Ask the Sifu October 23rd

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Question:
I am just an ordinary citizen. I am all for democracy. Who doesn’t want more voting rights? But something seems fundamentally wrong with how our institutions are structured, stymying resolution. Is there any way out of this stalemate?


Answer:
The Occupy Movement is only one incident where the citizens of Hong Kong have taken their issue to the street. Have you ever asked yourself why Hong Kong people need to do so?

Our representative democracy fails to represent the true preference of Hong Kong’s population. This is the root cause of all political problems in Hong Kong. In 2003, people began to seize democratic representation by going to the street. Protests have become more frequent.

The focus of each protest has been the number of people attending. Direct democracy is about the number of people on each side. Volume speaks power. There is no more respect for procedure or rules. It is the purest of simple, majority rule.

Some claim direct democracy is better than representative democracy. I beg to differ. Democracy is not about escalating and centralizing powers. Democracy is not about dividing society into factions hating and being coerced into submission to others.

Democracy is about the checks and balances of power.

This way tyranny lies
Let us examine a likely scenario if the proposal to elect the Chief Executive, as put on the table now, were instituted. Let’s say the candidate finally receives 50% plus one vote and becomes the Chief Executive of Hong Kong in 2017. 49.9% of the population will say, “The Chief Executive does not represent me!” and still protest on the street. This will be the case regardless of how the candidates for Chief Executive are nominated.

The only way out for Hong Kong is to completely retool our dysfunctional democratic system

Simple majority rule is the tyranny of the majority. I am not saying that tyranny of the few is a better way out. Democracy is not about tyranny but consensus. The problem in Hong Kong is that too much power is concentrated in the hands of too few people. Directly electing a Chief Executive implies even further concentration of power in the hands of just one person. This is not democracy; it’s tyranny.

The only way out for Hong Kong is to completely retool our dysfunctional democratic system and make it work again. Representative democracy exists for a number of good reasons. While I agree entirely with Churchill’s oft quoted aphorism – “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.” But representative democracy is clearly the better version of it. Deferring the political discussion to agents in the Chambers (i.e. LegCo) allows us to look at the true nature of public policy from a distance. To keep political actors in check, there has to be freedom of the press and reporters who can reveal the stories behind political machinations. This is why more people should read Harbour Times (Ed note. Nice plug – thanks!)

LegCo mighty
There is too much power concentrated in LegCo. Some powers should be devolved to District Councils. For issues that affect the entire Hong Kong populace such as Housing, Education, Health, MPF, and more, there should be more elected representatives to sit on boards of relevant authorities. I would love to see the Board of MPFA or Hospital Authority, wholly or partially, be directly elected. Powers deferred to these institutions should be protected and respected by the Administration and the other branches of the Hong Kong Government. This is the only way out for Hong Kong to become a functioning democracy.

Start all over again
I agree that Hong Kong badly needs a constitutional convention to discuss the above matters. However, I do not think the so-called dialogue planned between the Hong Kong Federation of Students and the Administration can do much. The Hong Kong Federation of Students do not represent the whole of Hong Kong but rather the views of those who want to have the right to directly nominate the candidates for the Chief Executive election. On the other hand, the Administration does not possess the authority to make the call either. It is going to be a megaphone shout from to the other on what has already been said. What Hong Kong needs now is a true constitutional convention where everyone has something to gain and something to lose. I propose that our legislators, pro-dem and pro-establishment, take back the issue, and promise that if the deliberation fails, they will resign and not run for any office again. You can’t win anything unless you risk something.

Democracy cannot function without honouring the processes of democracy. At the end of the day, Democracy is meant to be an institution to protect the rule of law and freedom of the people. Let’s take the debate off the streets and put it back into the Chamber where procedures are honoured and differences are respected.

Care to respond to our Sifu? Write to sifu@archive.harbourtimes.com

Simon Lee, Director of Advocacy Business Consulting, is a columnist and talkshow host. His columns appear in Apple Daily, Next Magazine, and formerly Sharp Daily and has a show on Cable Financial News Channel.