HK Observer: Doublethinking political reform


Robert Carroll

Anyone familiar with novelist George Orwell´s portrait of Stalinist Russia in “1984,” and its origins in “Animal Farm,” may see many similarities here as the political reform process plays out. Those familiar with the “1984” novel will remember the concept of “doublethink” and may recognize the principles at work here and now, regarding Hong Kong´s future political system. Orwell´s apt words read:
“To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy, to forget, whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again, and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself – that was the ultimate subtlety; consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed. Even to understand the word ‘doublethink’ involved the use of doublethink. To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient… For by using the word one admits that one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of doublethink one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth.”
So let´s have a look at the doublethink involved in the Hong Kong government´s summary of a couple of the key questions posed through the political consultation on political reform.
On how the nominating committee (which will propose candidates, and from them, choose the next chief executive) should be composed:
It is a relatively common view that the composition of the nominating committee should be decided by reference to the existing four sectors of the election committee in equal proportions.
The four sectors with electoral power in the nominating committee, while they may have represented four important groupings in the 1980´s – when there was no democracy at all – and may therefore have been seen as a great improvement, grossly under-represent the territory´s population today. Large parts of these sectors (perhaps by design) are subject to the influence of Beijing, if not out and out rubber-stamping its will, as has been clear in previous Chief Executive elections. Moreover, some sectors are wholely influenced by Beijing. In short, they are far from democratic in any commonly accepted interpretation of democratic society.
So how can this summary reflect the public´s will when it has been clear from recent marches and demonstrations; the poll; the unofficial referendum on reform; as well as voting patterns at every legislative assembly election that people want a more representative government? Apply doublethink.
Has the process been tinkered with by turning a blind eye to engineered replies, and/or have the interpretive processes been used to get a desired result reminiscent of doublethink?
On the criteria for the next Chief Executive:
The community generally agrees that the Chief Executive should be a person who “loves the country and loves Hong Kong.”
“Loving” the country and “loving” Hong Kong is a nebulous concept and, therefore, will be problematic when it comes to making rules to decide who fits the bill. On the other hand, it could be very convenient for those who prefer a very loose definition, and useful to weed out anyone not selected by Beijing.
Unfortunately, that concept alone (as a deciding factor) cannot be implemented fairly. There are far too many potential contradictions in how an individual´s patriotic behavior could be interpreted; especially when it comes to personal, factional and family best interests versus the country´s best interests. This is evidenced by selfish and greedy political, public sector and business leaders found in every country – not least on the mainland. Doublethink methinks.

Categories Opinion