About 20 to 30 years ago, when I was discussing Hong Kong’s eventual handover to Chinese sovereignty in 1997 with some Taiwanese friends, they said Taiwan-Hong Kong relations were unable to flourish because there wasn’t any “point of force application” in it.
I argued that they were only partially correct because ever since martial law was lifted in Taiwan in the mid-80’s, the two have been sharing similar modern and human values which provided the necessary foundation to build bilateral relations.
Back in those days, the ruling political and economic elites of Taiwan, like their counterparts on the mainland these days, tended to interpret social issues and phenomena from an orthodox perspective and embraced entrenched doctrines and ideologies established by their authoritative predecessors.
They often heavily relied on their own professional but narrow knowledge in judging situations, and failed to keep up with the rapidly changing social trends and public expectations. As a result, they often came up with policies that were deemed out of touch with society and failed to address the real needs of the people.
In the 21st century, where rapidly growing IT technologies and social media have given people around the globe unprecedented access to information and knowledge, the long-standing process of decision-making and traditional power structures adopted by old-school elites are no longer able to keep pace with our ever-changing world.
The ruling elites and decision makers in Hong Kong today seem to be committing a mistake when it comes to revitalizing their policies on youth, governance and socio-economic development. It appears they still instinctively follow the beaten track and often cling conservatively to old institutions and work patterns, regardless of the fact that the Occupy movement has profoundly transformed our society and the general public has become much more self-aware and vocal.
Policies generated through the old mindset embraced by our officials might not only waste public money, but might also backfire and lead Hong Kong in the wrong direction.
It’s simply impossible to put the genie back into the bottle. Our leaders have to start thinking outside the box in order to cope with the new social conditions and public aspirations. And to shape our future, one must look back to the past, especially the changes in human values and historical trends.
Hong Kong is a tiny place where the East meets the West, and has time and again witnessed the exchange, fusion and sometimes clash of values from both sides throughout its history. The Occupy movement, to a certain extent, is the culmination of that conflict of values, and therefore must be studied and understood in its historical and cultural context.
The key to successfully mending fences and reuniting our society in the post-Occupy era is to promote “communication” and “engagement”.
This requires painstaking effort on the government side, rather than sheer publicity stunts and political gestures, in order to address public grievances and differences in principles. To achieve reconciliation, the various factions across our political spectrum must work together to explore frontiers, and treat Hong Kong as an academic subject.
The subject on communication and engagement should include:
1. Examining the Occupy and anti-Occupy movements in their entirety, from their underlying causes, the course of development and the outcome, plus reflecting on the whole event from multiple perspectives;
2. Comparing Hong Kong’s political, economic and social conditions with international standards;
3. Comparing Hong Kong’s political, economic and social conditions with mainland standards;
4. Studying China’s history and origins, its cultural formation and course of development over the past thousand years;
5. Reviewing the history of Hong Kong’s return to China;
6. Summarizing the lessons and experience of the so-called “Hong Kong Phenomenon” and finding out its origin;
7. Understanding what Hong Kong is, what the way forward should be, which path we should take, and where we are heading;
8. Identifying the deep-rooted differences and conflicts between people of different walks of life and factions in Hong Kong society;
9. How to build a diversified, accommodative, consensual, free and autonomous society.
Communication and engagement must be based on real events, and revolve around issues like policies, dynamics of our society, conflicts and differences among social classes, power and strategies, our social and political system, decision-making process, values, self-awareness and recognition of one’s identity. Only by inviting candid opinions over these topics can our society find its way out in the post-Occupy era.
The article first appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Dec.11.
Translation by Alan Lee
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