Occupy Central Part III: Who are the Radicals?

Trey | 22 June 2014 | Comparativist

Let’s take the Wikipedia definition of political radicalism and play with it. It is a a term denoting, “political principles focused on altering social structures through revolutionary means and changing value systems in fundamental ways.” Radicalness, then, might be defined as the distance between what currently exists and the types of political change envisioned. How can we measure this?

We might take the form of opinion polls. One recent poll finds that 36.4% of Hong Kong’s population was inclined to support pan-democrats, while only 20.4% were incline to support the ‘pro-establishment’ camps. Neither side owns a majority here, but one has a clear plurality. This is nuanced by a phantom poll that Alex Lo cites repeatedly showing that 54% would essentially settle for Beijing’s approach to executive recruitment. Yet no traces of this poll can be found online, nor are other similar ones evident, making it difficult to know (a) what the margins of error are, (b) how the population was chosen [in the US, ‘likely voters’ is the usual sampled population], (c) how the question was worded, and (d) what the other questions were.

For instance, we don’t know what those polled actually preferred – only what they would settle for. When Lo writes that, “survey after survey has shown public nomination, which underpins all three plans being voted on in the ‘referendum’, does not have majority support”, one doesn’t know how specious the claim is. Or even whether Alex Lo knows how to read opinion polls.

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Occupy Central Part 1: Democracy in Hong Kong

Trey | 14 June 2014 | Comparativist

Hong Kong might well blow up into an international news story in the next few weeks. From where I stand now, in mid-June, nobody knows how Occupy Central is going to unfold, though Part 2 looks at the energies and strategies at play. I should start by saying that I hate this term because I think it’s a catch-all term that doesn’t quite mean what people want it to mean. There is something we might call ‘mechanical democracy’ and then there are degrees of political pluralism and voice (what, for me, is ‘real’ democracy). We might also borrow from Charles Tilly’s definition of democracy as ‘grudging consent’:

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Occupy Central Part II: Politics and Possibilities

Trey | 14 June 2014 | Comparativist

In this Part 1 I covered the democratic issues at stake with the Chief Executive recruitment process and what it means for democracy in China and Hong Kong. This section will look at the Occupy Movement itself a little more closely. There are three primary contexts I will highlight here: energies for the movement, direction action versus protest, and what the protests might realistically yield.

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