Hong Kong returned to China’s sovereignty 17 years ago, but a significant portion of the city’s population has yet to embrace the Communist Party’s rule over the former British colony.
Beijing has granted the special administrative region with special privileges, mostly economic, and adopted a “one country, two systems” policy that promises a high degree of autonomy for the territory.
But still, Hong Kong people look at the central government with distrust, if not aversion.
What has contributed to this mindset? If you ask Jack Ma, Alibaba Group Holding’s chairman and China’s richest man, there’s one definite factor: Apple Daily.
In an interview with China Central Television on Tuesday, the technology mogul said the young people of Hong Kong have been deeply influenced by Jimmy Lai’s publication.
Throughout their crucial formative years, Hong Kong children have been fed with articles that focus on negative news about China and its government. As a result, many young people have developed a highly negative perception of their motherland.
The cultural products that children consume while growing up will affect their views and beliefs in the future, Ma said.
On the same day that Ma delivered his scathing lecture against Apple Daily, media veteran Chris Wat resigned as part-time journalism lecturer at Baptist University.
She said she can’t teach the subject any more as today’s media business has become quite different from the brand of journalism that she practiced.
Wat is quite known for her anti-Occupy stance. She has written a series of articles in a Hong Kong newspaper that strongly criticized the pro-democracy protesters for depriving the general public of their right to fight for their own interests. She has also insisted that the students’ demand for true democracy is not realistic.
Her articles have drawn much criticism from young readers, but Wat claims she has the support of the silent majority who oppose the Occupy campaign and the publications that are highly biased in favor of the pro-democracy activists.
Regardless of such accusations, however, independent media have played an important role in the success of Hong Kong. The kind of negative coverage that Ma considers harmful to the development of love for the country may just be an accurate observation of the real situation, such as the abuse of human rights and curtailment of freedoms on the mainland.
Young people should be given unfettered access to news and information, and be allowed to exercise their own judgement.
Authorities and regulators should never be allowed to hinder this flow of information, which is crucial in developing the young people’s critical thinking and analytical capability.
The internet has greatly raised the youth’s awareness of the world they live in, providing them with vast volumes of facts and divergent opinions that allow them to form their own views and beliefs.
One cannot accuse them of being brainwashed into a particular frame of mind or way of thinking if the flow of information remains open.
This throws light on the raging debate about electoral reform, on why there is something fundamentally different between Beijing and the Hong Kong youth.
The young people want public nomination because it opens them to a whole range of choices. But the central government insists on taking control of the nomination process and, ultimately, the choice of the people.
Hong Kong’s youth cannot understand why they have the freedom to run in student associations without any intervention from their teachers, but the people will not be able to elect Hong Kong’s next leader without Beijing’s intervention.
Local media have the responsibility to tell the truth. They cannot just report on the official line without telling the people about every other angle of the story.
The young people know what is happening around them, about what is happening in mainland China and its own people’s quest for freedom and dignity.
That’s why it’s hard to blame Hong Kong’s youth if they don’t look at Beijing with much fondness. That’s why they are fighting for genuine universal suffrage; they want to determine their own future.
It’s not because they read too much Apple Daily.
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