Hong Kong and color revolution

Updated: 2013-10-11 07:02

By Thomas Chan(HK Edition)

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Given all the debates and arguments made in recent months, the "Occupy Central" movement and the Alliance for True Democracy as well as the Civic Party (they seem also to be closely related) have given one the impression that they are not seriously talking about the methods and procedures for the universal suffrage of the Chief Executive (CE) election in 2017. Instead they have widened their political demands to cover even a possible election reform in 2016. By shifting and expanding their political discourse and dialogue it would be difficult for the SAR government and the central government as well as the general populace in Hong Kong to engage them in serious discussion and even negotiation. Probably it is their aim. If being tied down to serious negotiation about specifics, they may lose their political appeal, which says the SAR government and the central government are not serious in the democratization of Hong Kong. If they aim to use the demands as excuses to criticize and discredit local and Beijing authorities, and to gain popular support for democracy, but a vague and undefined one that appeals to all but without any commitment, the easier tactic is to be evasive with content that is dressed in strong accusatory words, or to propose reforms that are miles away from the framework laid down in the Basic Law.

There is a saying that they are aiming for a color revolution in Hong Kong. As evidenced in the aggressive intervention by the US representative in the city and increasing international (read US orchestrated) pressure, it is naive to dismiss it easily. The 2017 CE election or 2016 Legislative Council (LegCo) election allow some years from now to nurture, mobilize and coordinate the movement for color revolution in Hong Kong.

If Hong Kong has a color revolution in the coming years, what would happen to the Chinese mainland? Can the central government work with the "democratic opposition" in the territory, which should be less interested in developing the local economy than spending the huge reserve accumulated by the government to please the local population, as well as hindering the integration with the Pearl River Delta region and the mainland. One should not forget the formidable impact of the color revolutions in the early 2000s in the former Soviet Union states and the recent Arabic Spring in the last few years.

The lessons of the color revolutions are bitter and strong: that the original aims for democracy are difficult to realize and that power corrupts. There has been always the worse scenario of political and social disruptions.

Take the most successful one, the Rose Revolution of Georgia, as an example. The new regime succeeded in eliminating minor corruption on the street and in the lower echelons of the government bureaucracy, and the country is open and liberal, making it one of the most business-friendly nations in the world. The Western press has claimed the credit with its pro-West policy, with its intended application for membership of NATO and the EU.

Hong Kong and color revolution

However, the ordinary people seem to have benefited little. With a Russian embargo as a result of the Georgia-initiated war, Georgian products have lost their largest export market. The US and EU have indeed given some aid to help refurbish the face of the cities (mainly the capital Tbilisi), but recently a scandal unearthed the president's officials involved in the embezzlement of foreign-invested funds. Last year the people chose the pro-Russia Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili. The presidential election will be held on Oct 27, and the polls have all pointed to the defeat of the architect of the Rose Revolution, the incumbent President Mikheil Saakashvili. After the election the government of Georgia would be unified and the prime minister has also hinted at the possibility of joining the Russia-led Eurasian Union of former Soviet Union nations. It seems the rose revolution has come full circle with much time and energy of the people wasted.

The same lesson exists for Hong Kong, which has been and is benefiting enormously from economically integrating with the mainland. Those - some junior academics in the universities, a few young activists, and extremist political groups - who advocate segregation from the mainland and a return to the British colonial system, have received strong support from the established opposition parties and the anti-China media. They tend to take politics - regime change under the disguise of democracy - as the magic spell to give prosperity to everyone, and are willing to sacrifice economy and the interest of the common people. They should look at Georgia to see the real outcome of color revolutions. Perhaps they may not be interested, as their aim is not for the prosperity and development of Hong Kong and its people.

The author is director of the Public Policy Research Institute and head of the China Business Center, Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

(HK Edition 10/11/2013 page9)