In Asia’s year of elections, Indonesian democracy is hanging by a thread
This is Asia’s great year of elections. Taiwan’s has already taken place, throwing the country into the worst turmoil for decades; the Philippines, Indonesia and India lie ahead. Altogether, over 1.3 billion people will have had the opportunity to vote. For India, elections are a well-established practice, for Taiwan and the Philippines they are rather more novel, for Indonesia they are an almost entirely new experience. In its 53-year history of independence, Indonesia has only voted in free elections twice. On Monday it will vote in the country’s parliamentary elections. And, as if to make up for the democratic starvation, will vote again in the presidential elections in June.
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Five years ago Martin Jacques and his family moved to Hong Kong to start a new life which all too soon ended in tragedy. Finally, an anti-racist law that might have saved his wife’s life is to be introduced
Hong Kong has been shaken over the past few months by a series of crises: the Sars epidemic, continuing economic difficulties and huge opposition to new security legislation. No doubt Tony Blair, during his brief visit last week, will have discussed each of these, together with another, less-publicised affair: the long-running debate about the need for anti-racist legislation.
When my wife Hari and I arrived in Hong Kong on November 2, 1998, accompanied by our little boy Ravi, just nine weeks old, we were borne on a wave of optimism and expectation. We planned to spend three years in Hong Kong: Hari working for her international law firm, me to write a book and make a television series. It was familiar territory to us: our relationship had started there during a whirlwind week back in 1993.
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Once people risked all to get in – now they are queueing up to escape. Hard times in Hong Kong have made China the new Mecca
For days and days it had rained, but nothing could dampen the spirits of the millions of Hong Kongers, and hundreds of thousands of tourists, who came to witness the handover of Hong Kong to China. It was June 30, 1997, and the British laid on a firework display to remember as Chris Patten, the last governor, boarded the royal yacht Britannia and made his exit. The next night the Chinese staged an even more stunning display across the water that divides Hong Kong island from the Kowloon side. Hong Kong was engulfed in optimism – on June 30 about the past, and on July 1 about its future. The only doubt that lingered, along with the whiff of gunpowder, was what the Chinese might do with their new possession.
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