22 October 2016
The most urgent task before pro-democracy activists now is to defend the core values of Hong Kong and to fight Beijing's attempts to encroach on our freedoms. Photo: HKEJ
The most urgent task before pro-democracy activists now is to defend the core values of Hong Kong and to fight Beijing's attempts to encroach on our freedoms. Photo: HKEJ

One year after Occupy, what’s the best way forward for HK?

As the first anniversary of the launch of the Occupy Movement is upon us, many of those who took part in the movement last year have begun to reflect on what happened during those extraordinary 79 days, and put forward new suggestions on the way forward for the democracy movement.

Among the proposals, some suggested that the local pro-democracy movement be connected with a democracy campaign across the border, and that our core values and the merits of our social system be “exported” to the mainland in order to influence or even change the course of events there.

Only by doing so, they believe, can Hong Kong lift its bargaining power with Beijing and boost the chances of success for the pro-democracy movement.

Personally, I am a bit skeptical about the suggestion.

First, will a democratic China necessarily respect our autonomy? The answer could be negative.

Let’s take India and the former kingdom of Sikkim as an example.

After India gained its independence and became a democratic country in 1947, it concluded a peace treaty with the nearby Sikkim, under which the tiny kingdom would become a protectorate of India, and be entitled to a high degree of autonomy.

The reason why India allowed Sikkim to retain much of its autonomy while enjoying its military protection was simple: Sikkim was intended by India to be a buffer state between her and her neighbors, and therefore it was in India’s interest to allow the kingdom to have self-government.

However, when India found Sikkim had lost its strategic value in the late 1960s, it began to orchestrate the annexation of the kingdom through a series of carefully perpetrated maneuvers such as inciting the majority ethnic Indians in Sikkim to stage an anti-government riot so that India could send troops into the kingdom in the name of protecting its compatriots.

Eventually in 1975, a referendum, largely manipulated by India, was held in Sikkim to vote on the future of the kingdom, in which the motion to join India and become its 22nd province was passed by an overwhelming majority.

Another example is Okinawa. Although Japan is rated one of the most democratic and liberal countries in the world, it doesn’t necessarily mean Tokyo always respects the autonomy of the regional governments of the country, such as Okinawa.

For years the Okinawans have been calling for the closure of US military bases on their island, yet Tokyo has continued to ignore their demands.

Prime Minister Abe Shinzo even approved a plan to build a new base to replace the existing Futenma air base on the island despite fierce opposition from the Okinawa Prefecture government.

All these suggest that even the central government of a democratic country may sometimes act against the will of its regional authorities when it comes to critical issues such as national security.

Meanwhile, the idea of exporting our core values to the mainland in order to bring about change might also backfire, as it could arouse Beijing’s suspicion and make it even more reluctant to allow us genuine elections.

I believe the most urgent task before us right now is to actively resist the infiltration and onslaughts by the Communists, defend our core values and keep the sense of identity growing among our public, rather than exporting “revolution” to the mainland.

In the meantime, we must reinforce our status as an international financial hub in order to maintain our competitiveness, so that we can always negotiate with Beijing in a position of strength.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Sept. 22.

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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