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Temple Protest March or Why Hong Kong Is More Democratic Than People Realize

Nine days until the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens!

Last Sunday, as on many Sundays, there was a protest march in Hong Kong. Forty years ago, some of the residents of Kwun Tong established three temples. Now, it seems the government wants to build a fly-over and the temples are in the way plus they are illegal structures. The government says they will move the temples to a near-by site.

But, “No!” cry the residents. These temples have seen us through many hardships and moving them would negatively affect the area’s fung shui. In addition we consulted the gods on the plan through traditional rituals and the god’s answer was, “No!”

So between 350 and 500 worshippers brought the statues of their gods to Central and marched to Government House to protest. The march included rituals and lion dances and from the photos in the newspaper, it looks like everyone enjoyed themselves. They have vowed to occupy the buildings in a sort of sit-in if the government doesn’t back down.

As with most Hong Kong marches, this one was peaceful and it appears that since a district councilor organized the protest that the government will at least have to listen. Since those in charge of Hong Kong have been told and believe that their number one priority is stability, protests of this sort are more likely to make a difference than similar protests do in most of the Western democracies.

I have no idea how it will all turn out but I am sure that the parties will find a face-saving way of ending the disagreement. This is far more preferable to the win-lose attitude protesters and governments have elsewhere (think France). It’s one of the reasons that the pressure for direct elections has waned in recent months. The government appears to be trying to listen and to accommodate all sides as it also tries to carry out its governing functions.

I wish more of the democratically elected leaders in other parts of the world would behave in the same way.