HONG KONG: Demonstrations in 2003 forced government to set aside a piece of unwelcome national security legislation. Former Chief Executive Tung Che Hwa left office for the mistake. Demonstrations this year pressured government to suspend legislation on by-election procedures and to restart public, participatory consultations. Each year, the July 1 demonstrations seem to offer a chance to make a “u-turn” in Hong Kong’s political development.
The social movement in North Africa promised to break through current closed-off and high-pressure politics. But different from the tumultuous “jasmine revolution” in Africa, Hong Kong social movements have been much more moderate. In the past decade, even though there have been up to 500,000 protesters, the demonstrations have been peaceful and self-controlled. The rare incidence of violence or unrest has always been triggered by improper police actions.
Up to now, the changes led by the July 1 demonstrations have been minor. The people of Hong Kong have not obtained radical political reforms. But before the establishment of a real democratic system, the rewards of each demonstration are invaluable.
The demonstrations discourage the attendance of unwelcome officials and police. But they will be back soon because the outdated political system is still there. The chaos led by by-election procedure seems to duplicate the 2003 national security legislation. In a case of “deja vu,” the people are dissatisfied with government and Chief Executive Donald Tsang’s popularity has dipped as low as that of Tung Chee Hwa in 2003.
Several members of Tsang’s cabinet were once Tung’s ministers. They witnessed the democratic storm that year. Common sense dictates that they should have learned a lesson from the shock, and should be able to avoid the present turmoil. But eight years have passed, and little has changed. Hong Kong needs revolutionary, structural political reform. Otherwise, the government deadlock, squeezed between demonstrations and poor governance, will not end.
How to make Hong Kong jasmine bear the fruits of democracy? This is the priority of social movement leaders.