Budapest Forum 2022: Keynote Speech – Simon Cheng: How autocratic tendencies can spread under the guise of democracy?


Speaker: Simon Cheng, Exiled pro-democracy activist and Founder of Hongkongers in Britain

Main takeaways

  • A single party and even a person could represent and encapsulate almost every different ideology, from far-right nationalism to far-left socialism.
  • Learning from George Orwellian metaphor in ‘1984’, the ministry of truth could absorb all kinds of beautiful narratives such as ‘democracy’ to serve and reinforce the autocratic agenda. Clear examples can be seen in China and Hong Kong.
  • While the challenge of democracy in Europe is about uprising populism, there is a different and even opposite context in China - usually the autocratic government would just pretend to be ‘calm’, ‘rational’ and ‘moderate’ as they request nothing more but maintaining privilege and the status quo.
  • ‘One country two systems’ formula is de-facto a philosophical question – ‘if democracy and autocracy could co-exist?’ The answer is no, especially in the Post-National-Security-Law era.

Policy recommendations

  • The pathway for the people of Hong Kong to achieve and practise full democracy, and to decolonise themselves, is coming to the United Kingdom. 
  • Constitutional injustice is still massive in Hong Kong, and the issue has has to be solved. Such a question is no longer just about Hong Kong but to the Asia-Pacific region, and to the world now.
  • Hong Kong exiled communities around the world should hold the pro-democracy narrative tightly, and the communities shall be still at the front line to rebuild the checks and balances in order to contain the aggressive and expanding autocratic regime. 



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