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Drink Poison and Smile: How I Arrived at My Position of Pro-Democracy (improve.hk)
63 points by improvehk 51 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 53 comments



Good luck to protestors. Hard to see the reasons for China to compromise though.


The author seems to have left off his name, but I assume the Chinese or HK government could easily obtain his name/address from the domain registrar. So if the extradition bill was passed he might join the many people he lists in prison.

But the bill was declared "dead", so I guess he's probably OK besides the possibility of masked thugs.


You should write this in Chinese so the Mainlanders could actually read it.


If he writes this in Chinese the mainlanders will not be able to read it anymore (it would get blocked).


Legislative bodies is in trouble. Britain seems to have just had a coup. Look at how Boris Johnson became Prime Minister, not by popular election but by vote of Conservative Party members only. And now he's suspending Parliament.

The problems of the US Congress are well known. It used to run the country. Now it barely does anything.


The Britain situation is absolutely nothing like a coup, it's contentious but what's happened is nothing out of the ordinary in Westminster democracies that don't elect leaders directly (thank god).

Also, rightly or wrongly Johnson has suspended parliament to push through a democratic decision.


I don't really understand what point you're making here. These legislative bodies still are not even as remotely bad as the CCP at respecting human rights.

You don't need to have a perfect government to be better than the CCP, you just need to have check and balances not to commit the atrocities the CCP is committing.

And by the way, we Swedes are still waiting for Gui Minhai to either be released or get a real trial, and the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs would love to meet with him before such a trial in that case (I mean, this is a hit-and-run charge, not terrorism). To the UK and the US, this request would not be out of the ordinary and would've been handled years ago.


It's intellectually dishonest to say that Congress barely does anything.


I think the argument is clear. A few people in the West have found ways to abuse the political system in a few marginal ways and get away with it for limited periods until independent journalism, public opinion and the courts stop them.

However they get away with it for a while. Therefore it's ok to have an entire political system in China, constructed entirely out of the abuse or elimination of the rights of it's people, with no way to challenge their leaders or hold them accountable.

I make no claims for the validity of the argument.


> Fine you say, you may not care for some religious leaders, as they are such a tiny percentage of the population.

This is a huge difference between western and eastern thinking. Group rights vs individual rights. Here in western culture we typically tried to develop a culture on which each single individual rights should be respected above the group if the case was necessary whereas Asian societies traditionally have put groups (or families) above individual rights and wishes.

And for those reasons we had several wars against fascism, communism and other totalitarian ideologies. Currently in the west we also have lobbies which try to segregate population in smaller groups and lobby against others, or communities as they say in the USA. I guess this herd behaviour is just part of human being's nature and this sort of events will be repeated forever.


Then it's ironic that everyone wants to join the individualistic countries/unions, and the group countries/unions have to force keeping things together because parts want to leave.


I was super confused by the initial "A letter to our brothers and sisters just north of the border." until I figured out it was a Hong Kong writer speaking to mainland China residents.


I agree that the things described are very bad. But I do want to point that many western democratic governments do things that might be just as bad (are the Uyghur Muslims treated worse than immigrants in many western places like US / EU / AUS?).

Though I have to admit I'm not well informed on exactly what type of "democracy" they are after. If you get the majority of people to not care about what happens to a minority, it doesn't really matter how a government is structured (when it comes to democracy we see see things like "Tyranny of the masses").

EDIT: everyone disliked this comment but I think because I used the wrong examples. So I quickly want to clarify what I mean:

He wants a different political system (democratic) and his arguments are that the current one did many bad things. My point is that changing the political system doesn't change the bad things he's talking about. As we can clearly see in many democratic systems in the world.


Western countries may not always live up to ideals with the pressures of migration, but it is disingenous to compare immigrants to a resident minority. Please note that in EU at least, a lot of the conflict is about who counts as an asylum seeker and who must immigrate normally.


> Western countries may not always live up to ideals with the pressures of migration, but it is disingenous to compare immigrants to a resident minority

That's just one example that popped into my head. I can pick another example if you don't like this one. How about how black people are treated in the US? Not all of them are in concentration camps, but many of them are in jail for non violent "crimes" (for example for doing things that have since become legal in many states). Or how muslims are treated everywhere in the west?

I'm not defending China, I'm just saying many countries do terrible things - also democratic ones (sometimes it's the goverment, sometimes it's the people).


Nothing is perfect, but dictatorship is worse. I live close what remains of the Berlin wall. People risked their lives to jump it and escape to the democratic side. Nobody ever wanted to escape the democratic side and jump in the other direction. Why?

I love China and I have a lot of empathy for the Chinese people. You have an amazing and ancient culture and I hope that you can release yourselves from oppression, gain control of your own government as a people, prosper and be happy. We are all human beings, fuck the dictators.


Russia is a democracy. The US was a democracy when it genocided the native Americans. askmike is right. Democracy alone won't help Hong Kong. China will not stop. Pacifist Hong Kong will be crushed, regardless the form of government.

>Nobody ever wanted to escape the democratic side and jump in the other direction. Why?

You've never heard of James Dresnok. Why?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0H5QZvOqlJM


The world is full of nutcases, and a lot seem to be from US (think flat earth etc.). I find it highly offensive that you use one crazy wackjob to disprove how people were treated in eastern Europe.


> Russia is a democracy. The US was a democracy when it genocided the native Americans. askmike is right. Democracy alone won't help Hong Kong. China will not stop. Pacifist Hong Kong will be crushed, regardless the form of government.

I am not claiming that democracy will save Hong Kong from China. What I am saying is that democracy is better than no democracy, and no amount of doublespeak or whatabbautism is going to change that reality. "Eat this poison, it's good for you", it's what the Chinese autocrats are saying. Well, people might indeed have to eat it, but they don't have to believe that it is good for them.

> You've never heard of James Dresnok. Why?

Yes I did, and I'm sure you can probably find a similar case that is actually related to my example. The simple point is that, when you have a wall between a democracy (not a "democracy", like contemporary Russia) and an autocratic regime, the ratio of people making the jump in the direction of the dictatorship against people making the jump in the direction of the democracy is < .00001. It is probably not zero because of people with psychiatric issues, people who are in love with someone on the other side, who left family there... But it is pretty damn close to zero, and this is something you have to explain if you want to insist that democracy or no democracy is the same for people.


> What I am saying is that democracy is better than no democracy, and no amount of doublespeak or whatabbautism is going to change that reality.

It's not reality, it's just your opinion (and those of most people living in democratic countries). Meanwhile the vast majority of Chinese people disagree with you.


Maybe they do disagree with me. It is impossible to know, because they are not free to say what they really think -- which is another fundamental problem with not-democracy.


If you truly want to make it better, the solution is not to bring it up in response to external criticisms, where it lessens the impact of both, but in context where it can be assessed in semi-isolation, to preserve forward momentum of both subjects.

What you've done here, whether on purpose or accident, is partake in a variant of whataboutism. The only people it helps are those against progress in both situations.


I think that more people should understand that shitty people do shitty things. And they when they do they should be held accountable. We get a lot closer to fixing them.

I'm just highlighting endless bikeshedding, imo human right violations just don't always have very much to do with the political system of a country. As such changing the political system in a country doesn't make all the human right violations magically disappear.


> I'm not defending China, I'm just saying many countries do terrible things - also democratic ones (sometimes it's the goverment, sometimes it's the people).

Great, then you can write a blog post about that and post it to HN and we’ll discuss those atrocities on that post.

Meanwhile let’s stay on topic here, and discuss an article written by a HK citizen to Chinese citizens about China.

This is whataboutism, a classic conversational anti pattern that rears its head every single time China comes up on HN. It’s time to stop.


On topic:

He wants a different political system (democratic) and his arguments are that the current one did many bad things. My point is that changing the political system doesn't change the bad things he's talking about. As we can clearly see in many democratic systems in the world.

I don't think I'll write a blogpost. Given the initial responses of my current comments I am sure it would get downvoted anyway.


Thank you for making a level argument.

I think freedom of speech and press helps to bring abuses to daylight and rule of law is essential in reining them in.

I believe both are more robust (but, not nearly perfect) in western democracies, and are included in this desire for reform.


> I think freedom of speech and press helps to bring abuses to daylight and rule of law is essential in reining them in.

I agree that they can be important, but they don't always solve many problems. Sometimes they even create problems: for example all the "fake news" and entities abusing social media platforms to manipulate elections.


There has been abusive treatment of some illegal immigrants into some of these countries, particularly recently, but there had also been massive outcries about it.

In almost every case the law and public opinion has stopped or prevented the worst mistreatment. The Australian detention centres are winding down, the separation of children from their families ordered by Trump was successfully challenged in court. Massive public protests and press coverage worked.

Therefore it seems perfectly reasonable to hold China to the same standards of public accountability and legal due process that other countries are held to.


My understanding of US detention centers is that their capacity is only expanding.


That is true, people who illegally enter the US in violation of it's laws get detained, however they have access to legal due process and their rights are guaranteed in law. There certainly have been abuses and violations, but these have frequently been reported in the medial and successfully challenged in courts of law.

Don't get me wrong, the recent treatment of refugees entering the US has been appalling. In my books, no supporter of the current US administration gets to claim they are pro-family or support traditional values, after the deliberate rending of children from their parents, as a terror tactic to scare other migrants away. "Don't come here, look what we will do to your children". Despicable. China can rightly use that as a counterpoint to their actions. The point is, it doesn't get them off the hook though.

These cases in the West are subject to public scrutiny. Journalists and opposition politicians have access to the facilities and to detainees and access to the courts to ensure judicial review. It is absolutely reasonable and fair to expect China to meet the same standards.


I just did a quick google search on the matter, and according to the top link[1] this is not possible in practise for people in "detention facilities" to leave them.

[1]: https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/immigrants-free-leave-dete... this is not


That's what detention means, right? I'm not sure what point of mine you are referring to.


> however they have access to legal due process and their rights are guaranteed in law. There certainly have been abuses and violations, but these have frequently been reported in the medial and successfully challenged in courts of law.

This point! According the the link in practise they do not have the ability to leave. So I guess that's the standard "we" should hold "them" to?

> The point is, it doesn't get them off the hook though.

I very much agree, but at the end of the day these choices were made by people - they should be held accountable. Don't hold a politicial system accountable.


>According the the link in practise they do not have the ability to leave...

That's a rally weird and kind of irrelevant technical point. In that specific case 'leave' means pay for their own flight back to their own country, instead of being deported there by the US government. It does not mean simply walk out of the detention centre. They are in violation of US law and in US custody. The argument is about their humane and fair treatment.

I'm in no way saying the western system is perfect, it's been terribly abused, and still is. My point is that independent journalism, an informed public and independent judicial review are powerful things and do make a difference. It is entirely morally consistent to both argue for fair treatment of people in the west, and advocate it for people in China.

As for political systems, they are created by people. When I say 'China' or 'The Chinese Government' I mean the individuals in power in the Chinese government. They are accountable.


Apologies, I got many replies at the same time (a minute after I posted my initial message). My point was against:

> Also given that China has to actively prevent the Uyghur from leaving, while the West has to prevent immigrants from entering, should tell you who's treated worse.

Which you didn't type but deogeo.

> It is entirely morally consistent to both argue for fair treatment of people in the west, and advocate it for people in China.

Agreed with this and everything else you say. My initial point was shifting the conversation away from "pro democratic or anti democratic" into holding people accounting for human right violations. If a political system makes it hard to hold people accountable than that's what we should talk about.

Which one is worse is a bikeshedding discussion which I didn't intend to start with my initial comment.


> In almost every case the law and public opinion has stopped or prevented the worst mistreatment. The Australian detention centres are winding down, the separation of children from their families ordered by Trump was successfully challenged in court. Massive public protests and press coverage worked.

That's just because the people care now. If people in mainland China start caring for that minority we'll see change as well. There might be outside pressure as well like sanctions (or tariffs I guess) of course.

Maybe I shouldn't have picked immigrants. As I said in another comment: How about how black people are treated in the US (many are in jail for "crimes" that are now legal), how Muslims are treated everywhere in the west? I can come up with many examples of minorities being treated terrible in western democratic countries.


>If people in mainland China start caring for that minority

People in China generally have no opinion on it, because they have no idea what is happening. Their media is thoroughly censored and controlled by the government and independent journalism is effectively illegal.


I very much agree, this is what we should focus on (and the article does mention it).


>(are the Uyghur Muslims treated worse than immigrants in many western places like US / EU / AUS?)

This question would be simpler to answer if China allowed foreign reporters access to the camps, cities, and provinces where (millions of) Uyghur Muslims are held, such as Xinjiang.

Could you imagine if Chinese reporters were denied to access to, for example, the state of Texas? What if plainclothes Texas Rangers stalked tourists visiting El Paso, and aggressively detained and deported anyone caught interviewing local Hispanics? That’s the type of media blackout which I understand is currently imposed on Xinjiang.

VICE News on the ground:

https://youtu.be/v7AYyUqrMuQ

Foreign Policy editor, “All of my Uyghur sources are gone”:

https://youtu.be/yQLliXOk1cM


> That’s the type of media blackout which I understand is currently imposed on Xinjiang.

I personally think the UN human rights council is at least as important, as the international media's role in fixing human rights problems is debatable. In that light:

https://www.theguardian.com/law/2019/jan/04/trump-administra...

as the article states:

> “They are sending a very dangerous message to other countries: that if you don’t cooperate with UN experts they will just go away. That’s a serious setback to the system created after World War II to ensure that domestic human rights violations could no longer be seen as an internal matter,” Dakwar said.

Maybe China received this message loud and clear?


My point stands: UN human rights inspectors can enter Texas whenever they choose (no formal invite required!), but not Xinjiang. They can interview anyone they meet on the street in the US, but not in many parts of China.

I'd also argue that the role of the UN Human Rights Council (whose recent illustrious members have included Venezuela, Cuba, the Philippines, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia) is minuscule compared to that of the global press in terms of fomenting any actual change.


You mean they can't enter the "educational centers" in Xinjiang? Do you think they can easily enter the "detention centers" in Texas?

> I'd also argue that the role of the UN Human Rights Council (whose recent illustrious members have included Venezuela, Cuba, the Philippines, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia) is minuscule compared to that of the global press in terms of fomenting any actual change.

I mean the US is also a member, torturing people and commiting war crimes around the clock. Not sure you can dismiss the UN Human Rights Council due to the deeds of some members.


Roughly 1-2 million Uyghur Muslims do not have the luxury of your equivocations, nor your freedom of expression, nor freedom. I encourage you to watch that entire VICE report I linked.

For comparison, here’s VICE News plus a bunch of reporters touring the ICE facility in El Paso:

https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/xweqgn/we-got-cameras-ins...

I’ve been chastised before for energetic commenting on this particular topic, and we’re hardly discussing HK now, so I’ll give it a rest.


Even if a liberal democracy was guilty of the same atrocities as totalitarian, the liberal democracy is still the superior system because. Freedom of press means people can learn about the problems. Democracy means there is some hope of fixing the problem.

Next time you see a post about some terrible thing in a liberal democracy on Weibo, try posting “Well that’s bad, but China has concentration camps for Muslims so therefore the Communist Party’s slogan ‘Serve the People’ is a farce.” I think your post turning grey will be the least of your worries.


> are the Uyghur Muslims treated worse than immigrants in many western places like US / EU / AUS?

Yes, obviously. The immigrants are choosing to travel to the US / EU / AUS. Indeed, the west has a proud history of skimming the best and brightest from China because they'd rather live somewhere else. I'll stand to be corrected but I don't think the West has anything comparable to the exodus of Hong Kongers basically fleeing for political reasons, we in Australia have acquired a lot of good people from that. Nobody sane is choosing to go to Xianjing and be treated as the Uyghurs.

The west can always be more welcoming and there are ugly moments; but there is a vast reserve of people who look at western countries, think 'I want to migrate there, it is better than where I am' and act upon their thoughts.

The premise here is just a bit weird. Nobody would migrate if they expected to be treated worse afterwards than if they'd just stayed home. If they really didn't like it they'd probably even turn around and return. On an absolute scale, we'd expect migrants to be very satisfied with their migration.


How did the 6 year old migrant kids choose to go to the US, to be separated from their parents and put into solitary confinement?

> The west can always be more welcoming and there are ugly moments; but there is a vast reserve of people who look at western countries, think 'I want to migrate there, it is better than where I am' and act upon their thoughts.

This has little to do with human rights violations and how to stop them.


> are the Uyghur Muslims treated worse than immigrants in many western places like US / EU / AUS?

For one, the Uyghur are not immigrants. As bad as you may think immigrants are treated in US/EU/AUS, China wouldn't even let them in in the first place.

Also given that China has to actively prevent the Uyghur from leaving, while the West has to prevent immigrants from entering, should tell you who's treated worse.


See my other comments, I shouldn't have picked immigrants as an example. There are many other example minority groups.

> Also given that China has to actively prevent the Uyghur from leaving, while the West has to prevent immigrants from entering, should tell you who's treated worse.

I'm no expert on the matter, but a source on the top of Google says it's just as bad in the US ( https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/immigrants-free-leave-dete... ): Immigrants in "detention camps" near the US border are not allowed to leave either.


This kind of empty, backwards argument is known as a “whataboutism” and is commonly seen in propaganda.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whataboutism


I don't agree, that's part of an "us vs them" debate. I am saying that I don't think China's bad things have anything to do with them not being democratic. As we can see similar things happening in democratic countries.


It's also known as "putting things in perspective" and is commonly seen in rational, non-partisan, assessment of events...

People thinking (or pretending to think) their "shit doesn't smell" criticize only (or mainly) the other side, for things their side does as well, and demonize the Other, down to supporting policy implications, sometimes down to sanctions and even war.

And when someone points to their own shit they invoke "whataboutism" to continue to have their hands in the ears -- and they'd think unfair if they had the same policies/actions against them.


It doesn't address the core of the article at all, which asks:

> Democracy is hard work. There is always going to be the need to fight corruption and fight for fairness. But how do we even do that if we don’t have a seat at the table? Don’t sell yourself short handing over your privileges and responsibilities to the state. Shouldn’t you be able to voice your opinion when it really matters? Shouldn’t you have a seat at the table?

Saying that it's not always perfect in practice, so it makes no difference if you don't even have it in principle is usually a double standard, because nobody who says that would consider removal of their post or person a valid rebuttal of their argument, which is the democracy vs. totalitarianism dichotomy in a nutshell.

That's an actual double standard. On the other hand, it's rather convenient and arbitrary to claim that people who think totalitarianism is bad and support people who want to be free, think "their shit doesn't stink". It's just an accusation so broad, and against no particular person, that it just lingers there, it doesn't get proven, and cannot be refuted.


It’s a fine line between the two, and because of how easily they are confounded the onus is on the speaker to unequivocally avoid whataboutism. Make it very clear how the comparison adds to the discussion of the topic at hand, how it helps move it forward, how the newfound perspective helps other participants come to different conclusions about the original topic and statements.

None of which were achieved here. The criticisms of censorship, mistreatment of minorities, impunity of the CCP and comparisons to WWII through title headers are as valid after this point was raised as before. Therefore, this didn’t put anything in perspective: it was just plain old whataboutism.

Or, to put your argument in perspective: if these points were raised about the NSDAP back in 1930s, would it be equally justified to “put things in perspective” by similarly drawing attention to American misdeeds?

If you can use your argument to justify pretty much anything, it’s not a very strong argument.




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