Saturday, May 12, 2007

Hong Kong: political battlelines shifting?

Daisann McLane writes
The pro-democrats aren't squabbling over democracy, but class interests. The grassroots democrats are pulling away from the stock-portfolio owning upper-middle-class lawyers and professional democrats.

Ten years after the 1997 handover, Hong Kong's battle lines are changing. The people, and the politicians of Hong Kong have begun to focus less on Beijing, and more on the enemy within -- the collusion between home-grown tycoons and a government that exercises almost unlimited control over the city's wealth and development.

(The way this system works to choke Hong Kong's economic growth and initiative is very ably explained by Alice Poon in her great book, and by my buddy Hemlock, in his.)

Hong Kong people have figured out that universal suffrage is meaningless if Li Ka Shing and his family are still getting sweetheart land deals from the HKSAR. That the control freaks in Hong Kong's own government and civil service can be as oppressive and unconcerned with the public's rights as any Beijing bureaucrat. That you can't fight for democracy on a single front.

And so the political game is shifting, re-configuring around new issues. For instance the environment, and heritage -- issues that turn the abstract concept of democracy into something very concrete. As concrete as the four lane highway and gratuitous shopping mall which, if completed according to government plan, will obliterate downtown Hong Kong's waterfront and historic Queen's Pier.

The fight for universal suffrage is no longer taking place in a bubble but in a real Hong Kong, where the right to vote for your government isn't a defense against the excesses of Beijing, but against a clearer and more present danger. That's the difference between 1997 and 2007 in Hong Kong.
More: Learning Cantonese

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