OPINIONS Electoral system reform will revive HK


Electoral system reform will revive HK

China Daily

11:18, March 14, 2021

Photo: Xinhua

The US and British media have condemned the electoral system reform in Hong Kong, claiming it undermines the special administrative region's political system. But, in reality, the opposite is the case. Far from destroying the credibility, prosperity and economic dynamism of Hong Kong and leading its people to oppression and ruin, the electoral system reform will save them from that fate.

The loudest voices of condemnation are of some politicians in the United States who, ironically, have turned a blind eye to the demonization of political protests in their own country.

The attack on the Capitol building on Jan 6 was ugly, chaotic, and shamed the US across the world. But it certainly was not a violent insurrection. The rioters, some of whom were white supremacists or slobs, were not out to kill, massacre or wage violence; they were not carrying weapons needed to do so. They seemed more interested in taking "selfies" and videos of themselves in the lawmakers' offices.

However, terrified, even hysterical, Congress members including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi have repeatedly pressured the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other law enforcement agencies to hunt down and prosecute every member of the crowd on Capitol Hill and, if necessary, ban them from flying.

Just imagine how these very same people would have reacted if the Chinese government ordered the arrest of every person who participated in the violent protests and unleashed mayhem in Hong Kong.

Every state, including the US and China, has the obligation and right and moral duty to maintain public safety and protect its citizens from intimidation and violence. Failure to do so, as the British government discovered in my native Northern Ireland in the late 1960s, very rapidly leads to a total breakdown of law and order, forcing the government to send in armed forces and even impose marital law. Such upheavals set off disastrous spirals where loss of confidence among business leaders prevents them from investing in the territory. This happened in Northern Ireland, leading to an economic collapse that took generations to reverse.

Far from ensuring the peace, security and prosperity of Hong Kong, any failure by China to end violent public demonstrations against law enforcement authorities would instead destroy the economic dynamism of the SAR, which has flourished since its reunification with the motherland nearly 24 years ago.

The electoral system reform has once again sparked a heated debate on whether Hong Kong's democracy is being undermined. However, it will not undermine the world's confidence in Hong Kong. On the contrary, the continuation of violent protests and subversion would do that.

I am not speaking theoretically like the endless legions of sleek, well-paid political pundits in the West who endlessly lecture China and even accuse it of using excessive force in an effort to maintain, peace and security in Hong Kong, and help and its economic development. For I lived through and witnessed the consequences of a similar destabilization process run amok in my native Northern Ireland more than half a century ago. Since then, I have seen societies similarly descending into mad sectarian conflicts and violence across the world, from the Balkans to Central Asia.

The most basic rule of political discourse in any society is that all participants in the political process are loyal and constructive in their efforts to both uphold and strengthen it by advocating reforms. Martin Luther King Jr, for example, loved the US and called upon the political leaders and citizens of his country to be true to the ideals they expressed.

Similarly some US politicians who are now witlessly and irresponsibly trying to demonize China would do better to focus on reforming and improving their own society.

What will revive global investor confidence in Hong Kong? The restoration of peace, stability and law and order. I have taught graduate courses on the principles of business confidence in developing countries around the world and the same basic truth has emerged every time.

Foreign direct investments flow into politically stable economies that have policies fostering economic growth and business confidence. Security and predictability make investors more confident.

The Chinese government continues to work hard to restore and maintain these conditions in Hong Kong. That is the way to restore the world's confidence in Hong Kong. And Beijing is doing that.

The same policies that have raised hundreds of millions of people out of poverty on the Chinese mainland over the past 40 years will continue to work in Hong Kong and make it more prosperous.

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