Realpolitik up-close

11 August 2014 | Big Lychee

The South China Morning Post has a columnist who regularly and tirelessly repeats much the same hand-wringing mantra: wouldn’t it be nice if everyone compromised and we had peace and harmony? She does it again today. It presupposes a political division between two sides each of whom can claim to fairly represent similarly broad camps and each of whose arguments have some validity. That might summarize debate in democracies over, say, tax cuts versus welfare spending. But it has little relevance to political reform in Hong Kong.

One side here is an autocratic and dictatorial one-party state that rules by fear and has a long record of crushing opposition by force. (It is fronted locally by various Communist loyalists, shoe-shining tycoons and supine if not mercenary bureaucrats, but that’s a façade: this is all top-down puppet-master power.) The other side is a society that insists on keeping pluralism, openness and freedom, and wants representative government as well. There is no symmetry here, and no grounds for negotiation or compromise. The ‘autocratic’ side has all the real hard power; its opponents can only hope that it perceives an interest in not beating them into a pulp, and maybe even in granting a fairer administration.

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