A tale of two cities

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Emily Lau and Dr Chee Soon Juan, party leaders of the Democratic Party in Hong Kong and Singapore talked about inequality and democracy at the 16th Annual Economic Freedom Network Asia Conference.

The occupation movement, now in its 41st day, is beleived to have its origins in a range of sources of discontent, not least concerns about inequality.

The issue of inequality is at the heart of the discussion at the 16th Annual Economic Freedom Network Asia Conference, held in Hong Kong on November 6th. The next day, the Council for Asian Liberals and Democrats. Both were sponsored by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation and shared the topic of ‘Liberalism: Promoting Growth, Reducing Inequality’, comes at a time when many young people in Hong Kong feel their opportunities to move upwards are low to non-existent are sometimes claim property tycoons accumulate their wealth at the expense of young people themselves.
When policies and politics are connected to inequality, the establishment of a democracy can be seen as a remedy to those who lack it. On November 7th, two leaders from the democratic camp in Hong Kong and Singapore gave rousing speeches at the conference. Interestingly, not only are both of them party leaders, their parties share the same name – Democratic Party.

Dr Chee Soon Juan, party leader of the Singapore Democratic Party, is a well-known political figure back home. He was arrested 12 times and imprisoned on numerous occasions for taking part in peaceful protests, speaking in public without a permit, distributing propaganda critical of the government, for trying to attend conferences and for contempt of Singapore’s courts (for refusing to pay awards in libel cases brought for criticising the government).

Dr Chee opened his speech with an aggressive tone, lashing out on the Singaporean Government for doing almost nothing on improving equality and growth opportunities. He claimed that 5% of the workforce receive less than $5000 USD a year even though the country holds one of the highest number of the super-rich in the world. He also said that protests in Singapore are rare because the Government has continuously cracked down public gatherings. Being able to make the decision at will as to “how we live and how we make of life, this in essence, is freedom.”
Following Dr Chee to speak on stage was local political veteran, Emily Lau, leader of the Democratic Party. She received rapturous ovations twice in her speech from the audience as she told the story of the Umbrella Movement and how she was arrested when she and several other lawmakers tried to bring sound equipment into the protest areas on the morning of September 28th. “Democracy and human rights transcend national boundaries,” she said and joked at one point that Dr Chee and she were quite alike in the sense that they both will be jailed soon.