A solution in Hong Kong

Protest in Hong KongThe less many of European politicians and media pundits know or understand about such issues as poverty in Europe, terrorism in the Middle East or street protests in China, the more noise they make.

In the case of Hong Kong, where demonstrations are petering out, flabbergasting lashings of hypocrisy are also stirred into the mix.

Over the past week, groups of protestors occupied the city’s streets, demanding an end to proposed procedures to determine who can stand for election for the post of Hong Kong chief executive (in effect, the prime minister).

Over the weekend, accusations intensified here and elsewhere that the Chinese authorities were reneging on pledges to safeguard the island’s democracy after its restoration to China in 1997.

Yet forgotten in the vast majority of reporting of these events is the glaring fact that Hong Kong had never experienced any kind of democracy at any time under 100 years of British imperial rule.

The only democratic elections the city’s residents have known so far are those for its legislature in 2004, 2008 and 2012.

These were sufficiently free and fair to return a majority of representatives whose parties opposed the Chinese Communist Party, the Beijing central government and the perspective of building a socialist society.

That being said, at the most recent polls a larger than expected minority of voters — some 43 per cent — opted to support candidates who favoured a closer, more constructive relationship with Beijing.

This sounded alarm bells for some elements in Hong Kong and their Western backers. They prefer a strategy of confrontation in the hope of preserving a local system in which greed, corruption, pollution and organised crime have long been permitted to ride roughshod over the needs of the poorest and most deprived citizens.

Not surprisingly, some prominent oppositionists such as Anson Chan and Martin Lee are sponsored by the state-funded US National Endowment for Democracy, joining such illustrious past clients as the anti-communist Solidarity movement in Poland and the anti-Sandinista Contra terrorists in Nicaragua.

Today, the NED also funds anti-communist bodies in China’s Xinjiang province and counter-revolutionary organisations in Venezuela.

The Hong Kong agitation in recent weeks, led initially by an Occupy Central movement which appears, unusually, to have been founded by university professors, has attracted lively support from students whose idealism should be respected rather than misused or abused.

Heavy-handed responses from the police and from aggrieved traders and Triad gangsters temporarily boosted street occupations last week.

On Sunday the government said it was ready to begin dialogue with the Hong Kong Federation of Students on constitutional reform and in response protest leaders agreed to talks, which could open the way for a negotiated solution.

It seems that, despite the apparent desire of some in the West to see ongoing clashes and a confrontation with Beijing, the leadership in Hong Kong and the majority of protesters have opted to try to find a peaceful end to the standoff.

An end to outside meddling, provocative speculation and hypocritical lectures would also now help to create an atmosphere in which democracy can be protected and extended in Hong Kong.

We must now hope for meaningful talks and reject those who would deepen the divisions in a Hong Kong society whose wealth and vigour should instead be resolving a range of economic, social and environmental problems. (Morning Star Comment)

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