Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Monday, August 25, 2014

How do silent majorities express themselves?

Politicians of all stripes claim the support of silent majorities. And who can dispute that when there is silence?

In the Hong Kong dispute, understanding the version described by the state media requires that you understand other viewpoints as well. This statement by the government-run news agency certainly isn't held together by internal logic. The CNN description of the opposing point of view seems pretty objective.

Commentary: Voice of silent majority showcases value of rationality, rule of law
Nearly 120,000 people in Hong Kong joined a Sunday parade as the final stage of the Peace and Democracy movement opposing Occupy Central and supporting a peaceful and legitimate way to determine how the region's next chief executive would be elected through universal suffrage…

[T]his is a strong voice uttered by the majority of citizens living in the international financial center who usually remained silence on political issues and fixed their attentions in their own businesses…

[A] few people instigated a movement calling on citizens to occupy Central, Hong Kong's iconic heart for financial and political facilities, if the election of the next chief executive by universal suffrage is not "consistent with accepted international standards."

No matter what attitude toward Occupy Central movement he or she holds, such an idea has planted a society-tearing concept that could eventually drive Hong Kong into chaos and depression.

Opinion of the silent majority should not be kidnapped by a handful of people. So, they stepped forward Sunday and told the extremists that any action or proposal violating the laws, such as occupying Central and civil nomination for chief executive candidates, are not popular in Hong Kong.

Occupying Central, as rehearsed by some young citizens on July 2 early morning at Charter Garden, could paralyze Hong Kong's core businesses, bring billions of dollars economic loss and frighten thousands of overseas tourists.

It could not threaten the central government and could bring nothing to Hong Kong's constitutional reform but breaking the laws.

The constitutional reform in Hong Kong should not be a zero-sum game. Negotiation and consultation under the Basic Law and the top legislature's decisions will help different social parties reach consensus, which is the only way that could lead the region to future democracy and prosperity…

Hong Kong's Occupy Central democracy 'referendum' -- What you should know
Nearly 800,000 Hong Kongers have done something China's 1.3 billion people can only dream of: cast a ballot to demand a democratic government.

In an unofficial referendum organized by pro-democracy activists and denounced by Chinese authorities, 787,767 people in the city of more than seven million have called for the right to directly elect their next leader.

But Beijing has insisted Hong Kong politics stays in line with Chinese rule, paving the way for a showdown in the city.

Occupy Central is a pro-democracy group founded in 2013. Their goal is to allow the Hong Kong public to elect its next leader without strings attached.

If the Hong Kong government doesn't eventually give the public more voting rights, Occupy Central has threatened to "occupy" Central district, the city's financial hub, with a sit-in that would disrupt businesses and block traffic.

A few weeks ago, the Chinese government released a strongly-worded white paper that said Hong Kong does not have "full autonomy" and asserted that ultimate power over the city lay with Beijing. But many pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong see this as a violation of "one country, two systems."

Currently, Hong Kong's leader, known as the chief executive, is elected by a small committee. In 2012, this committee selected Leung Chun-ying, a staunch Beijing choice, who remains in power today.

The Hong Kong government has promised residents they will be able to vote for their own leader by 2017, but here's the catch: Beijing says it will only allow candidates who "love China."

Occupy Central responded by organizing an unofficial city-wide referendum, which asked people to choose between three ways to reform Hong Kong's voting system. All three plans proposed that candidates be nominated publicly, regardless of whether the candidates have Beijing's blessing…

Organizers had expected only 100,000 votes for what was originally just a two-day voting period. The final tally of valid ballots cast came to 787,767, with 42% going towards a proposal from the Alliance for True Democracy that said candidates for Hong Kong's chief executive should be nominated by the public, and conditions such as requiring candidates to "love China, love Hong Kong" should not be allowed.

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