Harbour View: We can do better. Much much better.

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The government. Politicians. Students. Citizens. Media. Police. Triads. Well, I’m not sure about triads. But the rest, certainly.

Hong Kong is a remarkable place and now it has remarkabl problems. The list above consists of people and classes of people engaged in the political process that will determine how we construct a society capable of delivering justice and opportunity for all her people. In the past, we’ve been pretty good at it. But it is time to go to the next phase.

If tear gas, a non-lethal form of crowd control, is unacceptable to the people of Hong Kong, then we should declare and make it so, after an informed debate.

Our old constitutional arrangements whereby we choose our leaders no longer serve us nor satisfy the community. We have created too much visible wealth for anyone to settle for anything less than a fair shot at it – even if they don’t get it. We are too well educated to accept that we cannot be as responsible for ourselves as the most democratic people on earth. Hong Kongers are too connected to the world to become insular. It is not time to settle for second best.

Not a ‘piggie’
Many would convince you it is time to settle. I heard one senior politician (not to be named, to her shame) describe Hong Kong as ‘a piggie caught in the middle’ of China’s needs, as if to suggest there would be bacon for breakfast. Commentators in China, feeding the Hong Kong-mainland antagonism, accuse our people of ‘Hong Kong exceptionalism’, suggesting the motives of a spoiled child. That is not who we are.

What Hong Kong is, is the most economically free place on Earth. We have had a police respected by all – until these past weeks. Our model for curbing corruption has been imitated by others, but has recently fallen afoul of high-spending chieftains in government and the ICAC. It is time to regroup, change tack, and move forward.

Settle for nothing
Specifically, there are many claiming Hong Kong should settle for ‘good enough’ in a range of areas. Good enough is never enough.
With regard to violence, the argument goes that if this was any other jurisdiction, our police would have been cracking skulls with abandon rather than have students take the street. But this is Hong Kong. It is not that China, nor America, nor another superpower accustomed to abusing its citizens. If tear gas, a non-lethal form of crowd control, is unacceptable to the people of Hong Kong, then we should declare and make it so, after an informed debate. Clearly many people think so, as crowd numbers swelled on September 28th and 29th as people came to the streets in protest, after seeing their compatriots gassed in the streets.

Senior democratic politicians…need to restructure their parties and mentalities to become genuinely democratic,

Some argue that we are part of China, should not expect special treatment and should accept becoming more like China, as if it is inevitable. China has the death penalty, extra-legal seizures of property, an unfree press, state-controlled religion and a censored internet. None of those are conditions Hong Kongers should consider something to move towards in any measure, just to get along. China has come a long way in increasing freedoms, absolutely. However, there is no reason that Hong Kong should degrade its gains in those areas.

Bigger and better, the best
Instead, Hong Kong should be looking to extend its gains in those area of freedom and democratic responsibility. If China is not ready to follow yet, that is another issue, but Hong Kong needs to insist on the ability to innovate and move the game forward in advancing its civilisation. China can follow in its own time and way, but shouldn’t hold Hong Kong back.

The same goes for constitutional reform. It may be that through the efforts of Cowperthwaite and his successors, Hong Kong accidentally ended up at the top of the economic freedom charts. However, we know what we have to do to avoid dropping to 115, where sits our giant parent to the north. We can do the same for politics.

Student leaders, precariously balanced at the front of the Umbrella Movement need to up their game to listen to and inspire their followers in Admiralty and Mong Kok. Then they will be able to lead – not just respond to their constituents’ demands. They got lucky things went this far, but student leaders need to become true master politicians if they are to represent their people and secure democratic gains from the Administration.

Senior democratic politicians have been playing the game the same way for decades, but find themselves behind the curve of the new movement. This paper has argued that they need to restructure their parties and mentalities to become genuinely democratic, adapt to new political realities and become stronger. The members they seek are in Harcourt Square, Causeway Bay and Mong Kok – but I would wager not a one has signed up to join a mainstream democratic party since September 26. They need to open their doors and welcome them to bring them into their fold and finally win the democracy they seek.

Our senior politicians in government need not resign. A resignation serves no one – we need champions, not quitters. Our ExCo members need to see themselves as leader-negotiators, representing the people to lead us to constitutional compromises until we can settle our differences with votes, not marches and protests. Any so-called leader whose rallying call is ‘Beijing says’ and ‘well, that’s a good as you’ll get’ inspires no one and speaks only to the most timid and defeated. That is no service to people as bold and ambitious as the people of Hong Kong.

China’s leaders must overcome their fear, first of Hong Kong and then, themselves. Command and control will not work here and will only end in tears. They must reach out to build bridges en masse with people they can trust who genuinely represent the people. Then they may have a chance of being the pioneers that led China to a golden era, starting in Hong Kong.

A resignation serves no one – we need champions, not quitters.

Media must bravely expose injustice, but not dwell on the petty conflicts that thrill and entertain, degrade trust and distract from serious work at hand. Lawyers and judges must (and have thus far) stand by rule of law. Police must keep their swords (skills) sharp and hearts pure to defend the people, not oppress.

If all these people embrace these roles, Hong Kong will thrive. They must demand that Hong Kong not accept a mediocre ‘good enough’ but must aspire to be the best in the world. Then we may have a chance at transforming the most special place on earth and making it just for all. We can design the best representative democracy here in Hong Kong, but Hong Kongers have to decide they will not settle.

Because we can do better. Much, much better than what we have and better than anyone else in the world.