I am in Hong Kong for a couple of days before taking a trip through Asia. We have all seen the footage of the students demonstrating in the streets of Hong Kong and like me the first reaction will probably be to feel a sense of sympathy for them as thoughts of the events around Tiananmen square in 1989 no doubt come to mind.
When I came here I had prepared my self for the possibility of perhaps joining the protests as a mark of solidarity. I had brought my saltire and was prepared to display this in one of the protests. After all Scotland is also experiencing a democratic deficit as the SNP wearily plod on with their intention to “ask” the British government yet again for “permission” to hold a referendum on independence.
Now a few weeks ago I had occasion to personaly remonstrate with Jeremy Corbyn ( leader of the British Labour party) when he came to the Queens hotel in Dundee to tell the Scots that he would not be considering granting the asked for section 30 to facilitate an agreed referendum. This to me marked a severe denigration of UK democracy and in between fending off some of his henchmen who were trying to throw me out, and trying to speak above him I made the point that he was going against the principals of democracy.
So here was I in Hong Kong with the thought in my mind that it would be a good gesture to show some solidarity with the youth of this part of china and express my feelings on democracy.
This morning something happened that changed that.
I went into McDonalds for breakfast ( always good wi fi and decent coffee) found a table and got my computer out. I was busy checking and answering emails and social media when a Chinese gentlemen asked if he could share the table. I of course made it clear that he was more them welcome. He asked if I was working and I said partly between emails and social media. He asked where I was from and I said Scotland. “Ah, independence” he said. so as you can imagine, we had quite a conversation.
He was probably late sixties lived in Hong Kong all his life and had been in IT until his services had been dispensed with, so now he had a van and was connected to Google van which is a delivery service presumably hosted by Google. I said to him that Hong Kong seemed to be a vibrant place going by the amount of construction projects I could see going on. “not now “he said ” things are changing”, I was surprised.
“Was it since China took back the territories” I asked, “No, things have been much better since then” he said, I was surprised. “One of the things that has not helped is the student riots” he said, That caused me to pause. I went on to question him as to the motives behind the riots and asked if perhaps the cause of democracy was worth it, “Why do we need any more democracy” he said, The Chinese Government do not interfere with what we do, do you see any oppression, do you even see any police on the streets”. I had to admit that I had not seen a singe policemen up to now.
We went on to speak about Tiananmen Square in 1989 and it brought back to me thoughts of a very dear friend who was involved in the organization of the protests there and who had to move to the US shortly after. She made a notable career for herself on Wall street.
He went on to say to me almost exactly what I said to her when we both visited Tiananmen Square. “It made a difference, look at China today, it is different and so is Hong Kong because of that sacrifice the students mad on that day in Tiananmen Square”. ” This place is better since the British were here, they ruled Hong Kong for Britain , China rules Hong Kong for the Chinese people. Most of these students were not alive when the British ruled Hong Kong. What they are doing is damaging the country”
Well that put the situation into perspective and made me think about our democracy . Yes china has a communist government run by a congress of chosen people, not elected, but we have the house of lords who are ,in the main there because of either birth or because they have given one of the main parties large amounts of money and make no doubt about it these unelected people make laws.
Would the UK government turn against the people if we demanded democracy? I feel we will very shortly find that out when we once again try to wrest control from Westminster of the power to ask the people whether they wish to be an independent country. I will not now be joining the protests in Hong Kong.