Double standard

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on September 15, 2004

Today's New York Times has an editorial decrying the lack of promised democracy in Hong Kong.

Despite the shady campaign tactics and problems at voting sites, we hope that there was a lesson for Beijing in the results and that Sunday's vote was not a complete loss for the forces of openness. Democracy advocates increased the size of their potential coalition by at least four seats, which means that things are at least moving in the right direction. At the same time, the success of pro-Beijing candidates should give Communist Party leaders more confidence to keep their distance and allow Hong Kong's tentative democracy the time and space to mature.

Hong Kong's voters made it clear that they urgently want to participate in their own government. Turnout was high, a stunning 55.6 percent of the eligible population. There were also signs of democratic support in unexpected quarters. Of the 60 seats in Hong Kong's legislature, 30 are elected by special interests - by businesses and professions that tend to take a pragmatic pro-Beijing line. Half of the votes for these positions went to democrats, but that yielded them only 6 of the 30 seats.

It's nice to see that the Times is interested in democracy abroad, but disturbing that this attitude is newly found. Last month, the Times had no similar concern for a stolen election in Venezuela.

[I]t is time for President Hugo Chávez's opponents to stop pretending that they speak for most Venezuelans. They do not, as the failure of a recall referendum, promoted by the opposition, decisively demonstrated on Sunday. The reason Mr. Chávez survived the challenge, despite his authoritarian impulses, is not hard to figure out. Unlike most of his recent predecessors, he has made programs directed at the everyday problems of the poor - illiteracy, the hunger for land and inferior health care - the central theme of his administration, and he has been able to use higher-than-expected oil revenues to advance social welfare. Some of his programs have been poorly designed and shamelessly used to build and mobilize political support. All the same, they are understandably appreciated by the millions of Venezuelans who have felt like the neglected stepchildren of the country's oil boom.

The only problem is that the opponents do speak for most Venezuelans. A study I noted earlier this month shows that there is a 99 percent probability that the Venezuela election was fraudulent.

It appears that if the Chinese communists were able to cloak their anti-democratic tendencies in concern for "the everyday problems of the poor," then it would apparently shield itself from any criticism from the Times. It's sad, but not surprising, that this is the attitude taken by the Times editorial writers.

Is The New York Times interested in editorializing for freedom? The answer apparently is: "It depends."


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September 2004



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