Mirror, mirror, which is best democracy of them all?

Mirror, mirror, which is best democracy of them all?

Here’s the thing

S Raghotham lives the life of an owl, and can turn his head 270°

In the 1990s, as the last charms of British rule were wearing off, Hong Kong’s people were eager to dump the British and join the new economic star, China. They did so in 1997, but on the condition that H-K would retain its own political and economic systems. One Country, Two Systems. Somewhat like Article 370, but with a lot more latitude for H-K than Article 370 ever allowed Kashmir. Of course, China has ever since tried to bring H-K under its control, and make it One Country, One System, including by installing puppet chief executives and legislatures and settling ‘patriotic’ Chinese on the island. But since March this year, when Beijing wanted that H-K residents accused of crimes should be extradited to mainland China to stand trial under Chinese law, H-K has risen up in protest. H-K says, our democracy, our law, our way of life; Beijing, lay off. Insaaniyat, Jamhooriyat, Hong Kong-iyat, shall we say?

Over a million H-K people – of the city’s 7 million population, including some 36,000 Indians – came out in protest, including school children. They shut down the airport, and all economic activity; China used force and propaganda to stem the protests. It tear-gassed protesters, threatened to declare them terrorists and deal with them as such. But H-K has got its way, at least for now, and is now asking Beijing to retreat even more, including not allowing corrupt officials from the mainland buying up real estate in H-K and pushing up prices beyond the reach of the island’s residents. Article 35A, did you say? Well, sort of.

How should we Indians think about the people of H-K? Are they right to demand One Country, Two Systems from Beijing? Should they stop protesting against “their own government” and accept Beijing’s laws and rules? Are they traitors, anti-nationals that should be punished by Xi Jinping? Should China put H-K under lockdown, shutdown phone services and internet, send the Chinese military in, arrest all H-K political leaders? Should Beijing treat the protesters as terrorists (after all, it claims that foreign agencies have supplied grenades and other weapons to the protesters)?

In the United Kingdom, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson suspended parliament to secure for himself a free hand to do what he likes in the Brexit negotiations with the European Union. He wants the UK to leave the EU on October 31 – with or without a deal with the EU regarding the future relations between the two sides. The government’s own ‘Operation Yellow Hammer’ document says what might happen under a no-deal exit – disruptions in Channel crossings between Britain and the Continent would last up to three months; lorries carrying goods would be stuck at borders for two-and-a-half days; British tourists would be stuck at ports and airports; fuel supplies would be disrupted, electricity costs would rise; fresh food and medicine supplies would be “particularly vulnerable to severe extended delays”; panic-buying would further exacerbate the problems; the UK wouldn’t be able to prevent animal disease outbreaks; a possible rise in public disorder that the police might not be able to handle...” and so on.

And yet, Boris Johnson wants to exit the EU, deal or no deal. What’s got to be done has got to be done. Those who came before him all bumbled, he’s going to get things done, and quickly, he says.

The UK parliament struck back. Before its suspension came into effect, parliament – including some 29 MPs of Johnson’s own Brexit-favouring Conservative Party – passed a law banning a no-deal Brexit. Johnson then called for general elections on October 14 so that he could win a mandate that would let him Brexit without a deal. Parliament blocked that, too. The government was reluctant to reveal the details of ‘Operation Yellow Hammer’. Parliament passed another law to force Johnson to make the document public. The Scottish Supreme Court declared the suspension of parliament “unlawful”, and the matter will now be decided by the UK Supreme Court.

Now, Johnson is left with only the option to either obtain Brexit with a deal acceptable to parliament by October 17, or to seek a three-month extension from the EU for further talks.

Meanwhile, in the Indian parliament, MPs cheer demonetisation and the paralysing of the economy with “Modi, Modi, Modi”; to the citizen’s Right to Information being shredded, “Modi, Modi, Modi”; to the UAPA law giving the government authority to declare anyone a terrorist without due process of law, “Modi, Modi, Modi”; to the lockdown of J&K and shutting down the fundamental and human rights of our own people, “Modi, Modi, Modi”.

Cheers, we will soon have a new, perhaps world’s biggest, tallest, greatest parliament building. That surely must be enough to show how supreme our parliament and democracy are, don’t you think?

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