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01-05-06, 22:23
REVIEW & OUTLOOK

Wall Street Journal

Democracy's 'Dangers'
May 2, 2006

Did you know that most U.S. presidents over the 200 years "were only of mediocre calibre"? Or that democracy was responsible for electing not only Hitler and Mussolini but also someone else equally "evil" -- Taiwan's pro-independence President Chen Shui-bian?

That's right, China's been lecturing the rest of the world on the evils of democracy once again. At a seminar in Beijing Thursday, "legal scholars" explained why Chinese people -- or just about anyone else, for that matter -- can't be trusted to choose their leaders. "Blind worship of universal suffrage" is to be abhorred, declared Professor Xu Chongde of People's University, after he'd finished slandering Washington and Lincoln.

His immediate target was Hong Kong, where a local paper had suggested a day earlier that the territory's Beijing-appointed Chief Executive Donald Tsang might propose an eventual shift to universal suffrage for the election of future Hong Kong leaders. The irony is that the newspaper was almost certainly off the mark. Aides to Mr. Tsang expressed "bewilderment" at the report.

Prof. Xu and his colleagues, who are renowned for parroting the Chinese government's line, laid down a long list of conditions that need to be fulfilled before universal suffrage can even be contemplated in China's most prosperous city -- let alone the rest of the country. Mixed in among the usual excuses (no community consensus, no draconian national-security laws, etc.) was one that goes to the heart of Beijing's fear of democracy. Hong Kong people, Prof. Xu declared, won't be allowed to choose their leaders until they can be trusted to choose Chinese "patriots." In other words, until Beijing is sure they will choose the "right" people.

China, as one of its advisers in Hong Kong once memorably declared, doesn't want to rig elections -- but it does like to know the results in advance. And until Prof. Xu and his colleagues can work out how to solve that conundrum, it seems democracy is simply too dangerous to contemplate.

URL for this article:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB114651801445440734.html