Chris Patten on Democracy

Chris Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong and present chancellor of Oxford University, was quoted saying the following during a short visit to the city:

“I still have great admiration for those who campaign for democracy, but not for those whose campaign dilutes support for democracy and makes a mockery of a serious political argument…Two years ago, many brave young people in Hong Kong established moral high ground about democracy in governance, and I think it would be a tragedy if that high ground was lost because of a few antics.”

In his comments Patten refers to the two (now disqualified) separatist Legislative Council members whose crude remarks during their oath-taking ceremonies captured global attention. Patten condemned their sensationalist language and “headline-grabbing remarks about independence”.

I agree with Patten’s assessment. The two legislators were brash and brazen, their actions failing to uphold the honorable intentions of the pro-democracy protestors that walked before them.In seeking to attract attention to their separatist cause, these two legislators created controversy. Their sensationalist attitudes echo the actions and antics of astoundingly successful foreign politicians, among them the American Donald Trump and the British Nigel Farage. In a culture of growing anti-establishment sentiment, it is important that we remember not to be seduced by delusions of grandeur, or in this case, delusions of democracy. Oftentimes those that speak the loudest, do not speak the wisest. We must not be subject to the whims of sensationalist words and headlines, and must not forget the value of diplomatic political discourse.


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