20 August 2019

What is the rational solution to the Hong Kong protests?

Thanks to Singapore's authoritarian and paternalistic leadership, its activists have never had a chance to commandeer a successful negotiation with the government. Deprived of such experience and pushed towards the "oppose, protest, and railblock" model of activism, these civil society actors fail to recognise that skilful negotiation is part and parcel of everyday social processes within a polity to moderate policy given disparate and competing preferences on the ground.

From the point of view of Singapore's activists, the Hong Kong protests can only end in a "Springtime for Xi Jinping" (aka the coup from above) or a "Hong Kong Spring" (aka the revolution from below), both of which fit into their experience of activism as futile but dramatic political theatre but are in fact the least likely outcomes in even semi-democratic, moderately liberal, wealthy polities like Hong Kong. Little is expected from Singapore's activists aside from virtuous signalling that they "stand in solidarity" with Hong Kong and will shed the requisite amount of tears of appropriate joy or sorrow when the time comes. But what happens when we approach the protests rationally?