Date
26 March 2017
Activists hold yellow umbrellas, a symbol of the pro-democracy movement, in front of the government headquarters to mark the second anniversary of the 2014 Occupy protests on Sept. 28. Photo: AFP
Activists hold yellow umbrellas, a symbol of the pro-democracy movement, in front of the government headquarters to mark the second anniversary of the 2014 Occupy protests on Sept. 28. Photo: AFP

Why ‘democratic fundamentalism’ is holding us back

We have been fighting for democracy for 30 years now, but our society is still deeply divided over which approach we should adopt in pressing ahead with the democratization process.

Such deep divisions have made it more difficult for us to achieve our goal.

First, there are some people out there who still take the view that the pro-democracy camp should not take part in any election because our system has remained so undemocratic and unjust.

Participating in these elections, they say, is the same as endorsing an unjust system.

Second, there are others who think some of the approaches to achieving democracy have failed to stand up to the most rigorous democratic standards, and therefore should not be adopted in our pro-democracy movement.

In other words, the end doesn’t always justify the means when fighting for democracy.

Then some argue that any initiative that cannot bring immediate results or sweeping changes is simply a waste of time and resources.

On the other hand, some believe that even though certain actions are in line with the principles of democracy and can facilitate public participation, they might add credibility to the unjust establishment, and therefore should not be adopted either.

And lastly, some insist that even though certain actions do reflect the general opinion of the public, those actions could bring results contrary to original intentions, and therefore should not be taken.

In fact, our pro-democracy movement has been haunted and hindered by the continued conflict among those who hold these opposing views over the past three decades.

People who stubbornly stick to their own views over the way we should pursue the fight for democracy – let me refer to them as “democratic fundamentalists” – are often so self-opinionated that they always refuse to listen to others’ opinions, let alone accommodate them.

As a result, our democratization process has repeatedly ground to a halt due to differences of opinion over approaches and methods among pro-democracy leaders.

I think what these “democratic fundamentalists” need to understand is that Hong Kong is not a sovereign state, and the opponent we are up against, i.e. Beijing, is so powerful that our fight for democracy is pretty much an asymmetrical war.

And in order to win an asymmetrical war, it takes flexibility, receptiveness, or sometimes political expedience.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct. 11.

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

– Contact us at [email protected]

RT/CG

Associate Professor of Law at the University of Hong Kong

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