Cultural Revolution and Democracy

I know Donald Tsang, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, is not a politician, but only a civil servant, as he has always been; I know he is not a leader, but only an administrator.

But I never expected that he can be so bad. He can be so ignorant of history that in a radio program, he cited China’s Cultural Revolution as an extreme case of democracy, while Cultural Revolution is in fact a good example of how dictatorship can destroy a whole country.

Further, Tsang thinks if people have all the power, there can’t be good governance. In other words, democracy, people’s power, is at odds with social development and good governance.

It cannot be clearer that why Tsang was picked by Beijing to be the Chief Executive of Hong Kong. His idea about people’s power/democracy, something Chinese government is very fearful about, is just so similar to that of his boss.

View here for the text of Tsang’s interview on the radio program.

6 Replies to “Cultural Revolution and Democracy”

  1. It depends how you define “democracy”
    It can also refer to the “rule” or “power” of the people, and mass organization can be seen as a form of democracy or democratic mobilization.
    Additionally, it actually was the case that the masses got out of hand, and Mao actually began expressing his regret over what was going on.

  2. Matt,

    A democracy is one in which the people have the power to vote on all laws and rules governing them – how was the cultural revolution a democracy?

    It was a state of near anarchy, yes, but people had no way of changing the way they were treated by the powers that were, and a dictator was encouraging this anarchy.

    So tell me (and everyone else here) how that was a democracy.

    Really his comments were disgusting.

  3. I disagree somewhat.

    Actually, the Cultural Revolution was a democratic movement in the sense that mass movements are democratic (of the people) and not necessarily liberal. Spanish Republican Jose Ortega y Gasset, writing decades before the Cultural Revolution, warned about the political power of the masses and how, once released, they would instinctively crush individuals and all forms of distinctiveness.

    What we saw in the first half of Cultural Revolution years was, as Ortega y Gasset foresaw, a mass democracy/near-anarchy that utterly destroyed most of Chinese society. We witnessed something similar in Rwanda — though there was military power, there was no actual “state” that directed the mass killings of the Tutsi people. The genocide plotters initiated the massacres by first killing their own president and twisting the emotions of the Hutu masses towards deadly ends. In the case of the Cultural Revolution, after the masses had killed or subjugated Mao’s opponents, Mao then used the PLA and his “sent down” campaign to reinstate the dictatorship, so the latter half of the period fits with your description.

    Where Tsang screws the pooch is his implication that the people of Hong Kong, if given true democracy as promised to them by Deng Xiaoping, would trend towards the illiberal extremes of the Cultural Revolution. He has a disgustingly low opinion of his countrymen. Meat puppet indeed.

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