Monthly Archives: October 2014

Thoughts on Democracy

After the incident in Ottawa yesterday the three weeks of protest in Hong Kong, here are my thoughts on democracy.

  • There is a real cost to democracy. People lost their lives it so that others will gain from it.
  • People live under democracy system take it for granted. Most people live under authoritarian or totalitarian governments yearn for it.
  • The ruling class of the established authoritarian government usually labelled democracy as “foreign influence”, “against our cultural values”, “not compatible with our religious beliefs”, “lead to chaos”…
  • The ruling class gains benefit from a totalitarian government. The underclass is enslaved by the ruling class (sometimes without knowing it).
  • Totalitarian governments want their citizens to be uninformed. They will try to censor any news outlet. Democratic systems allow opposite views, even though it may damage its own existence.
  • Democratic systems try to limit the use of force. Force is the mean to an end for totalitarian governments.
  • Violence is always bad, just look at any jihadists who kill or the police who used brutal force to suppress the protesters. “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” – Matthew 10:28
  • The path leads to democracy is messy. The path the totalitarian government tread will lead to destruction.
  • Jesus or Paul might never preach on democracy, but they definitely spoke on freedom. (Just read Galatians)
  • Democracy is not the panacea, but it is much better than the alternative.

The message of Christ is subversive in his era. Jesus was anti-establishment since the very beginning of his ministry. The Christian faith started out as an opposition to the Jewish religious establishment (grace vs. law) and the Roman establishment (Caesar is Lord vs. Jesus is Lord). No communist or totalitarian government is ever friendly to the Christian faith. Faith other than worshiping the supreme leader or party is regarded as treason in an authoritarian government. If the people, especially Christians do not speak up against injustice, corruption, and abuse of power while they still have a chance, they are in fact siding with the evil system which Jesus, Paul and Peter were fighting against. Being a disciple of Christ carries a cost. Some Christians are so busy to “do God’s work” inside church walls. They do not see a bigger picture of bringing justice to the society. Prosperity and stability become their God. Pleasing the earthly power to gain earthly status should not be a Christian attitude.


Conversation on Freedom and Democracy

A friend asked me can the 1200 representatives be acceptable for the democracy in Hong Kong. Has China absolutely refused the idea of democratic reform? Here is my answer.

We have to first ask who and what do the 1200 representatives are accountable to? They are not accountable to the people of Hong Kong. They are obligated to please the mainland government. They are appointed by the communist government because they are loyal to the “one country, one party” system. All these individuals benefit personally from the Beijing government. Individual members of the 1200 may have different agendas but they have to protect their own business interest. Under the “harmony principle”, they can only nominate a puppet administration.

I am not assuming the mainland government will refuse to let democratic principles to rule Hong Kong. The Beijing government just will not do that. They do not have the desire for diversity of ideas. Democratic value is NOT just “one person, one vote”. The fundamental value should be “free to express one’s view” without afraid of someone arresting me in the middle of the night and taking me to jail without a fair trial. This cannot be said about the totalitarian government. The “black jails” still exist in China. As of now, most arguments are focus on two areas. If you do not agree, you do not love your country. You are a traitor. That is simply not true.

That brings up the second point you mentioned. “It will hurt the economy.” Yes, it will. If you look at history, totalitarian government may build up the economy in a short time, but it will not last. Corruption and controlled economy will ultimately fail. One can look at the former USSR, (Russia is not in good shape now either.) Cuba, Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Eastern Europe, etc. Those are examples for us not to follow.

The Chinese propaganda usually claims this protest is an American conspiracy. Conspiracy theory is often used to distract people not to focus on the real issue. It’s so easy to blame the foreign devils for their shortcomings than to look at the mirror. I am not saying the Americans are perfect, far from it. The reality is Obama has his hands more than full with the Islamic terrorists now. Do you really believe he wants to start another war with China? On one hand, Beijing wants to have an open economy so it can attract foreign investments. In the past thirty years, China used this strategy to lift it out of poverty and modernized itself. On the other hand Beijing is hardened with its cold war mentality. It actually attached itself more with Russia, a country which had conquered its territory (and still does) but tried to alienate the US (which helped China to fight the Japanese invaders). The Beijing government published racist article against the former US ambassador Gary Locke. It called Locke a “banana”. It accused Locke did not speak the language of his ancestors (He can speak Cantonese, but the Chinese government does not recognize Cantonese is part of the Chinese language set.) It criticized Locke of being of Chinese ancestry, dare to talk about foreign values such as “human rights”. It is easy to use patriotism to cover up the shortcomings of the political mistakes of the communist party. Then use patriotism to stir up racial hatred of another people group. Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan used the same tactic to start WWII. No, I’m not the opposite side.

I just want to be one the side of reasons. As I see it, the mistake of the students is they focus on 普選, “universal suffrage”. “Universal suffrage” should only be one element of the debate. “Freedom to think, express, choose…” should be the overarching theme.

In Genesis 2, God created two trees for human. Whether one believes the story is literal or not, the teaching in Genesis 2 painted a picture of “freedom of choice”. Free to choose, to question, to imagine… are first and foremost in the creation of the human environment. As Christians, we should imitate Christ. Jesus let his enemies express, talk, and even hang him on the cross. Jesus explained his view of the Kingdom in ways the people at the times could understand. Even though he is the Son of God, he never imposed his views on others. He let all, including the Pharisees, had the right to choose. He never labeled his enemies unpatriotic. Peter asked Him to send fire to destroy the opposition. Instead, he commanded his disciples to “love your enemies “. This should be our response. I do not believe the communist will ever preach that.

I remember a German pastor, Martin Niemöller wrote this poem when he disagreed with the Nazi government. He was sent to concentration camp for seven years because of his beliefs.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

A Parable inspired by the Hong Kong Umbrella Protest

This is a parable. This may not fully describe the reality. The reality is even worse. This parable is not my original idea. I translated loosely from something I read on the internet.

There was one strict rule for anyone who stay in the study room in the library: one cannot make noise or talk.

A young girl was doing her homework in the study room. A muscular man came in and trying to rape the girl. He did not make any noise. The young girl was trying to fight him off and screaming for help.

Student A responded, “The study room is for those who come so that they can concentrate for their study. No matter what happened, she cannot make noise or scream and disturb others in the room.”

Student B responded, “I understand she has the right to ask for help. However, she is interfering others while she is exercising her right. I have the right to studying here without her screaming in this room. She is only thinking about herself when she is screaming for help. She is selfish.”

Student C responded, “Does she know that her screaming is disrupting my precious studying time? If I do not have enough time to study, I cannot get good grades. Then I cannot get a good job. Do you know how much will I make if I can get a good degree and a well paying job? I am losing money because of her screaming. We all suffer financially because of her screaming.”

Student D responded,” Look at her. She is wearing short skirt. Is she the ‘studying’ type? She is asking for it. What a trouble maker! She should not be here in the first place.”

Student E responded, “What is the use of screaming for help? We had girls being rape in this room before. The rapist was never caught. There is no use for screaming. It is just a waste of time. Would someone tell her no matter what she does, she has to first consider whether her screaming can help her situation. Her screaming cannot her now. She should just keep quite and obey the rules of the study room.”

Student F responded in Mandarin, “I think she has an alternate motive while she is screaming. I heard that someone saw her sitting next to a foreigner on the bus on the way here. She must be taking money from the foreigners and faking the incident here. The foreigners must have paid her to stage the rape scene and cause trouble. Her screaming disturbs our harmonious social order in this study room. She made us look bad and dread down our grades.”

At that moment, they looked at the rapist and noticed that he is the security official for the study room. He stood up and pretended nothing had happened.

He said solemnly, “I believe we all agree that we have to obey the rules of the study room. Those who use this study room have to remain quiet. You cannot scream and interfere other while you are in this room. The rules of this room is set up so we can keep an orderly studying space so all of you can make good grades and get good jobs so you can make more money. We all want prosperity.”

The rapist (security official) then turned and said to his victim, “I heard you scream for help. I understand your request for me to stop hurting you. I do have to remind you that you still have to be considerate. You have not respected the rule of the study room. You have not considered others in this room need to have a place to study. The rule of the study room is the foundation of our establishment. The benefit of the whole has been undermined by your screaming. You have severely disrupted the social order here. I have to arrest you and charge you with disorderly conduct.”