- Struggle for Democracy: Hong Kong Is Increasingly Mainlandized (Dalu-hua 大陆化): Taiwan on the Road Toward Hongkong-ization (Xianggang-hua/香港化)
“It worries me to think about the June 4th [Beijing Massacre of June 4, 1989],” writes a National Taiwan University student to The Liberty Times.1 With China’s stunning rise to economic and military power and the current close relations between Taiwan and her giant neighbor, many Taiwanese are fearful and anxious about what might happen to the freedom and security of their island nation. While Taiwanese were previously reluctant to express support for the Chinese people’s prodemocracy movement, this year hundreds of Taiwan’s college students assembled at Liberty Square in Taipei on the night of June 4, 2011, to mark the twenty-second anniversary of the Beijing Massacre — in coordination with candlelight vigils held in Hong Kong and Macau — to commemorate the victims of the bloody crackdown on the prodemocracy movement and to spotlight the Chinese authorities’ relentless abuses of human rights. An undemocratic China poses a threat to world peace.
Sonny Shiu-hing Lo’s Competing Chinese Political Visions: Hong Kong versus Beijing on Democracy addresses an important topic that should be of great interest to readers concerned with peace and justice around the world. The book consists of chapters of mixed qualities, some with great merits and strengths, and others less so; some observations on current Hong Kong politics are particularly informative, even fascinating. This review article tries to analyze both its strengths and weaknesses; it will also reflect on its implications for Taiwan.
Lo contends that for most Hong Kong people democracy entails the direct elections by universal suffrage of the chief executive and of the entire Legislative [End Page 132] Council (now only thirty of the sixty legislators are popularly elected in the five geographical constituencies, and the other thirty are selected by functional constituencies); this Western model of checks and balances on the chief executive and legislature through direct elections contradicts the vision of the leaders of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), who “regard the gradual improvement of the legal system and the spread of village elections as signs of a Chinese-style of democratization.” The PRC leaders insist on an authoritarian, executive-led polity for Hong Kong in the name of stability, prosperity, and patriotism; they believe that “democracy in the socialist PRC has to be procedurally incremental, publicly accountable, and culturally special with Chinese characteristics.” Lo argues that “These two divergent visions of democracy — one Western and another Chinese — have been shaping the political development of the HKSAR [Hong Kong Special Administrative Region] since July 1, 1997” (p. 1).
Later in this review, I shall address the critical issue of the author’s argument regarding Western and Chinese visions of democracy. He makes it clear that the authorities in the PRC and the HKSAR have sought by all means to delay and block the Hong Kong people’s demand for popular elections of the chief executive and of the whole Legislative Council.
Legacy of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Incident
Lo traces the origins of the two competing political visions to the Beijing Tiananmen Square Incident of 1989, which is the subject of chapter 1. If, Lo observes, Hong Kong under British rule provided a revolutionary base for Sun Yat-sen and his supporters to conspire against the Qing dynasty, since 1989 it has become a “democratizing base” (p. 23) for Hong Kong Chinese to attempt to make a liberalizing impact on the PRC. In fact, “Hong Kong in May and June 1989, became a ‘revolutionary’ base fostering and supporting the mainland democrats in opposing the PRC government” (p. 29). On May 28, 1.5 million Hong Kong citizens took to the streets to support student protesters in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, calling on Premier Li Peng to step down. People contributed to public donations for China’s prodemocracy movement. “Many Hong Kong people strengthened their Chinese identity during the PRC Tiananmen incident” (p...