- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 29, 2007

Democracy in Hong Kong

All sorts of feelings welled up in my heart when I read Nicholas Kralev’s article “Tsang survives first challenge to leadership” (World, Monday). I lived in Hong Kong for almost 20 years before I migrated to North America. By enjoying Western democracy and freedom, I experience what a life of dignity really is — people are in charge instead of a group, a party or a person. No one can claim the word “people” for his or her selfish purposes. In an open society, we do not expect everyone to serve a particular party or a ruler and to dance to his or her tune.

Donald Tsang went to the streets to thank Hong Kong’s people after the “election.” When did the people of Hong Kong vote for him? Where are their rights? He was only “elected” by a 795-member committee, and he is still waiting for approval from Beijing. I have not seen any elected mayor in the Western world who needs to be appointed by a president or prime minister. Some said the people of Hong Kong are not yet ready for a direct election or that the economy is more important than politics. These kinds of statements simply suit the appetite of the ruler.

Though I adore Mr. Tsang’s challenger, Alan Leong, and his courageous efforts for democracy, I cannot agree with his comment, “No one can even think of running for chief executive unchallenged ever again.” One day, even if ordinary people in Hong Kong are allowed to vote, if the selected candidate is not approved by Beijing, what is going to happen?

Mr. Tsang said this election “laid out a solid foundation for moving toward” direct elections in the future, but he refused to commit to a popular election for his successor in 2012.

What does this imply? If a selected leader from a democratic system has to be approved by someone else, who can guarantee that what is promised by that “someone” will not easily be taken back or that what is given with one hand will not be taken away with the other.

In fact, democracy is not given; it is our basic right. Yes, men change, manners change, customs also may change when time passes. Principles, however, should not change — the sense of right or wrong should not change, and the love of democracy and freedom should not change.

I left Hong Kong more than a decade ago. It is far away in terms of distance. However, I cannot let myself lay my conscience to rest. After all, we are citizens of the world, and I am concerned with people everywhere who are still deprived of their basic rights.


Vancouver, British Columbia

Social Security and illegals

Stephen Dinan’s article “Social Security liability foreseen” (Nation, yesterday) states that legalizing illegal aliens and qualifying them for Social Security benefits would bankrupt the Social Security system. The article says the 2004 “uncredited earnings,” Social Security tax payments that can’t be matched to valid Social Security numbers, totaled $65 billion. The projected Social Security income “cash flow” surplus for 2004 was $57 billion. This implies that without the “uncredited earnings” Social Security would have had a negative cash flow in 2004.

The Social Security cash flow surplus is put into general funds and spent by the generous Congress (with our money). To date, the Social Security trust fund accounts for nearly $2 trillion of our national debt. Without the “uncredited earnings,” Social Security would be running a negative cash flow and Congress wouldn’t have the billions of dollars of “found money” to waste. Could this be the underlying reason why Congress is reluctant to seriously address the Social Security and illegal-alien problems?



Plans and expectations

In regard to Adm. James Lyons’ column “Iran and America” (Commentary, yesterday): We must beware of the game-theory notion of the “spiral of reciprocal expectations” — that is, “I think that you think that I think that you think …”

We should not base our internal democratic practices on a perception of how the opponent, in this case Iran, will perceive our “national will” with respect to what extent we show support “for our… president… leading them to believe… we would be incapable of responding to their aggression.” (Their perception of how we treat our troops is another matter.)

If we don’t blindly defer to our president, or to Congress for that matter, are we giving aid and comfort to the enemy? And if we do support our president, does that mean Iran will? Peeking over our shoulder all the time to ensure that we treat ourselves the way we want others to treat us drowns out that democratic cacophony that we treasure.

When Iran sneezes, do we catch cold?

The admiral has a provocative notion that perhaps we should capture Kharg Island, “Iran’s principal oil export depot.” That could get us some “respect.” However, fear of what “messy” things we say to each other because we’re worried about what the neighbors will think is really what puts us on the defensive.



Lord Nelson and amateur tacticians

How I hate this overused quote from Lord Horatio Nelson: “No captain can do very wrong if he places his ship alongside that of the enemy” (“Surrender at sea?” Commentary, Wednesday). Nelson never intended that his ships’ captains should take on impossible odds, but that is what history buffs and ignorant tacticians think he meant. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Nelson was a very good operational commander. He knew how to keep his fleet concentrated and how to take advantage of his considerable gunnery advantage. On several occasions, he did not disperse his fleet adequately to detect French forces that eluded him as a result, which forced him to play a chase-me-chase-me game.

Nelson would not allow the French an opportunity to turn quickly upon his scouting forces and kept his battle fleet together to prevent defeat in detail. He also knew how to devise innovative tactics that gave his fleet additional local advantage (doubling the line, etc.), albeit with some risk, which he knew was acceptable because of the superior performance and reliability of his crews. When the opportunity finally presented itself, he had all the advantage he needed to succeed as a fleet commander and had given his ship commanders the opening they needed to win their individual engagements.

So, the preamble to the quote should read: “Once your fleet commander has brought his forces to bear in the right time and place …”

The rest, as they say, is history.


Commander and professor of

political science

Naval liaison officer and defense fellow

Centre for Foreign Policy Studies

Dalhousie University

Halifax, N.S.

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