Okay I admit it, just couldn't resist a comment and before anyone thinks about telephoning HSBC so they can "distance themselves from my comments" - I have been nowhere near the Bank,and the comments are entirely my own. Well, maybe not entirely. I was kind of given a gentle nudge by a comment on my last Blog - and having read a lot of hand-wringing and critical comments about the lack of democratic progress in Hong Kong during the last 20 years and how shameful it is, I guess I had to make some sort of appearance.
Let me say upfront in case anyone believes as a result of what I am about to write that I am either a rabid left-winger or a turgid liberal. I believe in fair play, and a degree of equality but also believe that if people are successful through their own efforts they should be entitled to reap and retain the benefits. I do therefore believe in, and am in favour of the democratic process.
Perhaps we should put this in context. Firstly, if the UK had been serious about a democratic process being installed in Hong Kong perhaps they should have thought about introducing it 30 years before the "end of the lease" rather than right at the last moment. And if indeed they had thought about it, they managed to keep the concept very quiet.
Also, wasn't there an effort to introduce more democracy into the Hong Kong process just a couple of years ago, and it was rejected because it was not exactly to the liking of some people? Look, if you are creating something new, and although you might hope it was perfect the first time round, is there not a case to be made for launching it and then dealing with the inevitable imperfections as they arise, working on them once you have perhaps a little more time to think them through?
I would also maintain that while the zeal and the effort over the "demands" for democracy as evidenced by the Occupy Central movement was relevant to a few, the real causes for discontent were more related to the cost of housing and job security for the young of Hong Kong; practical issues that remain to be addressed, I believe.
But the comments made about my last Blog were telling, with one section in particular reading "... democracy is not an end in itself; it is instead one means to achieving an end, which end could be defined as 'liberty and freedom from tyranny, plus the pursuit of happiness under a just equitable and effective Rule of Law as determined by a reasonable consensus of society'.
A lot of truth in that statement, in my opinion, and it suggests that despite all the demands for democracy there is also an element of be careful what you wish for when many of the things you want, perhaps not all of them, are already present. Also, in many countries (no, not all I accept) I believe that the so-called democratic process is tainted by lobby groups who try to ensure that they will be well-represented in the parliament (or by whatever name it is called) so that they can continue to operate in a manner favourable to themselves. This leaves the people, who really believe there is a democratic process in place, no better off than they were before. The rich remain protected but at least those who have a vote believe they have had their say. So far, anyway, until the wealth gap becomes more telling as it is likely to become.
I accept this view of democracy is at one end of the scale, and one pursued by people like Noam Chomsky in his, "Requiem for an American Dream". In addition I do believe that a democratic process, properly administered and regulated is the best way to go, but I have become increasingly cynical about the validity of many so-called democratic elections where there are strong beliefs, often supported, that ballot boxes have somehow been "stuffed" to the advantage of an incumbent leader. Is this the sort of democracy we want? And if you look around the world today at the "great democracies" are they really producing the sort of results and leadership you want?
There is no perfect solution, of course, and quotations about democracy are plentiful. Nevertheless, I think we do need to look at the situation of Hong Kong in detail. Is there a general opinion that we would prefer to have a better and freely elected representative body to discuss the issues that affect Hong Kong? If the answer is yes, then it has to come with the caveat that it must actually do things (and I mean "do") that will benefit Hong Kong in the long run both for the population at large but also a place to do business. I would need to be convinced that this would be the situation.
We also have to be realistic. Hong Kong was under a 99 year lease from China. That lease is now over (and has been for 20 years), and the "original owners" - like it or not - have the last word now.
Twenty years on and thirty to go - we still have time to put ourselves into a position of relevance and strength within the context of China as a whole, and for sure the world in general. The last 20 years have been, shall we say, "interesting" - we need to work at making the next 30 years into a story of which we can be proud.