20 February 2019
Jasper Tsang reflects on politics and protest. Photo: RTHK
Jasper Tsang reflects on politics and protest. Photo: RTHK

Jasper turns jester on political pluralism

Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang is not known for his comedy but on Thursday night he resorted to a joke on an RTHK program in response to questions about political pluralism in the city.

Asked by Stephen Davies on the In Conversation radio and TV show whether there should be more or less debate about Hong Kong’s political future, Tsang, a member of the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, lightheartedly made a “politically incorrect” suggestion. 

“The idea of pluralism certainly appeals very much to me … Well, I sometimes ask my friends questions which are very politically incorrect … I would say, ‘Look, I think it’s better for China to allow Taiwan and Tibet to break away. [It will cause] much less trouble for us’,” Tsang said. “I could not say this in public.”

Davies was quick to quip: “Right, it’s totally political incorrect. You would be a sinner for 10,000 years, no question.”

Let’s be clear: the clear-minded Tsang was not genuinely suggesting that Taiwan and Tibet go their own ways. It was more a mild dig at the “one country, two systems” approach in Hong Kong, under which storms of political conflict have brewed in recent years.

The context for the joke goes back to late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping who agreed during the Sino-British negotiations of the 1980s that Hong Kong should be run along “one country, two systems” lines after handover, believing that if the model was successful it could set a precedent for Taiwan’s reunification with the mainland.

But if Taiwan was out of the picture, there would be no pressure for Hong Kong to make the dual-track system work and political differences would irrelevant — one country, one system would be the law of the land.

Taken at face value, the joke has the potential to offend leftists — who dare not even utter the idea of independence for Taiwan and Tibet — and Hongkongers — who resent the idea of not having a say in their future.

Once a socialist

Tsang also used the interview to elaborate on his political change of heart, paraphrasing a much-cited line by late British prime minister Winston Churchill to describe his conversion in the last few decades from socialism to Hong Kong-style capitalism.

“Anyone at 20 who doesn’t believe in socialism has no heart. Anyone at 40 who doesn’t abandon socialism has no brain,” he said.

Reflecting on the 1967 riots in Hong Kong in which communist party members and their sympathizers staged mass and often violent protests against British colonial rule, Tsang said he is glad most people have put those days behind them but the opposition did change the way the British governed the city.

“The 1967 riots would not have been on such a massive scale if there had not been all kinds of social conflicts there,” he said.

Tsang, who took part in the protests, said his sister and his brother made the right decision to join too, adding that participants were affected by the atmosphere of the Cultural Revolution.

The protests originated in a minor labor dispute but escalated into terrorist attacks in which fake and real bombs were planted in the city and some members of the press who opposed the violence were murdered.

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Chief reporter at EJ Insight

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