2017年1月7日 星期六

Hiking in Switzerland : A lesson in democracy

The first day of the hike was way harder than I envisioned. When Elke invited me to join the hiking trip I was dubious." I'm not very fit right now. Haven't exercised for ages. My knee MRI confirmed degeneration....." " No worries !" she scoffed " It's a geriatric hike. Too easy !" Turns out it was I that was too easy !

All hikes in Switzerland are graded according to physical and technical difficulties, we humbly picked the lowest grade. The Hike Planner promises "spectacular panoramic scenery" and advises the best hiking season is from June to October, so we congratulated ourselves for going in August, bang in the middle of the ideal season.
Unfortunately Man can scheme but the Heavens will always have the last word. All Ebenalp trails start from the upper cable car station where we exited in high excitement only to walk into the most unexpected windy rainy foggy freezy foul weather ! The 21/2 hour hike took longer not just because the rocky paths were slippery and it's exhausting fighting the wind, but because despite the signposts the Swiss put up everywhere, half of our group managed to get lost and had to be searched and rounded up. The " spectacular panoramic view" was, meanwhile, safely hidden from us by a thick wall of mist. 
We did get to see the Äscher mountain restaurant, precariously clinging to a vertical cliff face. There were also the Wildkirchli caves, which had evidence of Neanderthals habitation dated 40,000 years. Near to it was the hermit hut which had remained vacant since the last hermit fell to his death in 1853. In 1972 it was renovated to become a museum. A little way off was the charming little cave church, complete with a bell tower and a cross.
Ebenalp is one of the most popular hiking trail, most of the 200,000 visitors there each year go via St Gallen as we did, to visit the Abby of Saint Gall. It is one of the chief Benedictine abbeys, built on the site where St Gall had erected his hermitage. The Abby church became a Cathedral in 1848, while the Abby library is one of the richest medieval libraries in the world. In 1983 the whole precinct was elected an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
We holed up in St Moritz for the next 3 days, which is the center of mountain railways and cableways to serve the 4 Engadin hiking areas of Corviglia / Piz NairCorvatsch / FurtschellasDiavolezza and Muottas Muragl / Alp Languard.
Before this trip everything I knew about St Moritz was from James Bond movies : an archetypal playground of celebrities, royals and moneyed wannabes, and a byword of luxury living. So we 8 friends decided while we were there we'd cast caution to the wind and have a taste of the high life - and what better way than to have Swiss beef steak in the most expensive looking restaurant in the main square ? I was sent in to book a table, but the first question I asked after a swift glance at the interior and the immaculately groomed Italian manager was " Do you have a dress code ?" Fortunately it was low season and we had a fabulous time, the chef was Italian, the waiter Albanian, the Pinot noir French, only the beef was Swiss. The real surprise came with the bill : it'd have cost us more if we had the same meal in Hong Kong ! 

St Moritz was named after St Maurice, martyred by Roman Switzerland in the 3rd century. Mauritius Springs were discovered 3000 years ago and has long established the town as a summer resort, winter tourism was started much later in 1864. St Moritz boasts over 300 days of sunshine a year, so much so the sun was made legally protected emblem of St Moritz in1930. The promotional savvy  tourism board also registered the phrase "Top of the world" as a trademark for St Moritz in 1987 . The year round population is around 5000, almost 40% is made up of foreign nationals. The unemployment rate is low at 1.38%, presumably because the hotels and service units prefer to hire seasonal staff, some 3000 at peak seasons.  
A quick walk round St Moritz did not show many tourists, but not for lack of trying by the authorities. There were happenings all over town : a vintage car parade along well marked route, and an open air fair complete with a band, a roulette table and food stands where one could even sample the famous Engadine nut tart . The fire engine was present only to show off the latest equipment, lest anyone should get the wrong idea that something as vulgar as a fire could happen in orderly Switzerland !
I met Zoe, an attractive Swiss in her mid-30s, at the bus stop. She was visiting St Moritz with her boyfriend Johannes from another canton, so she's as much at sea as I was at the non appearing bus. To while awhile the time we started talking, and what better topic between strangers than politics ! " Why has Democracy worked so well in Switzerland but so badly in most other countries ?" Zoe, like all Swiss, was very proud of her country and its democratic tradition. And like most Swiss of her generation she's also traveled extensively and well acquainted with the real state of the world. After we contemplated sadly the long list of failed "democratically elected" governments, she agreed democracy is not a fit for all. Elsie Tu, the most beloved and respected social activist in HK, wrote in her book " Colonial Hong Kong in the eyes of Elsie Tu" : 'Democracy is a state of mind and not a one-man-one-vote matter' as some naively believe.
The prerequisite for successful democratic voting appears to be a rational electorate who are forthright, altruistic and patriotic. Where else in the world would a people vote for a rise of taxation because the country was in need but vote down permanent "universal basic income " for all non-working adults (and their children) because it's detrimental to the economy of the country in the long run ? [ Unemployment welfare in Switzerland is for 1 year only, in HK welfare for the unemployed is forever. Universal Aged Pension- as opposed to means tested, has been used by Democratic Politicians to beat up the HK government for years, winning sizable support !] And where else would a people vote against a raise of minimum wage or extending the paid annual leave from 4 to 6 weeks, because too much welfare would hurt Swiss competitiveness ? Like Elsie Tu the Swiss understand employer-employee are interdependent, and too much power either way is unhealthy for all. The Swiss vote with foresight for the benefit of their country rather than their narrow personal interest, and are thereby rewarded with good governance. 

To Hong Kong's deep shame as by now the whole world must be aware of the idiotic contemptible stunt of at least 6 elected but extremely juvenile HK legislators at the sworn-in ceremony, not to mention their willful perjury under oath. Now what does that say about the HK electorate who voted for them ?   
We did the 50 minute Morteratsch Glacier trail in Pontresina as a sort of conditioning before hitting the high mountains. Morteratsch is a valley glacier and has the third longest tongue in the Easter Alps. Regular length change measurements have been recorded which showed in a mere 120 years the Glacier has retreated 2 km . Sixteen educational stopping points dotted along the path, each packed with information which relate without a doubt human activities with the alarmingly accelerated rate of retreat in the last 20 years, and I challenge those who still argue climate change is purely a natural phenomenon to walk this walk !

Doing what I enjoy most in a hike - sitting !
I must say the panoramic view at Diavolezza is the most breath taking of the whole trip ! The top station also has a restaurant, a hotel and a viewpoint terrace. At 2,973 meters we refrained from doing anything heroic, just pottered about and took short walk around the station. For the more vigorous there are many varied trails, some necessitating a guide and crampons. 
We were told the legend of Piz Diavolezza, the red headed she-devil who lived in the mountains once upon a time. All hunters who became enchanted by her vanished without a trace, the last one was a local village lad Aratsch. At night the wind wailed " mort ais Aratsch" ( Aratsch is dead), and when the glacier crept down to cover the whole valley, the she-devil disappeared forever.
Piz Nair could be reached by a relay of cable car to the midway station Corviglia , which affords an excellent view of St Moritz , from there board an aerial tramway, unloading slightly below its summit. Piz Nair overlooks the whole Engadin Valley and the panorama is amazing . What impressed me most however, is not that this is the site which hosted the alpine skiing events of the 1948 Winter Olympics and the World Championships in 1974 and 2003, but that the energy for the transport system is entirely sourced from water, wind, sun and bio-gas; e.g. the cable to Corviglia is solely dependent on 180 solar panels. Switzerland has one of the best environmental records among the developed nations. It was one of the countries to sign the Kyoto Protocol in 1998 and ratified it in 2003.  
The next day was going to be a routine day of gentle hiking except for one unfortunate member. The plan was to get to the top of Piz Corvatsch, the highest peak accessible with Engadine mountain rail, take in the view and take some pictures round the station, then walk down the panoramic trail to get a better look at the lakes before catching the rail at mid mountain to go back to St Moritz. Shortly after we started our descend a lady in our group stepped back to take a picture for her friend, fell over with her foot caught between 2 rocks and broke her leg ! Luckily we were not far from the station, so our team leader doubled back to call for a helicopter to take her to the hospital.

Switzerland has one of the best health services in the world but it doesn't come cheap. This incidence brought home the importance of Medical Travel Insurance - the hospital would do nothing until an insurance company agreed to underwrite the cost, just handing over your credit card is not enough ( could be a solution for HK's huge bad medical credit every year! ). Luckily our teammate had excellent medical coverage, and her leg was fixed in a jiffy.
As a medical personnel naturally I'm interested in how the Swiss medical system works. It'd come as a shock to most Hong Kongers who take free medical care as a birthright, for all Swiss citizens and persons living in Switzerland are mandated under the law to buy private medical insurance. Even then they're required to pay a certain sum for each and every consultation and treatment, a requirement factored in for shared responsibility and to prevent abuse. Hong Kong had tried to introduce a milder form of insurance scheme earlier but it was noisily shut down by the " Democratic Camp" who ride the popular tide of irresponsibility and freebies. 
We left for Lucerne the next day. I felt so bad about leaving our comrade behind I sent her a St Bernard toy dog for company. I was devastated to learn later the Benedictine Monastery categorically denies any St Bernard ever had a barrel of brandy tied to its neck. It's almost like Santa Claus has no gift bag !
Lucerne was the first city to join the Swiss Confederation, it is reputed to be the world's prettiest cities and is the Gateway to the center of Switzerland. Lucerne is divided by the river Reuss into an Old Town and a New Town. The old town is best to go around by foot in order to admire the wonderful, well preserved medieval buildings. Chapel Bridge, the Water Tower and the Lion Monument are the must sees. 
The Chapel Bridge, spanning across the Reuss River, was built in 1333 as part of the fortifications of Lucerne. It's the oldest wooden covered footbridge in Europe and the oldest surviving truss bridge in the world. In 1993 a fire destroyed 2/3 of its unique interior paintings which dated back to the 17th century, but the restoration took only a few months and today the bridge is still regarded as the city's symbol. The 43m tall octagonal Water Tower is so called only because it stands in the water, in actuality at different times it had been a prison, a torture chamber and lately a municipal archive.
Hare Krishna in Lucerne old town. Many young Swiss are into Eastern Mysticism.
The dying Lion of Lucerne is one of the world's most famous monuments. The sculpture was carved into the limestone face of a low cliff. The mournful monument commemorates the sacrifice of the Swiss Guards defending the French King XVI during the French Revolution, when the mob stormed the Tuileries Palace in Paris in 1792. The mortally wounded lion is portrayed lying in his lair with head bowed, agony in his face and a broken spear impaled in his shoulder, his paw rested protectively on a shield bearing the fleur-de-lis of the French monarchy; beside him is another shield bearing the coat of arms of Switzerland. The inscription above the Lion reads "Helvetiorum fedei ac Virtuti", meaning "To the loyalty and bravery of the Swiss." Below the sculpture are the lists of the names of the officers and the approximate numbers of the soldiers who died (760) and survived (350). 
Switzerland has a long tradition of supplying mercenaries to foreign governments - even today Swiss Guards protect the Vatican. During the Renaissance, everybody who could afford to hired the Swiss, of course the money was most welcomed as 150 years ago Switzerland was dirt poor, most people barely survived on subsistence farming. Swiss  mercenaries were much sought after for several reasons :1) the Swiss neutrality meant their loyalty would not be swayed by changes in political wind, 2) the Swiss could be relied on to honor their agreements and fought to the bitter end rather than desert, 3) The Swiss warriors enjoyed an awesome reputation throughout Europe after defeating their stronger and better armed Hapsburg overlord 4) Easy to hire-the mercenaries were contracted as an entire militia unit directly with the local Swiss governments 5) Unlike other mercenary companies made up of motley adventurers, they were ready trained contingents with strict codes and most had ties of kinship, which gave them an exceptionally formidable spirit. Only after the invention of field artillery and firearms that they became obsolete. Interestingly in 2013 Swiss overwhelmingly rejected a referendum to abolish mandatory military service, which most Swiss see as their patriotic duty, besides " army training is much better than business school " ! Armed neutrality is a smart move of a small nation surrounded by big powerful countries on all sides. Today the 150,000- strong army of this neutral nation is that of  Austria, Belgium, Norway, Finland and Sweden combined.
Across the lake from Lucerne is Altdorf, where in the early 14th century William Tell was imprisoned for refusing to bow to the symbol of the foreign Habsburg which was in power. Intrigued by William's fame of marksmanship, the governor proposed to spare his life if he shot an apple off of his son Robert's head. Tell became a folk hero and is a central figure in Swiss patriotism and small statues of William and his son are in most souvenir shops. Patriotism ranks high in Switzerland, the reason why I placed Tell's apple higher than the helicopter in my painting.
Brienz is famous for being the "village of wood carving', and the only place where one could find genuine Swiss cuckoo clocks. Even today there's a school that teaches wood carving and violin-making. The post-card perfect Brunngasse well deserves the awarded title" the most beautiful street in Europe". It is a curving lane lined with stout wooden chalets dated from the 18th century, all decorated with intricate wood carvings and window boxes of blooming flowers. The houses are cleverly designed to withstand the harsh winter, the roofs incline at an angle not more than 40 degrees so snow could collect on top and insulate the house from cold.
Interlaken is one of the oldest and most popular international resort town in Switzerland. It lies between Lake Brienz to the east and Lake Thun to the west, and is an ideal base from which to explore the three mighty mountains, Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. The main street was chock-a-block with high end shops, the shoppers appeared to be mainly black clad ladies from the Middle East, while the sky above was dotted with crazy gliders. The helicopters were busy again, this time to rescue gliders trapped on cliff faces.
Guttannen ( good firs) is named of a meadow. The short growing season and poor soil caused many residents to emigrate to escape the poverty, in the late 18th and 19th century most of them went to the US and settled in the Carolinas, Pennsylvania and Kentucky. Today Guttannen has a population of 291, only 7% are resident foreign nationals, the lowest number I'm come across so far. One kindergarten has a total of 6 pupils, much like the outlying villages in HK.
                                           These kids were actually tourists from America
We took the 2 hour hike round the Gelmersee ( Lake Gelmer) which is actually a hydroelectric reservoir. I was constantly delighted by the little details the Swiss put in to make the trails safe, in this case the railings on the vertical rock faces. All the trails we'd done so far were well marked and so clean, unlike those in Hong Kong !
The Park rules are conspicuously posted at all trail heads in 5 languages (German, French, Italian, Romansh and English) :
Humans are visitors, they shall watch and enjoy, but ...
  • It is forbidden to leave the marked trails !
  • It is forbidden to gather any plants including flowers, roots, fungi or dead wood !
  • It is forbidden to hunt, disturb or harm animals or to fish !
  • It is forbidden to make fires or to use stoves !
  • It is forbidden to take any animals into the park, including dogs ! There is a kennel for dogs in Zernez.
  • It is forbidden to set up tents or to stay in the park overnight including all parking lots, except in the hotels along the Pass dal Fuorn road or in the Chamanna Cluozza  !
  • Visitors must take all their waste out of the park themselves !
  • There is a CHF 500 fine if a visitor does violate any of the park rules !
Please follow the motto: Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints on marked trails !
What is surprising is the rules are enforced in most parts not by the authorities but by the citizens themselves ! Swiss are normally cordial and polite, except when they catch a rule-breaker ! I'd love it if the same could happen in HK but it's just wishful thinking, as in recent years, some teachers and church leaders are actually teaching their students and parishioners that breaking the law is cool and godly ! I admire greatly the Swiss for their respect for the law, could be because I spent a large part of my youth in England, I agree totally with Elsie Tu ( an English lady) when she said "I firmly believe that those who demand just laws must keep even bad laws themselves until they are able to change them".
Unbelievably the HK Democratic Camp who advocate "civic disobedience" seek to violate laws that are actually good for the majority of the people ! Paralyzing a central financial district for 21/2 months would be unthinkable to the Swiss, but apparently not to these selfish Chinese. Besides " Good or bad" is a relative term often distorted by personal perception and circumstance - one person's freedom could well infringe on the freedom of another ; what is food for one could be poison for another - and thus should not be decided unilaterally by a minority to impose on the majority ! It's a no-brainer that if everyone takes the law into his own hand then there'd be anarchy. 
We crossed the 70 meter long Handeggfall hanging bridge to board the Gelmerbahn funicular railway. Originally built in 1926 to transport employees of the hydroelectric power station, the track is 1,028m long and has a maximum inclination of 106 degrees, making it the steepest funicular in Europe. Both the ascent and descent carriages are open topped, a heart-stopper for an acrophobia like me ! 
Our next stop Lauterbrunnen means "many springs", because of the 72 waterfalls in the area. It is a small village nestled at the bottom of a U-shaped valley between towering sheer-sided limestone precipice. Life was hard there before it became the top tourist attraction of today, consequently many residents emigrated, most to the Carolinas in the US. 
The most famous waterfall is the Staubbach, about 10 minutes' walk from the village. The waterfall at 300 meters is one of the highest in Europe formed of a single unbroken free-falling waterfalls. There're steps and a tunnel leading up to the waterfall, it could be a bit slippery but there's a barrier and handrail the whole way. From the top there's a fantastic view of the village and the valley. J.R.R. Tolkien was said to have traveled here in 1911, and the valley was the inspiration behind the fictitious valley of Rivendell, the dwelling place of Elrond Half-elven and his people. Well, there's no lack of elves and semi-mythic people in Swiss folklore, unsurprising perhaps considering their Celtic lineage.
The history of Switzerland makes interesting reading. Celtic tribes settled in Switzerland between 1000 and 1500 BC. Later the Romans built roads along the mountain passes and expanded into the area. From 6th to 13th century Germanic tribes moved in and mixed with the local Celts. The medieval period was a time of power struggles between the dynasties of Italy, Austria and Slovenia. To protect themselves and encouraged by William Tell' s rebellion against the Habsburg, four cantons in Switzerland formed a defensive alliance and drew up a charter in 1291 to declare independence - Voila, a nation was born ! Over the next few centuries more cantons joined the confederacy, and in 1499 the Old Swiss Confederacy broke away from the Holy Roman Empire and became a distinct nationality, only to be conquered in the Napoleonic Wars and reconstituted as the Helvetic Republic in 1798. After the fall of Napoleon, the central Alpine states saw the need to control the strategic mountain passes for trade and defense against any new invasion.
So in 1815 the leading powers of Europe redrew the map of the continent, expanding the Swiss Confederacy to its present day borders by incorporating neighboring Italian and French speaking states, while the Treaty of Paris signed the same year established its neutrality. This is the reason why Switzerland has 4 official languages : German, French, Italian and Romansch. The subsequent civil war between Catholic and Protestant cantons forced the Confederacy to change into a Federal state in 1848.The new constitution follows the American model, and allows cantons the right to self-government, i.e. have their own parliament, government and court, as well as the right to choose their own religion, while at the same time united by a central government.  
So Switzerland came into being by necessity, its people far from homogenous. But Swiss thrives on diversity, as individual cultural characteristics of different regions are celebrated and nourished. The most famous Swiss motto is " Unity yes, Uniformity no" ! Inexplicably pride in local identity is synonymous with loyalty to the larger state. The only common national identity seemingly is the Alpine symbolism of farming and forestry, wood processing and cheese-making. As in all farming communities, there're many festivals, one frequently featured on postcards is the feast of the Nativity of Mary on 8th Sept, when the cattle are brought down from the upland pastures for the winter. All the cows are decorated with garlands and enormous cowbells while the farmers deck out in traditional costumes for this joyful and colorful ritual. 
Contrast the all embracing and inclusivity of the Swiss ethos with the xenophobic Democratic politicians in HK, who constantly and maliciously promote Hate Culture against the Mainland Chinese ( while we're all homogenous Chinese !), this time using "parallel trading" as a pretext . With home-grown Trumps like these, how could HK not be but a city in decline ? 
Elsie Tu hit the nail on the head when she wrote that "democracy" means "anti-China" and nothing else to the HK Democrats, who built their power by advertising themselves as heroes protecting the people from Beijing and preaching doomsday....... the livelihood of ordinary people and the welfare of HK are never the priority.
Like the Chinese, Traditional Swiss meals are communal, such as fondue, where a pot is set in the middle of the table for each person to dip into. We had a fondue meal in a restaurant in Lauterbrunnen ; Chinese on the whole are not big cheese eaters ; though I do eat cheese, fondue is still a wee bit too rich for me.
From Lauterbrunnen we went to Grindelwald Grund, a railway station in the Grund area of the village. The tram line from here to Männlichen was built in 1978, and is the third longest in the world. Männlichen is a 2,343 meter mountain and the panoramic walk from there to Kleine Scheidegg is a 11/2 hour delightful easy walk, mostly downhill, but offers unique views of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. Kleine Scheidegg at the foot of Eiger is the starting station for Jungfraubahn, a mountain railway up the Jungfrau mountain listed as a Swiss heritage site of national significance. Kleine Scheidegg is also part of the Inventory of Swiss Heritage Sites, where we had lunch before heading back to Lauterbrunnen
While the guys were more interested in the pretty waitress, my focus was on the beer. Braugold is actually a German beer.
Wine had been produced by the Benedictine and Cistercian monasteries since the 11th century in Lavaux, situated along the Lake of Geneva. In 2007 it was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. Under cantonal law, the vineyards, many of which have been owned by the same families for generations, are protected from development. We did the Vineyard Terraces Hiking, passing through historic medieval St Saphorin with its narrow alleys and winegrowers' houses from the 16th to 19th century. In summertime wine carts are placed along the route for thirsty hikers. The main wine grape variety grown here is the Chasselas, and since 2016, synthetic pesticides are banned in Lavaux.

Chillon Castle in Veytaux is an island castle located on Lake Geneva, and can only be reached by a covered bridge. It's listed in the Inventory of Swiss Heritage Sites, and is said to be the inspiration behind the castle in 'The Little Mermaid' movie. But real life is always more prosaic, in the 16th century it was a prison owned by the dukes of Savoy, the most famous prisoner was probably Francois de Bonivard, a political monk who was commemorated by Lord Byron in his poem 'The Prisoner of Chillon'. While visiting the castle Byron carved his name on a pillar of the dungeon, but of course if you were not Byron this would be vandalism.
Today the grand bedroom, hall, cave stores, four great halls, three courtyards and a series of bedrooms are open to the public.
Careful kid, that's a real big drop !
Kora, my roommate, asked a question nobody in our team could answer: " Who's the president of Switzerland ? " The reason for our ignorance has much to do with the unique Swiss political system.
The Swiss Federal Constitution divides political power between the Confederation and the cantons. Now we already know something about cantons, an additional information : every canton is made up of municipals, and each municipal government is elected by the citizens of constituent villages or towns through majority voting.
The three main governing bodies of the Federal Confederation are :
1) Federal Assembly (a bicameral Parliament) represents the people, with 200 deputies. Parliamentary elections are organized around a proportional multi-party voting system and consists of 2 Chambers :
a) the Council of States (Chamber of cantons) has power to legislate. It is made up of  46 canton representatives (4 year term) who are elected under a system determined by each canton.
b) National Council (the People’s Chamber), which consists of 200 members (4 year term) who are elected by popular vote on a basis of proportional representation.  
2) Federal Council (head of government), consists of 7 members selected by the Federal Assembly for a 4 year term, all of equal rights. The president of the government is elected from among the 7 members, traditionally in rotation and for a one-year term. So the Federal Council operates as a combination of cabinet and collective presidency, which ensures executive power is not concentrated in one person. The President is just the head of a department within the administration, therefore largely ceremonial. This is why nobody outside Switzerland knows who the current president is !
Federal Council has no legislative powers, which belongs to the Federal Assembly. Both chambers of the Federal Assembly have the same rights and all bills and federal ordinances must receive the assent of both chambers to become law. Thus political power in the country rests with the Parliament and the people.

3) Federal Supreme Court. This is the supreme organ of the judiciary, it functions as a court of appeal of cantonal court or federal administrative rulings, and is responsible to ensure that federal law ( criminal and civil codes) is interpreted and applied consistently. It is independent of the executive and the legislature, its judges are elected for a 6 year term by the Federal Assembly.
Switzerland has a semi-direct democracy i.e. - direct democracy : directly vote on polices by referendum, in parallel with representative democracy : vote for officials via elections. The electorate has at least 4 opportunities each year to vote on national proposals; Federal, cantonal and municipal issues are polled simultaneously. The electorate also have the power of recall, to remove elected officials from office.
The famous Swiss referendums are actually under very strict and specific conditions :
Any citizen may challenge a federal law if he can collect 50,000 signatures within 100 days of the official publication of the new law, and call for a referendum. But to change a law requires a double majority : both a national popular vote ( simple majority of the people) as well as majority of the cantons. 
Any citizen who wants to make amendment to the constitution or initiate constitutional legislation, needs to collect the signatures of 100,000 voters supporting the federal popular initiative within 18 months. Initiatives of constitutional level need to be accepted by a double majority; but counter-proposals of legislative level only require simple majority. Citizens cannot, however, initiate legislation of their own crafting through legislative referendums. 
Most referendums receive counter-proposals, and most are passed on a compromise. The success of Swiss politics is therefore based on consensus after active negotiations in the community. The art of politics is truly in compromise !

Voting age is 18 years, surprisingly women were only granted suffrage in 1971 ! And even today women are poorly represented in higher government. All adult citizens have been able to vote at the canton level since 27 November 1990. 
How are you holding up so far ? Have I managed to totally muddle you up ?!
One of the reasons why some of the HK elected legislators are so appalling in quality is because HK follows the British 'first-past-the-post' voting system, i.e. the candidate with the highest votes is the winner, even though he may have won only a tiny proportion of the vote in a constituency where there were three or more candidates. The proportional representation system (what the Swiss usewhich would result in a fairer distribution of seats and better represent the wishes of most voters (what democracy is all about ! ) was proposed after 1997, but was promptly shut down by the HK 'Democrats' because they knew overall they didn't have the majority of the population with them ! What do you know, when the majority of Hong Kongers say the Democrats don't represent them in spite of the number of seats they hold, they're actually speaking the truth !
Picturesque Lausanne is French speaking, and a part of the Swiss Riviera. Among the illustrious writers who visited were Hemingway, Shelley, Byron, and Edward Gibbon (historian); and it was here that T.S. Eliot composed his poem 'The Wasteland' in 1922. Culture and sports are both in high profile in Lausanne - it is a lively university town and the International Olympic Committee had been stationed here since 1914. On the waterfront of Ouchy is the Olympic Museum, which houses an overview of the history of the Olympic games from the first 1896 summer games in Athens through to the present day. 

The next stop was Geneva, best known for being home to 200-odd government and non-government international organizations, among them the European headquarters of the United Nations, the International Federation (and the Committee) of Red Cross and Red Crescent, as well as the Museum; UNHCR, WHO and WTO. It's also a global financial center and Geneva's economy is mainly services orientated. A truly cosmopolitan city, one in two of its population are resident foreign nationals, the reason why English is the second most common language here after French, the official language. 
                                                       Even rich cities have bag ladies !
The name Geneva came from a Celtic toponym, "genu" means a bend or knee, as in a bend in the river, referring to where Geneva situates at the point Lake Geneva empties into the Rhone. Lake Geneva is the showpiece of the city, it is fringed by atmospheric promenades and lake side parks, and contains within it the Jet d' Eau, the world's tallest water fountain. Jet d' Eau was first installed in 1886 as a safety relief valve for the pipes supplying pressurized water to the jewelers' and crafts people's machinery. When the workshops required more flow and raised the fountain height, its aesthetic value was recognized and it was moved to its present position in 1951, the 600th anniversary of the Swiss Confederation. The Fountain is 90 meters high, it shoots 500 liters of lake water into the air every second at a speed of almost 200m/h, so at anytime 7 tones of water is in the air, a truly remarkable piece of engineering ! The Fountain is visible throughout the city, making it a constant landmark in exploring the city. 
Another famous landmark is "L' horloge fleurie", created in 1955 as a symbol of the city's watchmakers .With a diameter of 5 meters, it was the largest flower clock in the world until Iran installed one of 15 meters in Tehran in 2005.
We stopped at the Patek Philippe shop as some in our group wanted to buy watches. In the end there was no sale, so I was taken aback when we were still given VIP tickets for the Philippe Museum, each worth 10 CHF, no strings attached - and me wearing my US$ 4 dollar plastic watch ! In fact for all the time we were in Switzerland we were treated courteously, and people actually went out of their way to be helpful. So how is Switzerland racist ? Oprah Winfrey says "Very !" In 2013 she alleged a snotty shop girl refused to show her a $38,000 crocodile handbag because she's black. Both Amnesty International and the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance also agree racism is widespread in Switzerland, mostly against blacks and Muslims, particularly in areas of employment and house renting. Swiss naturalization laws are some of the most stringent in the world, while a person is allowed to apply for citizenship after 12 years, since 2007 the law stipulates all members of the local community of the applicant must vote on his/her application before a passport is granted - Muslims, Africans and Asians are all disproportionately rejected. "Convenience" marriages are prevented by outlawing foreigners without a visa from marrying Swiss citizens. In 2009 a constitutional referendum was passed to ban the building of mosque minarets, and provoked an outrage from the Muslim minority . In 2013 asylum seekers complained they were segregated in old army barracks, prohibited to leave the compounds outside the hours of 9 AM. to 5 PM, and banned from public places such as swimming pools, playing fields, soccer pitches and libraries.
So where did all this anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiment come from? It could be traced back to the Balkans War in 1999 : the influx of East European refugees caused a 11% increase in population in 10 years. In 2000 there was also a sharp rise in African asylum seekers, with the number tripling in 10 years. Another 10 years brought us to the horrors of the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011- by 2012 there were already 50,000 asylum seekers in Switzerland ! With one asylum seekers for 332 inhabitants in Switzerland, the rate is twice the European average. This was even before the million more poured out of Syria in the past 2 years. Today 1/4 of Switzerland's 8.2 million population are born outside the country. Swiss are pragmatic and understand : " Switzerland's needs must come before those of the asylum seekers". In the 2014 referendum voters imposed immigration quotas and in 2015 asylum laws were further tightened, both against EU's freedom of movement principle. 

Today HK faces the same refugee problem, worse, most of ours are "fake refugees", thugs who are allowed to roam the streets and commit violent crimes. 'What's that about ?' you ask. Well, simple : they're protected by the HK Democratic Politicians who are committed to bring HK down.  
In a mature civilized society race and racism is never a simple equation, as the concept of race is not just founded in biology, and racism is not just a matter of skin color, but also history and societal values. Swiss respect people who're hard working, self-reliant and conscientious, and despise those simply looking for handouts. I met a stout Sri Lankan lady Mangai, in the bus, she's lived in Switzerland for 15 years and both of her 2 children were born in Switzerland. She worked as a maid and her husband for the McDonald's." We're very happy here " she smiled at my question. During the 1980s - '90s the Tamils ( brown) escaping the Sri Lankan Civil war to come here were given a really bad time, but today they're the darlings of Swiss society because they've proved themselves to be good workers and law-abiding. On the other hand recruitment agencies refuse to find jobs for French workers (white), because they're perceived as lazy, unpunctual and imprecise. In spite of its racist reputation, incredibly there are more bi-national marriages in Switzerland than many other European countries.
Swiss right-wing election poster in 2007, with the slogan "To Create Security" and pledges to kick out all foreigners who break Swiss laws. 

By this time everyone in the tour had gone home to HK, but I opted to stay on for a few more days. I'm a big fan of museums, but both the Art and History Museum and the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MAMCO) were quite difficult to find, or maybe I'm just bad at directions. But I shouldn't complain as during the search I accidentally stumbled on the circus which had just come to town !
I went to 3 parks, the Jardin des Anglais (English Park), the Jardin Botanique (Botanical Gardens) and the Bastions Park. In the Bastions Park is the Reformation Wall and the effigies of Geneva's founding fathers : William Farel, John Calvin, Theodore Beza and John Knox. Geneva was Roman Catholic until it became the epicenter of the new Protestant Reform in the 16th century, which profoundly affected its subsequent political and religious development . In 1814, Geneva was admitted to the Swiss Confederation, and in 1907, the separation of Church and State was adopted.
Another interesting feature in the park is its life size chessboards.
I went on the United Nations guided tour like a good tourist. Tickets are bought at the Visitors Service, where they also take a picture of you for the identification badge which you're required to wear the whole time you're inside the building. The tour lasts for one hour, but make sure you go with the right group as there are more than 15 language groups.
We were shown a film about the United Nations past and present, then taken by our guide, a young Egyptian, to see the major boardrooms which are connected by long broad corridors on different floors in various wings of the building. These include the Assembly Hall, the largest room and mainly used for big meetings such as the World Health Assembly; the Council Chamber with murals by José Maria Sert, where the Conference on Disarmament was held ; and the Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Room, the psychodelic ceiling of which was done by Miquel Barcelò, 

Our guide updated us on the current activities of the UN, then out of nowhere, he looked round at us and asked " Has anyone here read 'The Clash of Civilizations' ?" None of the 20 in the group, half of them Americans, had. I just stared: this guy must be really young if he actually believes this book ! The gist of the book by the American scholar Samuel P. Huntington was that the primary source of conflict in the post Cold War world would be cultural and religious differences. I had to bite my lip to stop from screaming : " Hell No ! It's The Economy ! The Economy ! The Economy ! Countries are not run by governments anymore, but by big corporations ! Every modern war that's been fought had been for the profit of some business enterprise ! " In the same vein I wondered : What's it like to be that young to still believe in the UN !?
I never saw the point of UN when America could flout the rules and do whatever it want with impunity anyway. After 9-11 America passed a bill giving itself the right to kidnap foreign nationals from anywhere without having to consult any world body, then torture and keep them in indefinite detention without trial at Guantanamo Bay; it got away with sending spy planes into China's airspace in Hainan, killing a Chinese fighter jet pilot to boot ! Then a spy plane even landed at the Lingshui Military Airport without permission in total disregard of territorial sovereignty. Can you imagine what US would do if anybody else do the same in Hawaii ? In 2003 Bush thumbed his nose at the UN Security Council and attacked Iraq, today America goes a step further and permits itself to invade any country without first declaring war, in 6 years Obama had drone strikes in at lease 7 countries : Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, and Syria, carrying out extrajudicial assassinations - civilian casualties are simply shrugged off as " inevitable collateral damage". He also sent US military inside Pakistan without so much as a by your leave and summarily executed Bin Laden without trial ! US violation of international laws is not something new though, since after WWII America had supported proxy armies and toppled at least a dozen legitimate governments it didn't like, and supported at least a dozen vicious military dictatorships it could do business with, just that now the operations are more overt. 
The lofty conception of "Democracy and Human Rights" is the foolproof cloak for American aggression, so if I tell you America is the idol and role model of HK Democrats, you'd understand right away why they are who they are and why they do what they do. This is a new breed that holds "Democracy and Freedom" like a fundamentalist religion, and like the IS they are intolerant to even the slightest criticism or different opinion, and all public officials who don't comply to their demands to the tee are burnt at the stake ! They demand much from others, and even inflict harm on them- sabotage livelihood and destroy public properties by mindless hooliganism, but see no evil in their own actions, instead they'd demand reprisals for real or imagined lesser misdeeds of others - being double standard is a matter of course. Everything bad is somebody else's fault, no wonder they're experts at picking scapegoats ! On their moral high horse they'd rather see the HK general public suffer as long as they could hold on to their empty ideology. Their cardinal sin is putting Ideology above Humanity. " Freedom" has been used by these people as a password to dictate to others and take away their freedom. HK is already the most free city in the world, can you imagine Time Square in New York City or Trafalgar Square in London being brought to a standstill for 79 days and the police do nothing?
Red guards or Yellow guards, it's the same Chinese gene , which is incompatible with democracy.
UN was first set up after WWII to negotiate Peace, but America had waged war in 5 continents right under its nose with no consequences ! Since the collapse of USSR in 1991 and US became the single superpower in an uni-polar world, UN has increasingly come under the dominance of the US and Western interests. Swiss have consistently rejected UN membership, only in 2002 did Switzerland become a full member, the first state to join by referendum. I befriended a Japanese professor who was in the same UN tour, and it set me thinking : I've made so many foreign friends and received so much kindness in so many different countries, I'd never believe for a second race and culture are ever the issue between people; if we are really serious about World Peace don't bother looking to governments or the UN, just get rid of the greedy insatiable mega-corporations and make a new friend everyday who's of another race, culture, language or religion, and we'd get there !
Across the street from the UN stands the Broken Chair, a giant chair (5.5 tons of wood) with a broken lehalfway up, to symbolize limbs lost to land mines and cluster bombs. The sculpture was put up by the Handicap International in 1997, though it failed the objective which was to gain the largest number of States to sign the Ottawa Treaty for the banning of landmines, the strong public support it received made it one of the most iconic pieces of 21st century art. In my painting I mended the broken leg the same way as my friend's leg, but most real life landmine victims are not so lucky. On average 5,000 people are maimed or killed by landmines globally every year, 75% are civilians - 30% of these are children.By the way Obama rejected the mine ban treaty just weeks before he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, so much for the Nobel Peace laureate ! 
The Red Cross Museum is across the road from the car entrance to the UN Offices. The museum was first opened in 1988, but underwent a big renovation from 2011 to 2013, funded by the multinational tobacco corporation Japan Tobacco International. After heavy criticism by health groups, the director of the museum returned the money to JTI, maybe that's why today the admission tickets are rather pricey at CHF15 for adults ! Admission includes the use of an audio guide that switches on automatically as you cross each display room. The format is very modern, using text, video, sound and interactive displays, and traces when Henry Dunant first set up the Red Cross (or Red Crescent in Muslim countries) in mid-19th century, through to the present day.
The Museum reopened with a new permanent exhibition called "The Humanitarian Adventure" which is divided into 3 parts : Defending human dignity, Restoring family links, and Reducing natural risks. 

Art works by prisoners show the importance of mental stimulation and creativity to preserve dignity 

                           A wall of small photos of children from Rwanda 

The Museum has been criticized for placing style over substance, as it tells disappointingly little about the International Committee of the Red Cross, its history, or it current activities. The Museum's defense is that as a monument to humanity’s best impulses in the face of its worst, their aim is not just in providing information and knowledge, but in evoking an emotional and awareness-building experience. Well, let me be the first to say they did good !
I boarded a train to Zurich, where I'd spend a couple of days before flying back to HK. I'd recommend any visitor to Switzerland to travel at least some part of their journey by train. It's relatively inexpensive and the ride is clean, slick and pleasurable.
The hostel receptionist gave me a friendly nod " You're here for the Street Parade ?" " There's a parade ?" Apparently I'd arrived on the day of the yearly Zurich Music Parade which people from all over come specially to support. "Well, since I'm here already...." and that's where I ended up. The Street Parade Zurich is a day-long moving music festival modeled on the Love Parade Berlin which was started in 1989 at the time of German unification as a Celebration of Peace, Love, and Music. In 1992 Zurich mathematics student Marek Krynski perfected the logistics and staged the first Zurich Parade. The Berlin parade was ill-famed and raucous, it was eventually closed down in 2010 after a crowd rush caused the death of 21 people, and at least 500 injured. The Zurich Parade happens round the beautiful Lake Zurich and doesn't interfere with local businesses ( so VERY Swiss !). Today it's the world's most highly regarded and the Largest Techno Party with 30 love mobiles, 600 DJs or acts, and 7 stages for one million electro-music enthusiasts. 
For a whole day in a year the Swiss let hair down and put costumes up, and get crazy with alcohol, cigarettes, music and possibly drugs. Ecstasy and speed are the favored drugs in such events, while cocaine, a lifestyle drug, remains a hit among clubbers and party-goers. In the evening after the Parade, many would head towards these clubs. 

One man down but I'd be seeing more as the day wore on.
80% of Swiss drink alcohol, but only 1/5 overdoes it. The legal drinking age is 16 for beer and wine,18 for hard liquor. But like most European countries, the law is rarely enforced unless decorum is broken or a problem develops. A Drunken Disorderly Misconduct almost happened as a drunk, a big six-footer, lurched forward and grabbed me by the arm. Luckily he was a bit too drunk and I was able to shake him off. 
Smoking prevalence is around 25% in Switzerland, the most popular brand is Marlboro of Philip Morris. Every year  some 9,000 people die in Switzerland as a consequence of tobacco consumption( remember population is 8 million).
Those of us in the medical field would probably be familiar with the Swiss drug  policy which should serve as model everywhere. Illicit drugs arrived on the scene in thlate 60s to 70s with psychoactive drugs, well, LSD was first made by a Swiss scientist ! In the 80s-90s Switzerland became a center for heroin addicts in Europe, HIV infection rate soared to become the highest in Western Europe, with “open drug scenes” in several Swiss cities, such as Zurich, Bern, Olten. In Zurich up to 1,000 drug users gathered daily in the infamous Platzpitz Park, dubbed "Needle Park". While globally drug law remains focused on punishing addicts, Switzerland instituted the four-prong drug policy : 1) prevention by educational campaigns 2) law enforcement of illegal drug trafficking and pushers. But addiction itself is not a crime, sharing narcotics free of charge is also not a crime 3) treatment by abstinence 4) harm reduction (reduce the health and social consequences of addiction but let the addicts continue their habit)- set up  clean needles/syringe exchange programs to prevent AIDS and other infection, safe hygienic injection rooms with a shower and bed.  
Harm reduction plan was very controversial when it first came out but later proved to be able to protect both users and communities. It kept many heroin addicts off the streets, and lowered crime and overdose rateIn the mid-1980s drug addicts were largely viewed as marginalized people responsible for their own fate, later they're deemed to have a serious pathology and needed help rather than ostracization. Thus the Harm reduction planone of inclusion not exclusion, fitted the billSince 1994 it has evolved to include : Out-patient medical supervision as well as medical prescription of heroin, heroin-based cigarettes and free methadone. Today family doctors prescribe about 60 percent of opiate substitution treatment in Switzerland. Social support include street work, soup kitchens, emergency shelters, low threshold centers equipped with cafeterias, showers and laundry facilities . There are also centers for the treatment of hard core usersSteps to Recovery is an Integrated Behavioral Treatment program for addicts intending to start afresh, "drug addiction counselling" and "low threshold coping skills programs" are compulsory for graduation.  
The uncomfortable truth is illegal drug use remains high, Switzerland consumes approximately eleven tons of heroine and cocaine annually. Cocaine use in big Swiss cities is among the highest in Europe, due to its easy access and the big drop in price. Most drugs are from West Africa. Ecstasy is regarded as a soft drug, so dealing is not a serious offence. Use of Ecstacy is actually permitted within psycho-therapy. The domestic production of “Thai” pills (yaba pills) is dominated by Asian criminal gangs linked to prostitution. On the whole Switzerland does not attract organized crime because of its small market ; it's only attractive as a clearing house for money laundering. 
Switzerland has a laissez-faire attitude towards cannabis, it's granted a separate status from illegal drugs, the legal footing is more akin to medical prescription of morphine as treatment. In 1993 Europe's fist hemp shop opened in Bern, capital of Switzerland, today there are 230 hemp shops located throughout the country. Former interior minister Ruth Dreifuss, nicknamed “dealer of the nation” for introducing the four-prong drug policy, even advocates setting up cannabis social clubs ! It's no wonder cannabis is the most frequently used 'illegal' drug. In 2014 Cannabis legislation returns to Swiss agenda, the consensus is cannabis use should be discouraged but decriminalized for young people under 18 years of age, as it would lighten the workload of judicial authorities. On the other hand, the age limit for buying cannabis is raised from 16 to 18 ; and stricter penalties put in place for people who sell to minors under 16. 
Many jumped into the lake to cool off
In the evening I compared notes with my roommate from Australia. The poor girl lost her penny purse in the crowd, and had to crawl on all fours to search for it between the legs of the revelers. " Did you find it ?" I asked," No, but I found somebody else's purse !"
After a couple of hours I got tired of the heat, the crowd and the rising smell of piss in the city ( yeah, public urination everywhere), so I went to the National Museum to find out why Switzerland is so rich.
The National Museum Zurich is located between the main train station and the Platzspitz Park. The building is over 100 years and resembles a fairy tale castle, well worth visiting as it has the largest collection of cultural-historical objects in the country. Switzerland is a small landlocked country which has scant natural resources, so it has traditionally cultivated a deep sense of work ethics and resilience against poverty, their investment strategy is primarily long term and conservative, while consumer spending is low. Work hard, spend little, save a lot - Hey, that's how HK got rich 30 years ago ! 
You can't help but be impressed by the Swiss efficiency that after a day's debauchery which left the city filled with litters and unconscious bodies, overnight Zurich was spick-and-span again and ready for business !
The city was quiet and sedate the morning after. I went to the Odeon Cafe Zurich, where I had a much needed beer. The cafe is one of Zurich's "must sees", it was opened in 1911 and was once the haunt of artistic and literary refugees like Klaus Mann, Stefan Zweig....... Hermann Hesse and James Joyce are even said to have written a good part of their most famous novels Ulysses and Steppenwolf in the café. It was also here, according to legend, that Dadaism was named. Political heavyweights like Benito Mussolini, Lenin and Trotsky who were once exiles in Zurich were regulars, and Albert Einstein even gave lectures to his small class in the cafe !

Like HK, Switzerland entered the industrial era with textile industry, then furniture, watch and jewelry industry. But they also invested in science and technology (which HK didn't under the British ), with subsequent development and manufacturing of chemical dyes and pharmaceuticals, optical instruments, processed food, heavy arms and ammunition. But all is not roses, bad living and working conditions resulted in class tension, between 1880 and 1914, no fewer than 2,426 strikes were counted; in several occasions military troops were called in and protesters were killed. Food shortages, inflation and the threat from the government to restrict civic rights culminated in the National General Strike in November 1918, joined by roughly a quarter of a million peopleBut from the early 1920s, industrial relations were increasingly shaped by collective agreements, a process characterized as "peace agreement", subsequently strike rates dropped sharply. Today strikes are rare and Switzerland generally records the lowest number of days lost to strikes in the OECD. The legally mandated maximum workweek is set at 45 hours for blue- and white-collar workers in the services, industrial and retail sectors; a 50-hour workweek covers the rest. Minors as young as 13 may perform light work for up to nine hours per week during the school period and 15 hours otherwise
The Swiss value education, but 70% do not have college degree. Like Singapore, kids entering high school are divided into two mainstreams :   Sekundarschule leads generally to an apprenticeship of 3 years, where school, practical knowledge and work are combined. The other 30% ends up in Academia. Humanities and social sciences are by far the most popular fields for study. The Swiss system provides students with both broad and specific knowledge, which HK should seriously consider incorporating, as half of the present university students should never had been admitted. I was aghast when Patten scraped the HK Polytechnic and changed it into Poly University, talk about conspiracy theory ! And HK needs 8 universities ? really ? Contrary to the frenzied quest for free kindergarten in HK, kindergarten is optional in Switzerland, play and a family-like structure are more favored. Personally I never went to kindergarten so I've no idea what the fuss is about.
Like HK, Switzerland specializes in high-margin business - banking, luxury goods etc. Because of its neutrality and stable political environment, it's seen by the world's rich as a safe haven to place their money. HK used to be like that until 21/2 years ago, but now...... (weep). Neutrality is the way to wealth as while bigger countries suffered great destruction and exhausted themselves in the 2 world wars, Switzerland managed to keep all its industries and financial sector intact. Throughout the cold war while big powers take sides and boycotted right and left, Swiss made deals with countries that others refrained from, e.g. Iraq oil ; Swiss even got away with trading with apartheid South Africa, and sold weapons to Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Iraq. But there are skeletons in the closet too. Swiss banks had been accused of laundering hundreds of millions of dollars in stolen assets, including gold taken from the central banks of German-occupied Europe and properties plundered from Jews. To be fair, Switzerland was not the only culprit, there're still 2 tons of Nazi gold sitting deep within the bowels of the US Federal Reserve Bank in New York City, and 3 tons in the vaults of Bank of England. Furthermore, Swiss diplomats were discovered to mark the passports of German Jews with the stamp to make their escape more difficult. While Switzerland did take in 55,000 civilian refugees in WWII, approximately 20,000-25,000 were turned away at the border to certain death.
The proportional representation election system the Swiss won in the 1918 National General Strike and the semi-direct democracy resulted in a political system that protected the greater public good, and prevented the political elites from hijacking government policies against the will of the people, e.g. going on expensive foreign wars like the US and the UK, or joining the European Economic Zone. With so much less spending of course Switzerland has surplus and much of it, both public and private, are reinvested domestically to create even more wealth. Thus Swiss social stratification is more equitable than most, the richest 20% of the population owns 80% of total assets ( contrast that with the 1% and 99% in the US), the large middle class is Switzerland's stabilizing factor. Interestingly, HK politicians make home ownership the lethal whip to slash the government with, well, HK home ownership is 50.4% in 2016 (highest was 54.3% in 2004), while in Switzerland on average only 30%( 20-40% depending on the Canton) are home owners, as buying a house has long been out of reach for many Swiss. And Switzerland is one of the wealthiest countries in the world !
The problem with the HK Democrats is most of them are paid US stooges (America had in fact admitted to financing the Occupy Central movement) and the US doesn't care about democracy, only economic dominance for America. Bill Clinton said it very well at the United Nations in 1993:  "Our overriding purpose is to expand and strengthen the world's community of market-based democracies." In plain English it means they want to create 'democratic' countries they can control for business. Henry Kissenger, justifying the 1973 overthrew of the democratically elected president Salvadore Allende, said " When we have to choose between the economy and democracy, we must save the economy."  Socialist democratic Chile was crushed because it had a good chance to be a "socialist experiment" success, so the US murdered its president, put in his place a military dictator and turned Chile into a 'capitalist democracy' it could boss around. In case you missed it, "the economy saved" Kissenger meant was not Chile, but US. In recent months even the HK Democrats are embarrassed to call themselves Democrats, and changed their title to "Anti-establishment" camp, which is fitting as that's all they do. They even rejected the electoral reform proposal in 2015, though it is a step towards true democracy, which makes you wonder maybe like the US, democracy is not what they want. Maybe Elsie Tu was right, their aim is to overthrow China, not to help HK people. Every time I see the Anti-establishments at work I'm reminded of the Bible story in which Solomon told 2 mothers who both wanted the same baby that the only fair solution is to cut the baby in half. They're the mother who screeched gleefully " Yes ! Cut ! Cut !"
I agree with Elsie Tu : " HK would be better off to have representatives who do not stand for any political ideology, but who are chosen for their principles, their dedication to the people, their personal integrity. This would, in fact, not only work for the welfare of the people, but would satisfy those who still fear politics in HK." I also agree with her that the money wasted on elections would be better spent on the needy, particularly as elections have now degenerated into nothing more than sneering filth-slinging personal attacks. HK ex-lawmaker Ronny Tong is an optimist and thinks democracy is still possible in HK, but he hopes it'd be quality democracy, not the kind hijacked by populism which is what is most everywhere. I'm a pessimist, Chinese are too undisciplined, egoistic, selfish and unpatriotic to make quality democracy like the Swiss. Then of course even Swiss Democracy is still evolving and in recent years has taken a worrying right-wing turn. I still say as HK has the money, we should just get a head hunting company and hire the best CEO money can buy to run HK and be done with all the silly political squabbles ! However I agree with Mr Tong that most HK politicians go into politics without any political knowledge (not much of any other knowledge either judging by how they act ), it's hard to believe they read at all ! A word of caution what you read though, because the HK Journalists Association is the most biased and blinkered and many HK journalists the lowest caliber you'd likely to find ! 
For myself the best way to obtain knowledge is to travel and learn directly from the source. And that's what I do. Thank you Switzerland, for a splendid lesson in quality democracy !