic after another can be quoted and the policies of the Hong Kong government must be a strong contributory factor in this success.
Instead of doing everything to try to topple them, especially Chief Executive Carrie Lam, why don’t we just thank them and let them carry on striving for the good of Hong Kong?
I can only speculate that the vast majority of Hongkongers are completely fed up and disgusted with the violent acts and only want Hong Kong to return to the normality of the days before the violent protests. This normality can, of course, include dialogue and discussion about what we would like Hong Kong to be in the future, but it shouldn’t include violent and destructive acts by thugs, condoned by their backers.
Chris Stubbs, Discovery Bay