Democracy and Freedom
Letter published on the South China Morning Post on 30 April 2013
Democrats are threatening our freedoms
Democracy and freedom are not the same. I learned the distinction in practice when I arrived in colonial Hong Kong and this continues to be the case. We enjoy the widest range of freedoms while Hong Kong is not a democracy yet.
The great intellectual historian Isaiah Berlin distinguished a positive freedom from a negative freedom. Positive freedom is, roughly, the right to choose your leaders – a good thing.
Freedom in the negative sense means the possibility to choose many different ways of living without being coerced. For Berlin, this negative freedom is superior, true freedom, and we should prefer it. We can agree with him as we realise how precious our freedom is only when it is missing.
The most serious threats for freedom in Hong Kong come from the market maximalists, with their privileges and monopolies, and from the self-proclaimed democrats. The latest have not made any meaningful contribution to Hong Kong people’s living standards, education, health care or clean air, all of which have been deteriorating since the handover. Paradoxically, while they pursue universal suffrage as the single point in the agenda, they are proving their inability to lead.
The self-proclaimed democrats are also giving democracy a bad name by using undemocratic means, the banana throwers and slogan chanters joining forces with some barristers and university professors. In their latest campaign like “Occupy Central”, they will push the people to the streets.
They have nothing to lose for most have already secured a modicum of wealth, including apartments in London, and the best education for their children and grandchildren. That they put people’s liberties at risk is not their concern. In promoting these tactics they commit the most despicable act, using the people as a means.
Juan Morales, Causeway Bay