By Uncle Cheng
As we know, Hong Kong's fascination with democracy was launched by our last colonial governor Fat Pang. Before his 'reign' the word 'politics' had almost been a taboo word in polite Hong Kong society. Fat Pang politicised Hong Kong and we are still not sure where it will all end.
But perhaps this is as good a moment as any to consider democracy's record around the world. I must warn you that the picture is not a pleasant one. Far from it. In fact, I would say that democracy as a system of government is going through a very bad patch and is in retreat in many countries.
You might imagine that one benefit of a democratic system would be more openness and less corruption. But that does not seem to the case at all. Just take a look at endemic corruption in democratic South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines ... I could go on but I think you get the picture.
Then you might think a democratic government would be more stable because it supposedly reflects the popular will. How then do you explain the military coup in Thailand where the introduction of a democratic system was supposed to have stopped such an event. The same happened in Pakistan some years back when a lengthy period of popular democratic government was suddenly swept aside by army generals.
The experience of the former Soviet Union is also revealing. There was great excitement in the west, especially in the U.S., when Boris Yeltsin won a landslide election to rule a democratic Russia . But what of that democracy today? Russia has kept its name but the government has become increasingly autocratic under President Putin and democracy is having a very rough time.
And what of Iraq whose people were trampled on by that vile dictator Saddam Hussein. The Iraqis, so the Americans thought, would be delighted to embrace democracy? Today, not only are democratic ideals in ruins in Iraq, but the Iraqi example has sent democratic dreams into retreat in neighbouring countries.
But by far the most compelling and worrying example of democracy in action is to be found in Britain. But isn't Britain meant to be the ultimate example of a functioning democracy that works without blemishes? Not now it isn't! The British Prime Minister has been interviewed twice by police investigating allegations of corruption and attempts to pervert the course of justice. A member of his staff was arrested early one morning at her home. A close colleague and member of the House of Lords was also arrested.
And it gets worse. Tony Blair went to an elite public school, became a barrister, and is a devout Christian. You expect him to tell the truth and nothing but the truth. But his opponents are compiling a long list of things he has said in his career that have proved to be untrue. In the early days it was minor untruths such as when he first entered politics he said he had written articles for the Guardian newspaper but no such articles have ever been found. More recently in 2002, he famously claimed that "the intelligence community had established beyond doubt" that Saddam Hussein was making chemical and biological weapons and was on his way to making nuclear weapons. It was all untrue.
Do they really believe that democracy will cure all known ills? Would you prefer to be ruled over by a benevolent dictatorship instead? The only problem is that benevolent dictators are in very short supply.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
By Uncle Cheng