The Parachutist's Adventure in Hong Kong

The starting point will be a translation of a blog post by Charles Mok, who is one of the most thoughtful bloggers in Hong Kong.  This is an unauthorized translation, but I feel that it is significant enough that the English-only-reading community ought to read this.

[in translation]

I participated in the 2006 July 1st march and I have some thoughts that I want to jot down.

Actually, after attending the historical and inaugural July 1st march in 2003, I did not march the next two years.  This was because I thought that the nature of the July 1st marches had changed and that there were too many demands, so that the theme of universal suffrage was getting lost.

But I participated this year.  I did it not do it because Mrs. Chan came, but because the Number 5 report was not passed by the Legislature.  The economy has improved this year, and the government was obviously hoping to divert attention and slow down the development of democracy.  Therefore, it was necessary to march again.  But afterwards, it was another disappointment.

The reason for the appointment was that the march organizers were incoherent.  This made me more keenly aware that many of the problems with the democratic movement in Hong Kong were due to the amateurishness or cluelessness in spite of the many civilian participants and their enthusiasm. Anyway, democracy in Hong Kong can only be delayed with such incompetence.

For example, the march was supposed to begin at 3pm, but it began only at 3:30pm.  Why?  Because the organizing Civil Human Rights Front lacked ability and discipline.  The young hosts on the stage were happy to have an audience of tens of thousands and "hogged the microphone."  They sang and talked, then they talked and sang.  The worst thing was that one after another civic organization were brought on stage one after another.  When the temperature was in the 30's, the Civil Human Rights Front did not care how the people felt, nor about their health or safety.

Besides, these organizations should not have been on stage anyway.  For example, why are the young people on stage complaining about why the government were not helping them with respect to the rights of associate degree students?  What has this got to do with universal suffrage?  Other people who were opposed to racial discrimination, and senior citizens, middle school students and neighborhood elders got their chances to sing and talk.  One speaker even said that he represented himself only, and he was incoherent.

There was a labor organization which got on stage to fight for minimum wages.  I respect their fight for their rights, but I don't agree with their complaint.  Labor rights have nothing to do with direct elections.  Too many people have connected democracy/universal suffrage with grassroots and welfare, and these are mistaken ideas as well as strategic errors.  This can only divide society by class and the Civil Human Rights Front can only chase away supporters and make universal suffrage even more remote.

Universal suffrage is a basic right that the people of Hong Kong should have under the Basic Law.  It is that simple and beautiful.  To insert universal suffrage into the other demands is to disrespect the opinions of these others on their demands.  It also equates universal suffrage with these other demands, and that would be disrespectful to democracy.

Let us try to use basic marketing science to see how to sell universal suffrage.  If society has to reach a better consensus than the "silent majority," that the principal target of the democratic movement now should be the middle-class or even the commercial sector.  From this July 1st march, the participation of the middle-class has really decreased since 2003.  Part of the reason is that the Civil Human Rights Front is chasing their customer base away, so that the democratic movement is really lost.

There is an important and practical theory in contemporary marketing theory, which is Thomas Levitt's Marketing Myopia published in 1960.  This refers to the fact that most organizations' views that are too narrow because they are too immersed in the situation.  Therefore, the leaders ought to re-evaluate the broader vista and re-define their market positions to re-seize the lost opportunities.  I believe that the Hong Kong democratic movement is too near-sighted.

One cannot blame the young people in the Civil Human Rights Front, because they lack management and life experiences and they are really unsuitable to lead such a large-scale movement.  More importantly, the whole democratic movement has to re-define itself and to establish new strategic goals and to select new leaders to lead them, or else this mess can only react to situations and remain stuck in the same place. 

Now I am going to be very careful and very precise in stating that I want to use Charles Mok's remarks as a starting point to what I want to say.  I do not want to imply that Charles Mok endorses my personal opinion.  I only want to use his thoughts as my inspiration.  That is why I am using three horizontal lines below as demarcation.  Everything else after this are my personal thoughts.

As a reminder again, these are purely my personal reflections.  Recently, I was interviewed by a Hong Kong magazine and I commented simply that my 'advantage' was that I 'parachuted' into Hong Kong in 2003 without much knowledge of the local conditions and histories.  While that seems bad, it also meant that I do not carry any baggage -- I am just the outside observer looking in, but I have the advantage of being fluent in Cantonese and having grown up in Hong Kong.

So it is that I read what was being said about the 2006 July 1st march.

Prior to the march, I get the following talking points:

Afterwards, the organizers said that there were 58,000 marchers.  This was more than 21,000 but not 100,000.  The debate goes on.

Consider now the viewpoint of a 'parachutist' who does not have to accept these assumptions.

The 'parachutist' checks the Hong Kong census statistics -- there are about 7 million people in Hong Kong.  Therefore,

Does it matter which of the three outcomes occurred?  Who has ever heard that a government or people being asked to follow the demands of 1.4% (maximum) of its population in a nomimal democracy?  For a 'parachutist,' this whole debate is incomprehensible.  As in, YOU MUST BE F*CKING KIDDING!!!

But if this 'parachutist' should do due diligence on universal suffrage in Hong Kong, he/she should be able to locate the surveys conducted by the Hong Kong University Public Opinion Programme:

In 2005

In 2006,

So how does one compare these superior numbers with a 1% attendance at the 2006 July 1st march?  Something is definitely rotten ...

Suppose that you are the chairman of the board of directors at a corporation.  You know the following facts:

(1) Your research (which is validated by numerous independent studies) shows that your product/service is desired by 60%-70% of the population
(2) Your corporation is a natural monopoly in that market and there is no competition
(3) In the most recent calendar year, your market penetration was 1% after four years of marketing

What will you do as the chairman of the board?  You are going to haul in your management team, ask for an explanation and demand an alternative plan, because what has happened before was obviously a dismal failure.  If the management's presentation is unsatisfactory, you ought to fire them forthwith and hire another team with better vision and capability.

Except this is not going to happen here, is it?  That is because this management team appears to have monopolized management in this application area too.  Instead of their abysmal performance, they wish to speak of their better-than-market-expectations performance (namely, 1.4% instead of 0.8%).  And they turn around to challenge your integrity and commitment to success if you dared to point out the absurdity of the situation.

The 'parachutist' can only follow the logical flow, but who says everything must follow logic?

This 'parachutist' cannot see why people should be obsessed with this July 1st march and the chicaneries around the attendance figure.  The truly significant figure is the 60% or so of the yearning for universal suffrage that has been consistently found by all surveys.  Nobody from any side is denying that number.  This number has been and will be about the same, no matter what time of year (July 1st or not) that the surveys are conducted by whomever.

So why is everybody being stuck with the Civil Human Rights Front and the debate among 0.3%, 0.8% or 1.4% instead?

Obviously, this 'parachutist' needs to be slapped down and then told that he is 'simple and na´ve' ...

Relevant link: Market Analysis of July 1st