Silencing Hong Kong will hurt democracy

By Wang Dan

China’s attitude to the protest points to a changing policy, writes Wang Dan
HONG KONG - SEPTEMBER 27: Thousand of protesters take part of a rally outside Hong Kong government complex on September 27, 2014 in Hong Kong. Thousands of students from more than 20 tertiary institutions start the week-long boycott of classes to protest against Beijing's conservative framwork for political reform in Hong Kong. (Photo by Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images)

The people of Hong Kong have waited for 17 years, but have yet to see universal suffrage. For many, a political cyclone infused with feelings of depression, anxiety and helplessness has condensed into a sense of despair.
With little hope of short-term gain, tens of thousands of citizens have occupied central Hong Kong and joined an uncompromising public protest against Beijing. Neither side seems likely to back down.
This is a road strewn with hardship, requiring a price to be paid on one side or the other. If it came to the worst, and that price were paid in blood, there would be profound grief on the part of those of us who care for the people of this region. But this is not merely a matter for Hong Kong.
The juncture at which Hong Kong finds itself springs from a change in China’s policy. The anti-corruption campaign pursued by Xi Jinping is a strategy aimed at killing two birds with one stone. It shores up domestic support from those who hate corruption and uses that base of public opinion to assert China’s power abroad. This expansionism is set to find expression through ideology, national development models and political behaviour. So far, it has not taken military form – but no one can say where it might lead in the decades to come.
Mr Xi has deeply imbibed Mao Zedong’s thoughts of world revolution. One of the implied aims of the “China Dream” is to recover the global status of the Chinese empire.
The strengthening of China’s economy and the mentality of a rising great power have emboldened the ambitions of the Communist party leadership. A new blueprint is gradually emerging; one that envisages the possibility of a new global campaign. China is not about to take charge of a Soviet-style campaign of militaristic adventure. This time the slogans will not be based on the traditional concepts of socialism or communism. Instead they will be packaged around more ambiguous language – the “Chinese model” and “the rise of a great power”. China’s economic achievements will be held up as evidence for the idea that the concentration of power can achieve great things.

Hong Kong demonstrator

News and analysis of the Occupy Central demonstrations against Beijing’s controversial plans for electoral reform in the former British colony
The aim of this expansionism is to propagate, however gradually, Beijing’s own style of development and system of values. This ideology, in a nutshell, elevates the primacy of economic growth and a strong state over democracy and human rights. These are the fundamental reasons why China’s policies towards others are growing tougher and tougher.

For this reason the Occupy Central movement is not merely a matter for Hong Kong. It is also an issue for China, an issue for Taiwan, an issue for overseas Chinese and an issue for the civilised world. The silencing of Hong Kong would intensify the authoritarian tendencies of the Communist party, and this will harm democracy everywhere, starting with Taiwan.
The writer was a student leader during the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and is now based in Taiwan

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