Commentary: The Hong Kong pro-democracy movement compared to other nonviolent freedom struggles, part 2

In my last piece, I compared the Hong Kong democracy movement to other nonviolent freedom struggles, focusing on three ultimately successful ones, the Indian independence struggle, the US civil rights movement, and the eastern European fight against Communist dictatorship. While these movements are today regarded retrospectively as successes, we noted that what they have in common is that 1) they took decades to accomplish their aims and 2) they required a deus ex machina beyond their control as a catalyst for realization of their aims (respectively, World War II, Lyndon Baines Johnson and Gorbachev). The conclusion drawn from the comparison is that freedom struggles are often long, hard and uncertain, and rarely are freedom struggles powerful enough in themselves to accomplish their aims; they usually need other forces to align with their interests. Those struggling for freedom must persevere even when the outcome appears highly uncertain and distant. They must continue to exist until the opportune moment.

Today I look at some ‘failed’ freedom struggles, namely China ‘89, Iran ’77-‘79, Burma ’88-’90, and Egypt ’11-present. Note that all four of those countries are still ruled by authoritarian regimes.

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The Hong Kong pro-democracy movement compared to other nonviolent freedom struggles, part 1

Part 2 is available.

In his “Hong Kong’s Power of the Powerless: Hong Kong’s Last Stand”, Kong Tsung-gan looked at the Indian independence struggle and the US civil rights movement in some detail. He found that both had advantages that the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement lacks:

Gandhi and Indians knew it was just a matter of time. They could outwait the Brits. At the end of the day, there were just so many more Indians than British administrators and resources that if the Indians refused to cooperate, British rule was unsustainable. The Indians had superior numbers on their side. Hong Kong obviously doesn’t. There are 7 million Hong Kong people, and 1 billion mainlanders (or, maybe more to the point, 86 million Chinese Communist Party members). These days, Hong Kong people feel almost inundated by the number of mainland visitors. The number of mainland immigrants per year is about 54,000. One cannot help but think that part of the CCP’s end game for Hong Kong involves the mainlandization of Hong Kong’s population, much as in Tibet and Xinjiang, a process very different from the type of immigration from the mainland to Hong Kong that occurred in the mid-twentieth century.

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Commentary: ‘When you’re pushed around, what else can you do?’ – The dilemma of Hong Kong people in facing a big bully

Our friend the accountant is, typical of a certain sort of Hong Kong person, generally apolitical. Whatever else you might say about him, he certainly isn’t a rabble-rouser. But that was his sympathetic comment about Occupy Central: “When you’re pushed around, what else can you do?” To him, Occupy Central is a logical response to bullying: Either you back down and comply with the bully’s wishes, or you stand up to the bully- there isn’t much middle ground. In a nutshell, that is the dilemma Hong Kong faces at the moment—what to do with a big bully.

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A lot left to play for (and our fate is in our hands)

Our last piece two days ago, “A resolute no to fake democracy”, argued that the Chinese Communist Party’s vision for Hong Kong as articulated in the National People’s Congress Standing Committee decision of August 31 is far worse than no reform at all. Following on that, this piece argues that while the CCP has shown clearly that it has no intention of allowing genuine universal suffrage in Hong Kong any time soon, if ever, there are still important objectives for the pro-democracy movement to accomplish, and we have the power to do so.

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United Front absorbs ICAC, and other stupidity

29 Aug 2014 | Big Lychee

In the past, Hong Kong has usually had moderate politicians, reasonable media voices and neutral bureaucrats and business people with the wisdom and good humour to maintain some basic cohesion. Even after the Article 23 uproar, or Donald Tsang’s anti-democrat tantrums, some sort of civility returned. This time feels different. In its attempts to assert control, Beijing has polarized the city, and it looks permanent. If they’re going to use law enforcement agencies for political persecution stunts, what’s the point of being moderate and constructive?

Maybe Beijing will realize its tactics are overkill and counterproductive. Otherwise, the city is going to end up more alienated, more disgruntled, and less governable than ever.

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