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Lee Kuan Yew lashes out at critical human rights groups

Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore has never been shy in defending Singapore’s political system or his own legacy. During the recent Economic Society of Singapore’s annual dinner, Lee gave a stern rebuke to some human rights organizations that frequently picked on Singapore for not being a liberal democracy.

Mr. Lee charged such criticisms as “a conspiracy to do [Singapore] in” because Singapore was viewed a threat by those critics.

Explaining why these groups regarded Singapore as a threat, he said it was because they saw that the Russians and Chinese have been coming and studying Singapore’s success story and picking up pointers.

So Mr. Lee’s point is that Singapore’s original sin is its audacity of being successful without conforming to the western style political system held so dearly by some who believe there is one and only one correct way for a nation to develop. As such, the Singaporean experience upsets the order of the universe for some and threatens their lecturing of others, including China and Russia, on what to do.

He then asked some hard charged questions meant for those critics.

My question is to them, have you ever run Singapore? Do you know how we got here? What were we? What we are now? And how we can become better?

We are not stupid people. They give us all these advice… Who are they? Have they ever run a country, created jobs for community and given them a life? We have and we know what it requires.

Clearly, Mr. Lee was irritated. But why?

Mr Lee was responding to a question on whether Singapore needed a Western-style liberal democracy to succeed.

There you have it. I, for one, cannot blame Mr. Lee for dressing down whoever that asked such a stupid question. Frankly, he earned the right to do so a long time ago.

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  1. Buxi
    July 16th, 2008 at 22:39 | #1

    This quote from the article is really interesting:

    Turning to the opposition, Mr Lee said:

    ‘We are not trying to block them. We are trying to force them to collect a group of people equal in competence…When we fail, they have a team that can take over.

    ‘But unfortunately, they can’t do it. Because the people with ability, drive, ambition and energy don’t want to come into politics. If they wanted to, they will join us (the PAP).’

    I think that’s a really interesting way of seeing political opposition, as well as good justification for maintaining efficiency by keeping power in the hand of one party at a time. It’s better than just banning and oppressing political opposition out right, something for the Beijing government to think about.

  2. Netizen
    July 16th, 2008 at 22:52 | #2

    Mr. Lee Kuan Yew is a great man. But he needs to be more humurous and less defensive. I’d answer that stupid question like this: That’s really a stupid question!

  3. Daniel
    July 16th, 2008 at 23:23 | #3

    I thought that the political systems in Singapore were western-based?

    I heard of the neopotism as well as many other criticisms regarding their country.

  4. fall
    July 16th, 2008 at 23:33 | #4

    @ Buxi
    “I think that’s a really interesting way of seeing political opposition, as well as good justification for maintaining efficiency by keeping power in the hand of one party at a time. It’s better than just banning and oppressing political opposition out right, something for the Beijing government to think about.”

    Unfortunately Beijing government may acquire utterly different lessons from Singapore’s system, whether it is sucessful or not.

    “My question is to them, have you ever run Singapore? Do you know how we got here? What were we? What we are now? And how we can become better?
    We are not stupid people. They give us all these advice… Who are they? Have they ever run a country, created jobs for community and given them a life? We have and we know what it requires.”

    The quote above sounds very similar to the voice of those in power in Beijing. Their point is that China has something very special with its own characteristic, its system ‘s unique and suitable, and nothing from west is acceptale. Whereas Singapore could serve as a very good illustration to support the political correctness of the Chinese system.

  5. Wahaha
    July 16th, 2008 at 23:54 | #5

    Continue by Lee Kuan Yew,

    Lee Kuan Yew: One freak election will ruin us.

    http://www.bangkokpost.com/breaking_news/breakingnews.php?id=128537

  6. bianxiangbianqiao
    July 17th, 2008 at 00:30 | #6

    About the human rights groups, I cannot think of anything intelligent to say about them, just like I cannot think of anything intelligent to say about FLG.

    I did not invent those witty words above. I submitted a paper to a prestigious journal and today got the rejection letter with the reviewers’ comments. One of the reviewer’s opening statement was “I cannot think of anything intelligent to say about this paper.” Tough to be a Chinese in the West, but the reviewing process was blind.

  7. Phil
    July 17th, 2008 at 02:06 | #7

    Buxi: “I think that’s a really interesting way of seeing political opposition”
    It’s more interesting than just outlawing the opposition, but still doesn’t quite cut the mustard. Once again, we’re seeing a massive failure of imagination from the authoritarian wing.
    In western countries, democracy is *not* a technique to make the country strong. It is *not* a way to make the country better run. (It often has these effects, but that is not what it is.) Democracy is an end in itself. Because no individual has the right to rule others, and anyone who does so by virtue of their job must be regulated and restricted at all times.
    This is the reason so many Chinese people don’t understand what’s going on in these debates. Trust me, we (proponents of democracy) do understand Lee’s argument, and that of the CPC. The whole national strength thing, we get it. But we’re presenting a whole different view. And until Chinese interlocutors can break out of their boxes and engage with our understanding, the dialogue will remain stuck at this rather dimwitted level.

  8. Wahaha
    July 17th, 2008 at 02:35 | #8

    “Democracy is an end in itself.”

    It cant be, as democracy is a paradox.

  9. Netizen
    July 17th, 2008 at 02:44 | #9

    A bonehead always thinks he’s smart. This Phil is no exception. Who has determined you are “proponents of democracy”? Who has certified that you understand what democracy is? I trust you were at that dimwitted level when you were so sure of yourself.

  10. DJ
    July 17th, 2008 at 02:48 | #10

    Well, I am more interested in hearing some discussion of Lee’s perception that much of the criticism of his country and its system is not about what Singapore is but what it stands for. What do you think?

  11. Phil
    July 17th, 2008 at 03:12 | #11

    DJ
    I would agree with Lee on that point. Singapore is obviously a highly successful state in many ways, and there doesn’t seem to be very much to criticise about most aspects of the way it’s run. But Lee does hawk it around less savoury places (China) as a model, suggesting that you can become a rich country without providing freedom.
    To be honest, as I understand it, the level of press freedom in Singapore is actually pretty high – nothing like the situation in China. But some Chinese officials would love to take the Singapore model as an excuse to continue with a repressive style of government.
    Lee may actually be right that you can become rich without being free; it’s even possible that you can get rich with severely limited freedoms, as in China. Human rights organizations generally don’t link the acquisition of wealth to human rights, because a) there’s no definite link and b) there’s no need – human rights are an end in themselves.

    Wahaha
    Not sure what you mean. Democracy is a very vague term. There are some very strict understandings of it that could be paradoxical or self-contradictory, but there are many models of democracy out there. I understand it to mean strong public oversight of government action (through institutions like free courts, free press, referenda, etc.) and the power to chuck the bastards out (through elections of one kind or another). There’s nothing paradoxical about these two elements.

    Netizen
    Prove my point, why don’t you…

  12. Wahaha
    July 17th, 2008 at 03:16 | #12

    Phil,

    this is what I mean,

    A teacher of kindergarden wanted to take 30 kids out for lunch, 27 of them wanted McDonald or KFC, two wanted Pizza, the last one wanted Donkin Donuts.

    In a democratic syetem, the other 3 kids are allowed to protest, there are 3 possible outcomes.

    1) the teacher still forcefully take 30 kids to McDonald or KFC, in other words, the right of those 3 kids is still suppressed LIKE IN AN AUTHORITARIAN SYSTEM.

    2) the teacher drives the schoolbus on the street, circling again and again, try to find a restaurant that every kid likes, we dont know if she can find one.

    3) the teacher is rich, she can order the foods from McDonald, Pizza hut and Donkin’s Donuts.

    Is there any other possible outcome ?

    This explains the following paradox of democracy system :

    On one hand, the right of every individual is respected under democracy; on the other hand, as everyone can vote,( it is assumed that ) the elected government will work for the majority of people, or the voice of minority is unheard.

  13. yo
    July 17th, 2008 at 03:37 | #13

    Isn’t Japan similar in the respect that it’s virtually a one party system, (or perhaps 1.2 party system if you will 🙂 )

  14. Phil
    July 17th, 2008 at 03:48 | #14

    Wahaha
    Er, what?
    You’re saying it’s not possible for everyone to do exactly what they want all the time? Well stop the freakin’ presses! We’ve been wrong for 300 years! Our democracy is impossible! We disappear in a puff of smoke!

    Mate, sorry to be flippant, but I don’t really know what you think you’ve found here. In democratic countries, everyone knows that you can’t do what you want all the time. Democracy is not a system which is supposed to allow everyone to do whatever they want all the time. In democratic countries, we still have laws. You can’t rob a house and say it’s your democratic right. It’s not. That’s not what democracy does.

    Starting from the beginning. The fundamental problem of being human: we like living in groups, but we all have different ideas. How do we get along as a group, given our differences? Politics is the search for answers to this question. There is no single answer, there is no perfect solution. We muddle through. Authoritarian systems provide one kind of answer: a single individual or small group impose their will upon everyone else. Democracy provides another kind of answer: we develop systems whereby the best solutions for everyone can be found and adjusted when necessary.

    Democracy is not a single way of doing things; it is not correct; it is not perfect. Think about the Churchill quote: “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.” My personal view is that democracy doesn’t even aim at the best solution for a given time, place and problem; it merely serves to rule out the worst solutions (this comes largely from John Rawls, whom I like very much). But others have other ideas.

    Anyway, the point is, democracy is a big, challenging subject that western thinkers have gone over and over, generating some unimaginably deep and complex understandings. It is not your kiddies’ “everyone can do what they want.” Attacking such a thing is merely straw man play.

  15. Wahaha
    July 17th, 2008 at 03:56 | #15

    “In democratic countries, everyone knows that you can’t do what you want all the time.”

    Really ?

    Maybe you should explain why so many states and cities in US are in deficits or even bankrupted. I guess that elected mayors and governere were bunch of morons who didnt know what long term planing is.

  16. Wahaha
    July 17th, 2008 at 03:59 | #16

    and if you can, please help these indians.

    http://ia.rediff.com/money/2006/may/08spec1.htm

    The commotion over the building of a dam over the Narmada River in the western Indian state of Gujarat hogged the headlines in India over the past few weeks. Medha Patkar, activist and leader of the Narmada Bachao Andolan (Save Narmada movement), went on a 20-day fast to protest the government’s failure to come to the aid of an estimated 500,000 villagers who have lost their livelihood as a consequence of the Sardar Sarovar dam, which will supply electricity to Gujarat state.

    The issue has become a classic one of haves vs. have-nots: On one side are the farmers who need the dam to irrigate their fields, and on the other are those who have lost access to their land because of it. And true to type, the ruling Congress administration in New Delhi, afraid of alienating any bloc of potential voters, didn’t make a decision. Instead the government left it to the Supreme Court to direct the state to speed up its program for compensating and relocating the area’s inhabitants.

    ……

    India’s Narmada dam, with all its issues of federal and state permissions, environmental approvals, and equitable rehabilitation of the inhabitants, could have been a showpiece for foreign investors. Instead, it’s a disgrace: a sorry tale of a 20-year delay, cost overruns, state negligence, and bitter local resistance — and a reason why foreign direct investment bypasses India and heads for China, whose infrastructure is first rate

    …..

    _________________________________________________

    The teacher is still circling and circling, and trying to find a restaurant that every kid likes.

  17. Wahaha
    July 17th, 2008 at 04:07 | #17

    Listen carefully, Phil,

    Under a democratic system, people count on government to solve the problems for them, while at same time, they dont want to give government necessary power to improve economy or save economy.

    Whether you like it or not, you cant have everything (the right, the freedom, the money) unless the government has a fat pocket. LIke if you want to REdecorate your house, you have to give the contractors the right to remove something.

  18. Buxi
    July 17th, 2008 at 05:17 | #18

    @Phil,

    This is the reason so many Chinese people don’t understand what’s going on in these debates. Trust me, we (proponents of democracy) do understand Lee’s argument, and that of the CPC. The whole national strength thing, we get it. But we’re presenting a whole different view. And until Chinese interlocutors can break out of their boxes and engage with our understanding, the dialogue will remain stuck at this rather dimwitted level.

    Funny, because I see this in exactly the other way.

    Trust me, we (proponents of national strength) do understand your arguments, and that of other democracy activists. The whole freeing people from the tyranny of government, we get it. But we’re presenting a whole different view. And until Western interlocutors can break out of their boxes and engage with our understanding, the dialogue will remain stuck at this rather dimwitted level.

    Here’s the real issue, Phil. I really believe we understand your position, and you claim you understand our position. So… why are you trying to change us? I don’t believe there are any Chinese advocacy groups trying to convince Western nations that democracy is inefficient, and less important than national strength. I think the dominant attitude you’re hearing from the Chinese is basically, if it works for you, great… but we might prefer a different path, especially if it works for us.

    If you understand that our values and the view they engender might be different… why do you insist on forcing your values and single view on us? Why do you insist that we must eventually follow in your path, if we tell you with all seriousness, that we’re not sure we want to?

  19. Phil
    July 17th, 2008 at 05:18 | #19

    Er… I’m lost. What kind of argument are you trying to make?

    Thus far, you appear to be saying: some administrative budgets in the USA have been mishandled, therefore democracy is impossible; the decision-making process about major infrastructure projects in India is messed up, therefore democracy is impossible.

    Both of those are just gibber, so I assume that’s not what you’re arguing. Would you care to try to say what you really mean?

  20. Buxi
    July 17th, 2008 at 05:21 | #20

    @Phil,

    Er… I’m lost. What kind of argument are you trying to make?

    Let me help you. Wahaha is insisting that there are flaws with the American democratic system, and he’s not sure it is the best option for China. But I believe he has no deeply held opinions on what political system the United States (or any other Western nation) should use… it’s none of his business.

  21. Phil
    July 17th, 2008 at 05:33 | #21

    Buxi

    “I really believe we understand your position”
    You’re mistaken. You understand our position, because you’ve lived in the USA for a long time. But you know perfectly well that huge amounts of Chinese language comment on the web and in respectable newspapers (most egregious example I’ve ever seen was in the Nanfang Zhoumo) is very confused on this issue. They make assumptions along the lines that everything in western media is state-directed; that NGOs are controlled by states; that those who support human rights are crypto imperialists. While there’s plenty of hypocrisy about to give ammunition to proponents of these views, you know that they are incorrect the vast majority of the time. The western press is free. Amnesty is very much at odds with the US government. However, as I say, much of the commentariat inside China does not know this. They don’t understand. You’ve seen it yourself on this very thread.

    “I don’t believe there are any Chinese advocacy groups trying to convince you that democracy is less important than national strength.”
    I haven’t met any – but then, as I say, most Chinese commentators don’t think that we disagree on this point. They assume that we are coming from the same position, so they don’t have to convince us of it.

    “why do you insist on forcing your values and single view on us?”
    And there’s the big lie. This is why I don’t post on here more, and why your veneer of reason irritates me. It masks the big lies. Allow me to spell this right out for you: I A M N O T F O R C I N G A N Y T H I N G O N A N Y O N E. I’m a freaking anonymous internet commenter. And Amnesty has a big army, do they? They forced you to do anything recently? Unlike the Chinese government, Amnesty doesn’t believe in forcing people to do things.

    What we do believe in is presenting our views. Voicing our beliefs. I certainly do believe in human rights as a political concept/approach, and I say so in forums which are devoted to discussion of these issues. I didn’t start this fucking thread, all I did was get insulted on it.

    Force you. I wouldn’t touch you with a ten foot stick, believe me, I have no intention of forcing you.

  22. opersai
    July 17th, 2008 at 05:34 | #22

    The problem with popular democracy is that candidates are not judged during elections on how well they can govern, but on their persuasive powers.
    http://www.bangkokpost.com/breaking_news/breakingnews.php?id=128537

    I find this quite true to American /Canada elections. We have almost come to expect the campaign promises for the most will not be delivered. There is almost no guarantee on the competency of the elected office. Sometimes, when we are unlucky, we get offices that drive our economy from the top to bottom in a election cycle or two.

    @Phil,
    you are missing the point of Wahaha’s examples. The examples given are symptoms of problems of inefficiency that’s almost embedded in democracy. And that cause a lot frustration and sometimes grievance, like in that case in India.

  23. Buxi
    July 17th, 2008 at 05:45 | #23

    @Phil,

    I know your English level is good enough that you understand the use of “force” in this context doesn’t actually imply physical coercion. But let me rephrase:

    And until Chinese interlocutors can break out of their boxes and engage with our understanding, the dialogue will remain stuck at this rather dimwitted level.

    When you say “engage” with your understanding, I take that to mean “share” your understanding. Am I wrong? Why would you even have the expectation that we must eventually “share” your understanding?

    If you want to correct Wahaha’s misconceptions about the Western media, and the operation of Amnesty International… by all means, go ahead. Frankly, I approve of such good-willed efforts.

    But I don’t see that as the truly meaningful dialogue, at least not the one I’m engaged in here. Until you come to accept that “human rights are an end in themselves” only for some societies, and not a universal truth, I’m afraid we might be stuck in that same dimwitted dialogue for some time yet. I wish more Western activists and self-declared internet commentators would come to accept that “engaging your understanding” is not the necessary conclusion.

  24. werew
    July 17th, 2008 at 06:32 | #24

    @Phil
    I think you are underestimating the understandings of Chinese commentators.
    “They make assumptions along the lines that everything in western media is state-directed; that NGOs are controlled by states; that those who support human rights are crypto imperialists”
    I am pretty sure they aren’t saying that media, NGOs and human right groups takes direct order from the state and are officially owned by it. I think their perception of the workings of those groups are pretty similar to that of Wahaha, as in those groups are supposedly independent and for the most part they are, but political parties have a certain amount of influence on them through indirect methods. Political parties don’t spend that much money in researching public relations for nothing.

  25. vadaga
    July 17th, 2008 at 07:46 | #25

    One thing that I would like to say is that the Singapore government was rated 4th in the world in the 2007 Transparency International corruption perceptions index. The government of China (not including HK or Taiwan) was rated #72.
    (http://www.transparency.org/policy_research/surveys_indices/cpi/2007)

    If there is anything that can be learned from Singapore, it may be that a lack of corruptness in government can be a good thing.

    The Party School of the Central Committee issued a report earlier this year which supposedly talks about China’s need for greater transparency and democracy, but I have yet to get my hands on a copy. If anyone has read it, I would be extremely interested in hearing what they thought of it.

  26. Wukailong
    July 17th, 2008 at 08:03 | #26

    I’m not sure which book you’re talking about exactly, but there are a couple of other books by Yu Keping that are pretty good reads, for example 民主是个好东西 and 思想解放与政治进步.

  27. Wukailong
    July 17th, 2008 at 08:11 | #27

    Guys, don’t be too hard on Phil. He does have some points. While I’m afraid I’m going to fall into the dreadful trap of being attacked by both sides, I have to say that both the average Western or Chinese observer, if he or she is interested in the question, tends to be brutally biased.

    I’m staying in Beijing, and I have to say that the reactions to 3.14 were as I figured they would be, with the constant misunderstanding as to what Westerners in general think (“Westerners are trying to split China etc”) Then I went home to Sweden for a week, spoke to a friend who’s interested in China, and it was impossible to get any nuanced viewpoint across. She was adamant that the Chinese government is evil, carrying through “cultural genocide” in Tibet, and said that “I can understand that you get a relativist viewpoint when you stay in China, but I’m not going to.”

    At that point I gave up. Unfortunately, I think this type is common. Bias is no problem as long as people are trying to get to know more, but I’m afraid most people just want to keep their viewpoint no matter what.

  28. vadaga
    July 17th, 2008 at 08:32 | #28

    @wukailong, the title in Chinese is 攻坚:十七大后中国政治体制改革研究报告 (cf. http://www.ccps.gov.cn/dxrd.php?col=161&file=4932)

  29. zuiweng
    July 17th, 2008 at 11:56 | #29

    My lunchbreak’s over (totally wasted it on surfing the internet), so instead of a more substantial contribution here’s just a link from me:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oCEB-uH49AQ

    Most of you will probably know it: the PBS documentary “Please Vote for Me”, about elections for class monitor in a school in Wuhan. Mr Wahaha likes childrens’ stories (and repeating them), so I hope he will enjoy this one too.

  30. bianxiangbianqiao
    July 17th, 2008 at 12:32 | #30

    Yo,

    “Isn’t Japan similar in the respect that it’s virtually a one party system, (or perhaps 1.2 party system if you will?”

    A while ago there was a paper from one of the party think tanks (central party school?) seriously looking at LDP faction politics in Japan. The different factions inside the party function like mini-parties within the party. The wangling among the factions provides checks and balances and mutual supervision similar to what is commonly known as “democracy”. Since the process is within the party, the participants are limited to the “competent” elites, in Lee’s terminology. The concepts of “faction politics” links back to an earlier and more Chinese term, “democracy within the party”.

    The functioning of CCP today is very similar to Japan’s LDP as far as I can see. The selection of the heirs to Hu and Wen was a process of internal negotiations or what the West calls in-fighting.

  31. BMY
    July 17th, 2008 at 13:32 | #31

    what happened, gentlemen?

    Phil has his point and his understanding. His first comment dose not deserve harsh words.

    I think we are talking different things. Phil’s point is “Democracy is an end in itself.” and it’s *not* a technique to better run a country and it’s not perfect. We both agree this point. Phil is not arguing a technique.

    But China needs a “technique” to better run the country., to fix the corruption ,to build the dam, to feed the 1.3 billion people . Buxi ,wahaha (includes myself) here think Lee Kuan Yew ‘s technique might be a better option for China than India or US’s as the flaws of “democracy” might cause more trouble while trying to improve something. It might be a very different china charactered democracy or maybe a authoritarian with transparency, free express or maybe something we’ve never seen.

    I am getting more clear where we misunderstand each other.

    sorry, I am not a judge. I’ve just done two push-ups. please be careful not to do the 3rd one 🙂

  32. yo
    July 17th, 2008 at 14:05 | #32

    bianxiangbianqiao,

    Interesting. The big difference is that there is a chance for change of political party, no matter how small. It’s funny, so Japan is half way between the Chinese and American systems. A virtual one party system but they have a chance to lose power. Cool.

    “democracy within the party”
    That’s an interesting term. Thanks!

  33. July 17th, 2008 at 14:15 | #33

    @Buxi – “Until you come to accept that “human rights are an end in themselves” only for some societies, and not a universal truth . . .”

    I think that the vast majority of people in China would agree that human rights are a good thing even if they do not lead to anything else – saying that ‘rights must be sacrificed for progress’ may be a nice philosophical yarn to spin, but it does not seem to clever when you have had an injustice inflicted on you by your own government. I would say that all people everywhere want human rights and do see those rights as an end in themselves – and this includes China.

  34. yo
    July 17th, 2008 at 15:05 | #34

    I don’t know about others here, but I feel some form of democracy will be good for China. I think we can all agree with this but are getting lost in the rhetoric (but I could be wrong). The experimentation China is doing and will being doing in Guangzhou and Shenzhen are great first steps and more should be encouraged. I personally would like to see them experiment with different formats for each city they try out. It will be a more efficient way to find the system right for the country.
    ———-

    @waahhahahah or others
    I’ll throw my 2 cents here again about the discussion of democracy, good or bad.

    The advantages and disadvantages of a democracy is dependent(very dependent) on it’s IMPLEMENTATION. Same goes for authoritarian governments. There are good democracies (U.S) and bad ones(Iraq). There are good authoritarian governments (Singapore as in this article ) and bad ones (Zimbabwe). IMO, it’s not fair to selectively pick bad qualities of a democracy and use it as a justification for your opinion.
    ——–

    @Phil
    “And there’s the big lie. This is why I don’t post on here more, and why your veneer of reason irritates me. ”
    I’m with Buxi on this one somewhat. You might not have the intention, but IMO you come off as having that intention.

    “Trust me, we (proponents of democracy) do understand…”

    I’m a proponent of democracy in China but you don’t speak for me. I respect your opinions but you might want to consider that the reasons why people don’t agree with you is not because they don’t understand your pov, but they understand but just don’t agree with you.

  35. July 17th, 2008 at 15:14 | #35

    But i still dont understand why Lee Kuan Yew doesnt allow freedom of expression on ‘mild/ neutral’ topics such as gay rights, media freedom and chewing gums.

    http://thesuffocate.blogspot.com/

  36. yo
    July 17th, 2008 at 15:28 | #36

    FOARP,
    “I think that the vast majority of people in China would agree that human rights are a good thing even if they do not lead to anything else – saying that ‘rights must be sacrificed for progress’ may be a nice philosophical yarn to spin…”

    Interesting point. From the opinions of the people in this forum, I think they would agree with your assessment but define human rights differently. I don’t think any mainlander here would favor unjust trials for example and buxi would agree with that too(I’m assuming 🙂 ). So ‘rights must be sacrificed for progress’ has meaning but it must be qualified first.

    ” human rights are a good thing even if they do not lead to anything else”
    See, I don’t like that angle. IMO, if it’s just an ends, then so what, who cares. But I don’t see it like that 😉 Human rights can be associated with the economic development of a society. IMO, human rights is a vague term (ex gun ownership is a human right, so is gay marriage, abortion, and the right to say “One nation, under GOD”, and by god, I mean Jesus Christ, our lord and savior, the one who scarified himself for our sins, amen, peace be with you, god bless 🙂 ). But voting is a human right(for others that don’t agree, just agree for the sake of argument), and using a voting mechanism to fight corruption is a great positive, and there are others, but you see where I’m getting at. Human rights doesn’t necessarily hurt economic progress, but in fact can help it.

  37. Buxi
    July 17th, 2008 at 15:42 | #37

    @vadaga,

    You brought up “storming the fortress” in an earlier thread, and I actually responded there. Maybe you didn’t see it?

    The book is available in paper form for 58 RMB… but you can read it online right here.

  38. Wahaha
    July 17th, 2008 at 15:53 | #38

    Phil,

    You dont understand our problems.

    We dont want to see China has 2 billion people any time in the future, can democracy solve it ?

    Each year, there are 9 million new labor force entering market, we cant afford 10 years negotiation as it would be a problem of 90 million people, THE PROBLEM IS URGENT AND MUST BE SOLVED NOW, can democracy solve it ?

    China needs FDI (foreign direct investment), for that, new infrastructure must be built, that leads to the problem of land acquisition, I am talking about moving THOUSANDS of people cuz of the size of population in China. Can democracy solve the problem quickly ?

    Cuz of urbanization, there are hundreds of big and small cities, each has millions of poor people who wants to make money. How will democracy make those cities safe and inhabitable ? 2 or 3 years of legal trials ? treating those criminals as guests ?

    Have you been to big cities in USA ? arent you tired of those “give me the money” protests ? Yeah, people should be allowed to form groups freely and protest freely without permission in front of government buildings. In a poor town of 200,000 people, UNLESS government does nothing, you can easily find couple hundreds of people who dont like what government is doing, whose interests (or right) are offended. and there are thousands of such towns in China. Under democracy, I guess government has to go underground.

    Let me repeat what I said (on the other thread.)

    In a wealth country with near zero population growth rate, very few poor people, there is no urgent problem, as people enjoy good life already, they can AFFORD to wait, to negotiate; and as they are usually well educated, they can keep talking ” politely and friendly” even if they disagree, even after 12 months of negotiation. That is why I say democary never work well in a country with lot of poor people.

  39. Wukailong
    July 17th, 2008 at 15:56 | #39

    Buxi: Thanks for the Gongjian link!

  40. July 17th, 2008 at 15:59 | #40

    @Yo – I mean ‘rights are a good thing even if they may not lead to anything else’ in the same way I would mean it if I wrote ‘chocolate is a good thing . . . ‘ or ‘free beer is a good thing . . . ‘. The rights that people expect do vary from country to country, this is why we have countries, but human rights are supposed to be those inalienable rights that all people enjoy from birth and on which all sane human beings can agree. Do you not think that the average American/British/Chinese/Danish/Ecuadorian/Fijian/Ghanaian/Hungarian/Italian/Japanese/etc. person regards freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of property and due process of law as desirable things by themselves? They may disagree as to what restrictions may be placed on them, but I do not think that ‘whatever the government says’ is included in that.

  41. Buxi
    July 17th, 2008 at 16:14 | #41

    @zuiweng,

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oCEB-uH49AQ

    Most of you will probably know it: the PBS documentary “Please Vote for Me”, about elections for class monitor in a school in Wuhan. Mr Wahaha likes childrens’ stories (and repeating them), so I hope he will enjoy this one too.

    I personally didn’t know it, thanks for the reference. Really, really interesting and fascinating movie. Reading one insightful Chinese review:

    http://www.chinaelections.org/NewsInfo.asp?NewsID=118866

    It looks like the movie also shows all of the negative aspects of democracy that gives us nightmares. Lies, rumors, intimidation, and “powerful backers” behind the scenes (in this case, parents). That review ends with this thoughtful conclusion:

    If we were to enlarge the elections held in this class to all of Wuhan, Hubei province, or all of China, this shows us the situation we’ll immediately find ourselves in if we were to implement free elections and democratic rule:

    – the people (the students in the 3-1 class) want and desire democracy, want to make their own choices through democracy,
    – the government and the party (the teachers and the school administration) must recognize the necessity and urgency behind democracy, and allow the people to participate in elections, and therefore implement free voting and elections,
    – in order to avoid an out-of-control or chaotic election, before starting any such elections, we must allow sample experiments, and also carefully design detailed rules of the game.

  42. yo
    July 17th, 2008 at 16:35 | #42

    FOARP,
    I disagree, Free beer has benefits 🙂
    Right, I see where you are coming from and I think that’s where we diverge. The rights should be universal, but in practice, I never agreed with that sentiment because from what I’m seeing, it’s so subjective. Of course, it doesn’t help when you got left wing or right wing whackjobs dropping the human rights card to support whatever they are doing, but I digress.

    “Do you not think that the average American/British/Chinese/Danish/Ecuadorian/Fijian/Ghanaian/Hungarian/Italian/Japanese/etc. person regards freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of property and due process of law as desirable things by themselves?”

    I’ll speak to the American context because I’m most familiar with it. I disagree with the premise that it is desirable by itself but it’s desirable because it has tangible benefits to society, even economical, at least to the American context. hmmmm, I think we aren’t on the same page here, or we are but we are getting lost in our phrasing.

    In the American context, it works more or less. Of course, there are qualifications to all the “freedoms” you mentioned in the U.S., like speech (can’t make threats, spread rumors to slander others unless you want to get sued), assembly(for whatever reasons, security etc), and property (imminent domain is ruled legal by our supreme court which I agree with). In this stand point, these qualifications do make enough distinctions between the “freedoms” that it’s no longer universal. I think we disagree about the universality of the issue.

    “…but I do not think that ‘whatever the government says’ is included in that.”
    Sorry, I’m not sure what this means.

  43. Buxi
    July 17th, 2008 at 16:45 | #43

    @FOARP,

    The rights that people expect do vary from country to country, this is why we have countries, but human rights are supposed to be those inalienable rights that all people enjoy from birth and on which all sane human beings can agree.

    That said, it seems many people are willing to sacrifice those “inalienable rights”. I don’t understand the emigration situation in Western Europe, but in the United States certainly, there reside millions of illegal immigrants from democratic/free nations.

    At home, they’d have the right to freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, the right to vote in an election, the right to stand office, not to mention the rights to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. But millions choose to leave their homes and risk their lives in order to live in a country where they have none of those things, where they face the risk of arrest and deportation at every moment.

    That is to say, when forced to choose between economic prosperity and political “chocolate”, they seem to prefer economic prosperity. In an ideal world, none of us have to choose, and we can have all the chocolates we want for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But in the less than ideal world that we live in so far, we have to find reasonable compromises.

  44. yo
    July 17th, 2008 at 16:49 | #44

    FOARP,
    Oh yeah, I forgot about the due process thing. I’m not aware of any qualifications. If you are an American, you will get due process…theoretically 🙂

    As for the legal system in China, I believe it should be reformed and revamped. Clean the corruption, and get more EXPERIENCED lawyers and judges on the bench. I don’t see this in a human rights angle but an efficiency angle. To take it a step further, if you use the Chinese standards to evaluate their legal system, I would be shocked it they considered it a good system. Actually, I’m quite confident of this from what I have read here and elsewhere.

    If you ask me, my plan would be to employ either some direct elections of judges, or remove the link from judges to local governments. Since the consensus is that corruption of the legal system is localized, this will greatly help to curb corruption by removing the local governments out of the picture.

    As for more lawyers and judges, a long term plan would be to advocate more Chinese to go into law. Perhaps economic incentives. I don’ t have the statistics, but I know that there are too few lawyers in China compared to people. My 2 cents.

  45. yo
    July 17th, 2008 at 16:54 | #45

    Buxi,
    I never thought about the Mexican example. That’s a good one.

  46. Wahaha
    July 17th, 2008 at 17:33 | #46

    Zuweng,

    I somehow offended you, didnt I ?

    I never said there was nothing good about democracy, there is lot of good things about democracy. I have been trying to make two points :

    1) there are some HUGE AND URGENT PROBLEMS now in China that ONLY an authoritarian system can solve or solve within acceptable time limit.

    2) Democratic system is not perfect, it is built on wealth and education, there are lot of flaws in that, you wont see those flaws unless there are lot of poor and undereducated people.

    Fro example, the voting system. the purpose of system is not trying to make people happy ( wow, I can vote.), the purpose of voting system is to make sure that people’s servants will be elected, is it accomplished under voting system ? not even in United states!!

    While current ECONOMIC AND POLITIC system in China is miles away from perfect, but there is one thing good in this system : if those governers want to benefit from this system, they HAVE TO do something for ordinary people at the same time, more or less. In a democratic system, I dont think they put the interests of ordinary people on the top of list, instead, the priority on their list are the interests of those people and groups who helped him get into office. If with freedom of media and information, the government in China maybe, just maybe is far more a people’s government than any elected government in West in lat 300 years.

    BTW, It seems to me that democracy is a better form of system at solving small, local and “we can wait” kind of problems, authoritarian is better form of system at solving big, large scale and urgent problems

  47. July 17th, 2008 at 17:55 | #47

    @Buxi – Do you think that emigrants are representative of their native countries or representative of emigrants in general? In western Europe the situation is much the same as in the United States, except that whilst the US has a long and porous land border with the third world we have the Mediterranean separating us from it. Since the accession of central and eastern Europe to the EU there has been a great flow of people utilising their freedom of movement within the single market to come to the west to work, however they enjoy the same political rights on gaining residence as all other citizens, so this is hard to say. What I would say is this – the people who emigrate illegally do so as a personal decision which effects only them, if they were sacrificing someone else’s freedom for their own economic advantage it would be a different situation.

    @Wahaha – In my lifetime I have seen the dominion of the trades unions and the nationalised industries over the national economy, the power of a prime minister who many felt was becoming dictatorial ended, I have seen power denied to a party which the people did not feel was ready for power, I have seen a party which the people had felt to have been in power too long driven from it, and I have seen a government steadily reduced in power due to its mistakes until it is close to loosing it. All of this was delivered by the popular vote, and for this reason I am a stronger believer that democracy can and does deliver what the people want.

  48. Wahaha
    July 17th, 2008 at 19:16 | #48

    @FORAP,

    There are three steps in governance : granting power (by election or promotion within party), making plans and executing plans.

    Democracy is better way at granting power, the things you talked about, the ONLY attractive THING of democracy, all the other things promised under democracy is “textbook” say, not reality. Democracy is not effective at executing plans; and IT CERTAINLY DOESNT GUARANTEE what those elected will do when they make plans.

    The key ingredient that make the soup of democracy tastes bad is poverty. For example, in a city with millions of poor people, government is usually pushed to the edge :

    To create jobs for poor, the government has to please the riches and make them happy (for investment), like ShengZhen of China in 80s. Well, poor people dont like it, as the government seems working for the riches, not for the poor. ( they will replace the mayor in next election, of course the mayor has not intention to risk his political career.)

    If government takes money from middle class and give to the poor people, middle class people will not be happy, “why should I work 12 hours a day and those lazy people dont have to work ?”

    If government trys to take money from riches and give to the poor people, rich people are not happy, they will not invest in the city or even move their money, companies out of the city, which makes everything even worse.

    So the mayor cant do anything big or meaningful, result ? Mumbai in India.

  49. vadaga
    July 17th, 2008 at 23:56 | #49

    @Buxi thanks for the link! reading now…

  50. Buxi
    July 18th, 2008 at 00:13 | #50

    @FOARP,

    @Buxi – Do you think that emigrants are representative of their native countries or representative of emigrants in general?

    Not sure how to interpret that question in the context of what we’re discussing here. Can you make your point more clear? My sense is, regardless of who/what they represent, there’s a very sizable population of human beings that we can all agree are voluntarily trading away their democratic rights for better pay.

    I think that tells us quite a bit about the human condition. If your point is that such immigrants are a small percentage of the countries they come from… well, we can look up numbers, but I suspect their attitudes are widely shared.

    Are there the equivalent to this class of “illegal” immigrants in Europe? Illegal immigrants from China or North Africa, for example?

  51. BMY
    July 18th, 2008 at 01:38 | #51

    @wahaha,

    You have lots of good examples but regarding the scenarios you put on #48, I think they have no much to do with whether it’s a democracy or authoritarian government. Any government would have to face these problems and carefully chose and implement taxation policies to fund other things

  52. Wahaha
    July 18th, 2008 at 03:06 | #52

    @BMY

    Read this,

    http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B0DE3DF123AF936A35752C0A961948260

    You cant find a city in a “free” country in which that the problem of slums was vastly improved.

  53. Wukailong
    July 18th, 2008 at 05:06 | #53

    To go back to the original blog post, and the discussion on Singapore’s system, I wonder where the difference from a “Western system” lies? Singapore has a British legal system, a multi-party system (by law) and in many ways social democratic politics similar to those in Scandinavia.

    The difference is that the ruling party PAP have systematically sued opposition politicians and bankrupted them. It seems the same thing has happened in Russia. If there should be a model for authoritarian government, then Singapore is too ad hoc. It is not a fundamentally different system from the governments in the West.

  54. Buxi
    July 18th, 2008 at 05:51 | #54

    @Wukailong,

    The difference is that the ruling party PAP have systematically sued opposition politicians and bankrupted them. It seems the same thing has happened in Russia. If there should be a model for authoritarian government, then Singapore is too ad hoc. It is not a fundamentally different system from the governments in the West.

    Interesting. I’m ignorant when it comes to Singapore, so explain this to me more. What keeps other Western countries from repeating the scenario of the opposition being “sued into bankruptcy”? There must be a difference here.

    What are the opposition being sued for, in Singapore? Libel? I know I’ve heard that there are tight restrictions on “political” programming in TV and the media. How does that actually work? We must have more people familiar with Southeast Asia and Singapore here!

  55. Wukailong
    July 18th, 2008 at 06:21 | #55

    I’m not that knowledgeable about Singapore either, but have been following news from the place for some while. It seems the common scenario is that someone criticizes the PAP or Lee Kuan-yew for problems with the current system, then he or a party representative sues for libel, and wins most of the time. Even if the party would lose a case (which has happened) they are backed up by their accrued wealth.

    Personally, I don’t think there is much or anything that hinders Western countries from repeating the same thing. It seems Italy is close with Berlusconi successfully bending the legal system to cover up alleged criminal activities during his reign, and in France the president is immune to some charges during his (her) term. The US might have a stronger judiciary against structural ills like these, compared to many European countries, but that won’t cover up the strong will of someone bent on change.

    In Singapore tradition probably plays a strong role in keeping the current state of affairs, based on PAP’s popularity and the authoritative voice of LKY. There are some worries about what will happen when he dies, and I think that is the time when we can thoroughly evaluate where Singapore’s system is heading.

  56. Wukailong
    July 18th, 2008 at 06:24 | #56

    Hmm, it seems the Internal Act of Security might have some role to play:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internal_Security_Act_%28Singapore%29

    This and tradition could explain some things. Which of course raises the question – what could be done with the Patriot Act in the US? …

  57. Sino Federation
    July 18th, 2008 at 07:27 | #57

    Michael Turton’s The View from Taiwan: Singapore Dem Party Official Pwns Ma Ying-jeou

    “Ma Ying-jeou, before he was elected President, held Singapore up as an example for Taiwan…and got some interesting feedback from the local democracy parties, who had some good things to say about Taiwan, in the form of an open letter.”

    ‘… Dear Mr Ma,

    Warm greetings to you from Singapore. I understand that you are visiting Singapore and would like to welcome you. I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate you on your candidacy in Taiwan’s presidential elections next year.

    However, I read with great dismay in Singapore’s Straits Times dated 2 June 2007, that “Ma cites Singapore as an example for Taiwan “. In the report, you were quoted as saying that “Singapore is different from us (Taiwan) as its emphasis is not on democratization. Nevertheless, it is professional, corruption-free and efficient, which is worth our learning” and that “The Singapore Government is very efficient. They can reach consensus easily and there is no squabbling or fighting.”

    The newspaper also said that you had cited the high pay of Singapore s ministers as one example of the country’s pragmatism.

    Perhaps what you have read or been informed about Singapore is the official line. There is much misinformation and propaganda that the government puts out. Please allow me to reveal some truths: …’

    http://michaelturton.blogspot.com/2007/06/singapore-dem-party-official-pwns-ma.html

  58. Buxi
    July 18th, 2008 at 19:14 | #58

    Interesting, Sino Federation. You can learn a lot about a place from hearing its critics, as long as you take it with a grain of salt. I recommend the above link to everyone.

    All in all, I’m not convinced by the head of the Singapore Democratic Party… Singapore sounds like a pretty successful place for anyone not interested in political opposition for the sake of political opposition.

  59. Wahaha
    July 18th, 2008 at 20:51 | #59

    Buxi.

    ” interested in political opposition for the sake of political opposition.”

    Good one.

    While I can say lot of good things about freedom of information and media, I fail to see any significant advantages of multi-party system over one-party system. In a “free” country, opposition partys usually use economic problems attacking the other, seeking more political influence, but down to earth, do they have solution ? would they do any better ?

    Fro example, Obama keeps talking about “change”, But how ? If he had been in White house in last 4 year, United States would still be in subprime mortgage crisis now, Americans would regret not voting Republic candidates.

    There was widespread protest in Europe cuz of high oil price, but was it their government’s mistake ?

    While in an authoritarian system, people dont like following the order of one party decades after decades, in democratic country, people are tired by empty promise by candidates.

    I think this is like the thought “how nice if I didnt marry him/her ?” or ” how the F@#$ did I fail to see that before I married to him/her ?” when a couple go to see their lawyer.

  60. July 18th, 2008 at 21:15 | #60

    @Buxi – It varies from country to country, in the UK illegal immigrants come mainly from western and southern Africa and the horn of Africa, the Indian subcontinent, (non-EU) Eastern Europe, and Fujian. I have also met Tibetan, Vietnamese and Central and Southern American illegal immigrants. In France there are many more Northern Africans and Arabs, in Germany many more Turks.

    My point about illegal immigrants is that they may not be representative of the people who remain in their native countries, and the fact that some people decide to risk punishment to enrich themselves may not be significant to how you construct a law-abiding society.

    As for Singapore, there does seem to be a degree of intimidation of the opposition, but I don’t see a great degree of discontent with this. In Russia you see parties which form a false opposition, assassination of opposition, imprisonment of opponents on what have been called false charges – do you see this in Singapore?

  61. July 18th, 2008 at 21:26 | #61

    @Wahahaha – Let me give you a very simple and stark example – in 1979 the British public had a choice between the Labour party who supported maintaining the nationalised industries and working in partnership with labour unions and the Conservative party who supported the privatisation of the nationalised industries and taking a firm line with the labour unions. In this case there was no central line which could have satisfactorily been made between the two sides and allowing the people to decide between the two manifestos was the only way of lending legitimacy to the policy of the ruling party. The fact that the American system does not allow the ruling party to remove the president from power mid-term, or allow a rebellion against the president’s policies mid-term, does not show that multi-party democracy is invalid, it merely shows that the American system has some draw-backs.

  62. Wahaha
    July 18th, 2008 at 22:24 | #62

    @ROARP,

    Let me minimize the problem you mention a little bit, Let us say it is the problem of a company. On one side, the shareholders of the company thought the benefits for worker were too high, as there was no profits for them after the benefits for work (or it might even bankrupt the company); on the other sider, the workers didnt want to lose the benefits they believed they were entitled to.

    Did workers care that the shareholders made no profits ? no, they didnt care, they wouldnt care unless the company would bankrupt. We know that the shareholders wanted to maximize their profit as much as possible ?

    What was the real situation ? THOSE WORKERS DIDNT KNOW.

    Now who were best qualified to make decision ? a decision-maker (or his think-tankers), NOT THE WORKERS OF THE COMPANY, who cared those workers and who knew the real situation, AND most important, at same time he must not be controled by those shareholders.

    You can see, democracy in no way guarantees the better soluiton. On the other hand, a “good and wise” authoritarian system usually come up with the best solution. Here “good” mean that government cares for its people, “wise” means the government understand economic planning.

    You may argue that with free information and media, those workers know the real situation. Unfortunately, that is not the case, most voters only care his own interests, not the overall situation. All they know is that ” I have to pay $150 more for gas than last year”.

    I think you know “Iron rice bowl” in China, that was big part of reform in China. If government had let voting decide what to do, … well, you know what the situation would be.

  63. allen
    July 19th, 2008 at 00:19 | #63

    @Wahaha

    Learn to type in proper english, or you will only be embarrassing yourself, my fellow singaporeans, I don’t even understand what is the message, you are trying to tell everyone,or simply to say that, you sucks at english language, don’t try to defend yourself, it look really bad on yourself, as your grammar sucks, and you can’t even construct a sentence properly. Geez, i wasted my time, reading your singlish, thank you for your attempt to defend the PAP, here is your reward – $0.01 GST included.

  64. Buxi
    July 19th, 2008 at 05:14 | #64

    allen’s post is clearly rude, offensive, unintelligent, and a personal attack against a respected, long-time poster here. In most circumstances, I would have deleted his post without a second thought.

    But in this case, I think I’m going to leave it up… the unintentional comedy of “allen” telling someone they suck “at english language” tells us how little weight we should place into his message.

  65. Wukailong
    July 19th, 2008 at 05:26 | #65

    I was going to ask Allen if he was drunk, but never mind. Let’s hope it’s a one-time occurrence.

  66. EugeneZ
    July 19th, 2008 at 08:24 | #66

    “Elitist rule” is clearly more efficient than democracy for a poor country trying to develop itself against all kinds of foreign threats and competition. Singaporeans are very proud of their accomplishment, and Lee garnered unbelivable amount of credibility within his country for developing Singapore under authoritarian and elitist rules. CCP has been learning from Singapore in many ways including the elitist political system. I was just in Singapore last week, and the taxi driver kept bragging that China has been learning from Singapore, he said that he saw Deng Xiaoping in person visiting Singapore in 1978 when he was an airport worker.

    PAP runs Singapore like a CEO runs a company, in fact, the prime minister also gets CEO-sized pay. I doubt China can directly copy the system, maybe the best is to borrow some concepts and ideas. China is too big to be run like a corporation.

  67. Karma
    July 20th, 2008 at 18:24 | #67

    @Phil

    In western countries, democracy is *not* a technique to make the country strong. It is *not* a way to make the country better run. (It often has these effects, but that is not what it is.) Democracy is an end in itself. Because no individual has the right to rule others, and anyone who does so by virtue of their job must be regulated and restricted at all times.

    @Wahaha and

    ou can see, democracy in no way guarantees the better soluiton. On the other hand, a “good and wise” authoritarian system usually come up with the best solution. Here “good” mean that government cares for its people, “wise” means the government understand economic planning.

    I think there might be two issues going on here. First, regarding Phil’s perspective of democracies – i.e. the concept of a gov’t for the people, by the people, and of the people – being an end in itself, I think this is asking for too much.

    The main purpose gov’ts is to serve the people. Phil has this sense that to serve the people, the gov’t must be by the people or of the people (i.e. democratic). But I just don’t see how the bottom line is still not how well the gov’t is serving the people – not how democratic the gov’t is….

    Besides, in democracies rarely is the gov’t ruled by the majority. A casual look at where US presidential candidates stop and who they listen to will reveal some of this. Why do people care so much about the corn growers in the midwest? Why are corporate donations so important – to both parties in the US? Why do lobbyists play such an important role in the legislation process?

    Democracy is the mass opiate of the west. The people are lulled into a focusing on how democratic their gov’t is rather than how well their gov’t is serving them.

    Now to Wahaha’s comment – I’m not sure if what you said is necessarily an argument for authoritarianism. What you seem to be saying is that running a country and setting policies for a country can be a rather technical job – one that requires long term planning and training, and not a popularity contest at the polls.

    If we train engineers, doctors, lawyers and treat them as professionals, why shouldn’t we train and demand our leaders to be professionals. But isn’t this really an argument for a gov’t run more by technocrats rather than authoritarianism per se…

    Using your analogy involving companies, one could argue that while managers are in the best position to run the company – not regular employees (or shareholders for that matter) – managers are nevertheless never given a completely free reign to run the company – there is still oversight over the management. In modern companies, that is done through a board the managers report to, where the board is elected ultimately by the shareholders…

    I agree with you that the most important is a gov’t for the people. But how do we oversee that gov’t and make sure the gov’t is accountable – without resorting to the “mandate of heaven” principle from imperial times where the only way to keep gov’t accountable is the threat of revolutions/rebellions?

  68. Wahaha
    July 22nd, 2008 at 00:01 | #68

    Karma,

    “Using your analogy involving companies, one could argue that while managers are in the best position to run the company ”

    One, the “manager must care employees, …. and he is not controled by shareholders of the company.”
    With these two condition, plus that the manager is good at planning, then I would say that managers are in the best position to run the company.

    Two, there must be something to limit the power of the “manager”. What is the essence of multi-party system ? it is that the opposite party limit the power of the party in power. I think there are too many negative things about multi-party system, like candidates are usually ‘kidnapped” by some groups or elites; ineffectiveness in handling the problem.

    Three, democracy needs people being “well informed” and ” caring for the interests of others and majority”, we know this is light years away from reality, even among well educated people. This determines that democracy only works well “locally” and for “we can wait” problems, it simply doesnt work effectively in large scale and urgent problem.

    Please notice that if a problem is a “local” problem, people are usually well informed about the situation, “we can wait” problems happen mostly in those wealth and well educated society. This, I believe, caused the problem that “democracy doesnt deliver.” in poor or developing countries/

  69. MatthewTan
    May 6th, 2009 at 02:55 | #69

    I have been a passive reader on China/Tibet issues. This is the first time I am posting on something I know more than most of you here, because I am from Singapore.

    There are many other opposition parties in Singapore, but the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) is the worst performer in every General Election. They can hardly get 25 per cent of the votes, whereas other opposition party members get up to 33 to 40 per cent. A few got over 50%.

    The SDP is despised in Singapore. Do not give them too much attention.

    The leader of SDP is Dr. Chee. Before Dr. Chee became the leader, the SDP was the most respected and successful oppposition party in Singapore, under Chiam See Tong. After Chee joined the SDP, Chee ousted Chiam who was his mentor. Singaporeans do not have much respect for such a character. And more so because he was actually charged in court for mis-use of university research funds and dishonestly claiming reimbursement for taxi mileage. And he was convicted by the court.

    And the banning of FEER and other magazines – we did these things once-in-while, when they don’t comply with our laws. We don’t need to apologise for this.

    You want to sell your magazine in Singapore, then obey our laws. You want to sell your ideology and accuse our government? Then give us the “right of reply” in your column. That is what we insist in our laws. And you put down some money deposit.

    We have not asked for so much that you cannot pay and cannot do. If you can’t even pay this small amount and do this little thing, then you better get out of Singapore market. We don’t want you. And we don’t trust you because you are unwilling to pay (a deposit) for what you believe in.

    —-

    No…Singaporeans have free access to all kind of information. That’s why I am reading this, and this http://www.feer.com/tales/?p=360#comment-63652 and this http://michaelturton.blogspot.com/2007/06/singapore-dem-party-official-pwns-ma.html

    We have thousands of magazines and periodicals to read. We do not need the cowardly FEER that is not willing to pay (a deposit) for what they believe in. I despise FEER.

  70. MatthewTan
    May 6th, 2009 at 03:28 | #70

    After posting the above, I happened to read this http://shanghaiist.com/2008/05/10/lee-kuan-yew-on-china.php,

    and I quote. Singapore’s Senior Prime Minister, ex-Prime Minister, Founding Father Lee Kuan Yew speaking,

    [Quote]
    The Chinese should learn to do what we have done, just take the western media on the western media’s terms. I don’t tell the western media you can’t sell here. All I say is you allow me the right of reply. You are selling because you want to sell advertisements, not because you want freedom of information or because you want to enlighten my people.

    So when you write an article with a little sting at the end, which is not true. I claim the right of reply. You have written 5,000 words, I claim 500 words. They refused, and in that case, I will restrict you. I will not block you because you will say I’m afraid of what you said. But I will restrict you and allow the other people, the other subscribers to photostat, fax, and now scan. So now you allow me the right of reply, I get the right of reply, the writer who puts in all these poison barbs no longer appears so smart. You can twist my arm, I’ll wring your neck. So what are the facts? So, now we have reached a certain respect for each other.

    The Chinese can easily do that, but they don’t, I don’t know why. Maybe what they need is a growing middle class, educated in the west, familiar with the west, understands the rules, been to America, stayed there five years, 10 years, been all over Europe, Australia, Japan, whatever, fully understand the rules of the game and playing according to western rules, and they can win. Are they stupid? No. Are they evil? No.

    You take Tibet. Who started it? It was started by the Tibetans. The March incident, March 14. I was reading Jonathan Eyal who writes for our Straits Times. He was a commentator from London. He is from I think Chatham House, a very thoughtful man. He said if they had called in the newspapers right from the word go, and said look, this is what happened. The Economist correspondent was in Lhasa when it happened and wrote about it. He was favorable to them. The rioters started killing people and they were not reacting. The orders were not to shoot, not to take on the rioters because they didn’t want trouble. Had they engaged the west, all this would have turned out differently.

    Why didn’t they? Because there was a chasm between their mental make up and that of the west. So they say all western correspondents out, that means you have got something to hide. I think that was not very wise. Supposing it was Singapore, do we say all correspondents out? No. I say look come on, stay, watch it, see what happens, see who started what. Are they stupid? They can’t do what we do? No. Its just people at the people at the top have not been educated in the west, they have not been exposed to that kind of environment, that kind of rules of the game, and are not playing by those rules of the game.

    The day they build up an educated middle class, a large middle class, huge numbers of whom have been educated abroad, PHDs, MBAs in America, Europe, Japan elsewhere, and they are the people setting policies at the top, not people whose mental mindsets are from Soviet days, that day they will find they can play by the western rules and win.
    [End Quote]

  71. Samantha
    May 6th, 2009 at 05:07 | #71

    MatthewTan,

    Good quote! Well said.

  72. MatthewTan
    May 6th, 2009 at 05:10 | #72

    Singapore’s Senior Prime Minister…
    Correction: Singapore’s Minister Mentor…

  73. MatthewTan
    May 6th, 2009 at 05:35 | #73

    Lee Kuan Yew: “But I will restrict you and allow the other people, the other subscribers to photostat, fax, and now scan. ”

    Actually, we even allowed a company to mass-print photostat copies of the restricted magazine (without all the advertisements) and sell them at a nominal price of 50 cent. So they cannot accuse us of restricting information flow.

  74. MatthewTan
    May 11th, 2009 at 23:58 | #74

    “Alexius Says:
    July 17th, 2008 at 3:14 pm

    But i still dont understand why Lee Kuan Yew doesnt allow freedom of expression on ‘mild/ neutral’ topics such as gay rights, media freedom and chewing gums.”

    These topics are openly discussed in Singapore. Don’t listen to liars. Things that are closely watched are religious and racial issues. We don’t want to have racial or religious riots.

  75. Jerry
    April 12th, 2010 at 22:01 | #75

    @Phil

    “Democracy is an end in itself.”

    Excuse me? Phil, so you think that democracy is an end in itself, and anyone does not agree with you can only stay at the dimwitted level, hum?

    So tell me what is exactly “democracy”? Does that simply mean election or voting by people? Is that it?
    What happened after the election? So once we have election, it’s the end, and everything is all set?

    Well, for me, “democracy” is only a mean to an end, and there are many forms of democracy!

  76. Jerry
    April 12th, 2010 at 22:18 | #76

    @ Phil, who said “We’ve been wrong for 300 years! Our democracy is impossible! We disappear in a puff of smoke!”

    Phil, despite the claim that US has a 300 years of democracy, if you really check carefully, you’ll realize that just 60+ years ago in this country, many blacks in the South had no right to vote, and merely 100+ ago, women had no right to vote, and at the time of the US founding, only landowners had the right to vote. So was US really a democracy before the Voting Right Act in 1960s?

    All I am trying to point out that even in US, democracy has always been a process that is constantly evolving (or judging by the recent events in US, it has de-volved). It’s not some kind of “magic” (or “magic” form of government) once you have it, all problems are solved.

    In other words, democracy is not an end in itself, IMHO. What matter to most people are, IMHO, good governance, rule of law, fairness, economic well beings, etc.

  77. Steve
    October 27th, 2010 at 01:29 | #77

    Phil :
    What we do believe in is presenting our views. Voicing our beliefs. I certainly do believe in human rights as a political concept/approach, and I say so in forums which are devoted to discussion of these issues. I didn’t start this fucking thread, all I did was get insulted on it.
    Force you. I wouldn’t touch you with a ten foot stick, believe me, I have no intention of forcing you.

    Well spoken. I completely agree with you. The argument that people from Amnesty International want to force anybody to do anything is actually a ploy to shoot the messenger without dealing with the message. The Singapore government has done so very successfully but recently is increasingly challenged by netizens, opposition parties, and newly arising “groups of independent persons”.

  78. April 25th, 2011 at 08:10 | #78

    “The argument that people from Amnesty International want to force anybody to do anything is actually a ploy to shoot the messenger without dealing with the message.”

    The only reason why AI and other “activists” do what they do, is because they are crying for the financial (and military if necessary) backing of the West.

    If they are merely doing the “message”, no one would care.

    But they are Jesuits of the new morality world police, backed by the guns and money of the Western governments.

    They are perpetually outraged and lobbying the Western governments to “do something”. (You don’t see them lobbying Japan or China to do something about HR violations in the West, do you?!)

    That’s the “FORCE” they carry, Speak loudly and carrying a mob with sticks.

  1. December 11th, 2010 at 02:43 | #1
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