An open reply to an open letter

Dear Mr Raymond W. Yin,

I refer to the 6 Oct 2014 Straits Times print of your letter “An open letter to HK protesters”.

Answer to question 1:

Just because Hong Kong never got to elect governors during British colonial days it therefore has no right to ask for elections now?

Suppose you worked for a very kind, understanding boss who gave you all the freedom to do your work enjoyably. You never felt a need to ask for freedom because you never felt oppressed. But one day, you got a new boss who liked to micro-manage and even tried to force moral education upon you, would you not feel fed up and demand for more freedom? Will you be so stupid as to say, because I didn’t ask for freedom previously when I was under a kind understanding boss, I therefore have no right to ask for freedom now that I am under an unreasonable boss?

Singapore too never got to elect our governor over more 100 years of British rule. But that didn’t stop Singaporean pioneers from agitating, demonstrating, fighting and ultimately winning full internal self-government. If Singaporean pioneers were like you, thinking they have no right to ask for freedom after 100 over years of British rule, Singapore could still be a British colony today.

Answer to question 2:

The Basic Law has been in use for only less than 20 years so it’s still relatively new, unlike the British Common Law which has been honed over hundreds of years. Various parts of the Basic Law are not thoroughly clear and have resulted in contradictory interpretations. Worse still, some parts actually contradict other parts. Given the rawness of the Basic Law, it should not be regarded as being cast in stone but should be given refinement in accordance to what the Hong Kong people wants. Ultimately, this is a document for the Hong Kong people to decide for their benefit, not a document to restrict them. A city’s constitution and laws should be for the benefit not to the detriment of its people.

If we look at the top ranked democratic nations in this world:

Country 2012 EIU Democracy Index
Norway 9.93
Sweden 9.73
Iceland 9.65
Denmark 9.52
New Zealand 9.26
Australia 9.22
Switzerland 9.09
Canada 9.08
Finland 9.06
Netherlands 8.99
Luxembourg 8.88
Austria 8.62
Ireland 8.56
Germany 8.34
Malta 8.28
United Kingdom 8.21
Czech Republic 8.19
Uruguay 8.17
Mauritius 8.17
South Korea 8.13

They all share the same clear and unambiguous universal suffrage of being free to choose their respective government heads. They don’t have an external power that approves a list of candidates that can be elected.

In the list above is Malta which was also an ex-British colony. Up to 1974, Malta’s head of state was Queen Elizabeth. A British Governor-General exercised nominal authority over the Maltese prime minister which effectively ruled Malta. But make no mistake; the British didn’t pre-approve a list from which the Maltese prime minister can be elected.

Should the dictator or the people dictate the pace of democratic development? After the Second World War, the French and the Dutch went back to re-assert control of their respective colonies. If the Vietnamese and Indonesian people didn’t rise up against their colonial masters, you think Vietnam and Indonesia could have achieved independence so quickly? If Gandhi didn’t fight for India’s independence but gladly allowed the British to dictate the pace of democratic development, you think India could have achieved independence so quickly?

Lee Kuan Yew famously said:

After all, the British did not govern from Singapore for decades just because they like Singapore. This happens to be the centre of gravity in the area.
Straits Times, “Premier Lee: Common market is vital to agreement”, 26 Jun 1963, page 7

If Singaporean pioneers didn’t rise up against the British, the British would have gladly continued to govern this piece of gravitational centre just as it continued to govern Hong Kong for as long as it was allowed to.

While there is nothing wrong for the central government to ensure a patriotic person governs Hong Kong, it is for the Hong Kong people, not the central government to decide who is patriotic to Hong Kong and who is not.

Answer to question 3:

There is no reason why academics or clergymen cannot initiate protests. Martin Luther King was a pastor. Did Pastor King sin when he led non-violent protests during the American civil rights movement? Dr Sun Yat Sen was trained as a doctor. Did Dr Sun lack integrity when he led China’s revolutionary movement that finally brought an end to imperial China?

Under “one country, two systems”, Hong Kong already has a lot more freedom than the rest of mainland China. Yet, the rest of mainland China is not following suit in asking for the same. Why would “one person, one vote” make any difference? Why would the rest of China plunge into chaos?

Why do you liken emigration to becoming slaves of a foreign master and yet you continue to live in the US? Why worry about Hong Kong people becoming slaves to foreign masters when you yourself has become one and continues to be one?

US involvement in the Middle East is just one of many US international involvements. If you look at the Far East, South Korea and Taiwan have benefited enormously from US involvement. Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and much of East and Southeast Asia have also benefited to varying degrees from US involvement. There can be no doubt that East and Southeast Asian nations have a better life now because of US involvement.

Deng Xiaoping’s 50 year commitment means Hong Kong people continue to worry about their future after 50 years.

Hong Kong was already prosperous and stable since British colonial times. Hong Kong didn’t just become prosperous after its handover to China.

Just because there is no perfection in this universe we don’t strive to make life better for ourselves?

Is one’s long term view better when one has full control over one’s destiny or is one’s long term view better when one’s destiny is at the mercy of another?

Democracy is no poison to Taiwan; Taiwan is the 12th most competitive economy in the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Index, much higher than 29th ranked China and certainly no poison to 7th ranked Hong Kong.

Straits Times, An open letter to HK protesters, 6 Oct 2014, Raymond W. Yin

As a senior overseas Chinese who has lived in the United States for almost 50 years, I have really not needed to worry about the future of Hong Kong.

That is until the recent dramatic and unexpected developments there. Because my loved ones and seven million of my compatriots live in the city, I cannot stand by and watch them led astray into a political cul-de-sac by a few people with questionable intentions, maybe even ulterior motives, without saying something.

Though my words may not be welcome, I must still speak the truth or I will not be at peace with my conscience.

Among you, the three initiators of the so-called “Occupy Central” movement, two are university professors and one a religious figure. Under normal circumstance, you all should enjoy respect as scholars. But apparently you are not familiar with prevailing world circumstances, nor do you understand history. You self-righteously proclaim that you represent the people while encouraging idealistic but naive youth to break the law in order to pursue unrealistic political objectives. If this is not prompted by some kind of ulterior motives, then your ignorance causes me to sigh with despair.

Please answer me these questions:

In the British colonial days, did you elect the governors?
Has the universal suffrage reform framework, passed by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC), violated the Basic Law? You say it is not in line with “international standards” but define “international standards”. Please also explain which country’s electoral mechanism measures up to the so-called “international standards”.
Professor Chan Kin Man, you have repeatedly said the refusal of the NPCSC to accept your political reform proposals is humiliating to you personally. What if the central government were to say that you have humiliated them with your remarks instead? What would you say?
The development of democracy is a gradual process. It cannot be rushed nor can it be implemented in haste. Otherwise, serious problems would arise. The central government says it wants to ensure only a patriotic person can become Chief Executive of Hong Kong. What is wrong with that? Would you rather a turncoat be elected to the post? It is simply part of the selection process under an, as yet, imperfect reform framework, but it is a good start. We will be able to improve it as we gain more experience with its implementation. But if you rush the process, you are likely to mess up things, and we will all suffer. Can you afford to bear this responsibility?
The three of you who initiated Occupy Central are academics and a member of the clergy. Your responsibility is to nurture talent, not to take it onto the streets in defiance of the law at the risk of ruining the future of your charges. Don’t be presumptuous about the absolute integrity of your position. Bear in mind that there is that silent majority who might not share your views. I would counsel you to read more history and learn from the mistakes of mankind’s past. You may then gain an awareness of the dangers of unpredictability and not seeing the wood for the trees. Most of all, you must avoid violence. Don’t be besotted with apparent Western superiority and practice. Always think twice before you act.

Tell me, if Beijing were to accept your demands for “one person, one vote” in Hong Kong, and the people on the mainland also were to follow suit in electing the president of the country, where do you think it would lead us in the current situation? If Hong Kong and the nation are in chaos, you can emigrate abroad to become slaves of a foreign master. But what can the other Hong Kongers and mainlanders do?

When the United States sent troops overseas with the intention of “saving” Iran, Libya, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, the reasons were that in those countries the rulers were despotic and their peoples had no freedom. But look at the consequences now.

The rulers were either killed, jailed or ran away, but are their peoples freer now? Do they have a better life?

Ms Anson Chan Fang On-sang and Mr Martin Lee Chu Ming went to Britain to seek support. Do you think that it is right? Mr Chris Patten says the NPCSC passed a fake election framework. Please ask him this question for me: Was he elected to his previous role as governor of Hong Kong by the Hong Kong people?
Deng Xiaoping made a commitment to maintain the status quo of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) for 50 years. Has that been changed?

Later, this commitment became the Basic Law and Hong Kong received full support from the mainland. Consequently, the SAR overcame many difficulties, leading to today’s prosperity and stability. You should cherish the recent gains.

Where on earth can we find a perfect universe? There is no perfect system. And there is no need to insist on everything now. It is better to take the long-term view, hoping for the prosperity of the motherland and improving the quality of people’s lives. Peace and democracy will bear fruit, and Hong Kong and mainland citizens will be better for it. We must have patience.

I have studied and worked in the US and Canada for nearly 50 years. I understand that Western democracy is no panacea. For success, it requires an upgrade in the quality of the people. According to the prevailing view, democracy is a blessing in Europe and the US (though not perfect) but a poison in Taiwan, and a disaster in the Arabic world. I predict it would create chaos in China and cause the people to suffer. Do you not understand this obvious truth?

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