27 June 2019
What Hong Kong people want is a fair election for them to choose the right leader for the city. Photo: AFP
What Hong Kong people want is a fair election for them to choose the right leader for the city. Photo: AFP

Hongkongers need to be heard rather than re-educated

After Hong Kong’s almost-80-day-long Umbrella movement ended, Zhang Rongshun, vice-chairman of the Legislative Affairs Commission of the National Peoples’ Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC), gave his views on the next step for the city.

Zhang said there is an urgent need to build a sense of national identity among the people of Hong Kong, some of whom need to be “re-enlightened” about the “one country, two systems” principle.

Legislator Michael Tien Puk-sun immediately echoed Zhang’s opinion, saying the Hong Kong government’s efforts to educate the public about “one country, two systems” have proven a complete failure.

Tien went on to argue that if the government’s efforts had been successful, students who participated in the movement would not have refused to give even an inch, nor would they have acted on impulse and remained unpragmatic throughout the protests.

Tien’s rhetoric epitomizes a kind of opinion that has become increasingly dominant in our society. It is marked by its eager submission to authority and deliberate failure to tell right from wrong.

For years, the people of Hong Kong have had the impression the regime in Beijing is not interested in convincing us by reason, but rather wishes to impose its values and opinions on us.

At the beginning of this year, when the public consultation began on the 2017 election for chief executive, Beijing refused to budge an inch.

After the police clearance operation in Causeway Bay that ended the street occupations, it was rumoured that Beijing would take an even tougher line with Hong Kong over political reforms.

In fact, Beijing’s door has never been open when it comes to discussing universal suffrage.

For months, the people of Hong Kong have been putting forward a lot of suggestions, some of which are rather moderate, for example civil nomination, but Beijing simply ignores them.

And when the Hong Kong public continues to question the legal foundation of the NPCSC’s “831” (Aug. 31) resolution, all Beijing does is repeat that “the NPCSC’s resolution is unshakable”.

The people of Hong Kong will never challenge the authority of the National People’s Congress. All we want is sensible explanations for a series of issues.

Why should the Election Committee remain dominated by the four sectors? Why should the proportions of the sectors remain unchanged? Why is it necessary for anyone who intends to run for chief executive to gain the support of at least half of the Election Committee to become an official candidate? Will such an arrangement lead to unfair restrictions?

Beijing’s assertion that the NPCSC’s resolution is “legal and constitutional” is simply inadequate in answering these questions.

Beijing has always maintained it is acting according to law, but it didn’t respond at all when asked why it refused to invoke the existing legal mechanism to withdraw the “831” resolution.

Lew Mon-hung, a former member of the Chinese Peoples’ Political Consultative Conference, has raised doubts about the legal status of the resolution.

He pointed out that Annex 1 of the Basic Law clearly stipulates that the NPCSC is responsible only for giving either “approval” or “disapproval” to the political reform proposal submitted by the Hong Kong government under the three-step process — not for setting any legally mandatory framework for reform.

Even though the NPCSC extended the three-step process to a five-step process in 2004, all it can do remains unchanged: say either “yes” or “no” to the reform proposal put forward by Hong Kong’s chief executive.

Lew said it has become clear that in proclaiming its “831” resolution, the NPCSC has exceeded its constitutional powers under the Basic Law.

This is a serious charge to level against the central authorities, but Beijing has never responded to it directly.

It is indeed ironic that while throughout the Umbrella movement, Beijing and the Hong Kong government insisted they were acting according to the law, the NPCSC had actually sparked the confrontation by acting outside the scope of the Basic Law.

I also wonder why Beijing and the Hong Kong government remain unwilling to recognize our young people’s selfless devotion to social justice and ideals. After all, what they did and sacrificed was for the sake of our society.

Beijing always criticizes the people of Hong Kong for not being patriotic, but I always suspect that what Beijing really wants from us is not patriotism but submission.

It doesn’t even want to communicate with us on an equal footing, stressing that the “two systems” are anything but equal. What kind of logic is that?

And Zhang was so condescending in saying Hong Kong people need to be “re-enlightened”, as if he was implying that we were just a bunch of ignorant juveniles.

But where do you draw the line on ignorance? Does Beijing have the final word on this, just like every other issue?

I don’t agree with Beijing that the people of Hong Kong are not patriotic, nor do I agree that there is only one single, approved way to express our patriotism.

We don’t want the word “patriotism” to be reduced to a cliché that signifies blind faith and the loss of independent thinking.

Ever since the July 1 rally in 2003, Beijing’s interventions in Hong Kong’s affairs have become increasingly noticeable, and deeper intervention will only lead to more far-reaching repercussions in our society.

The Umbrella movement was simply the culmination of the differences between the “two systems”, and I believe this is just the beginning.

In the meantime, what we are asking for is already very modest and humble.

What we need is “communication”, not “enlightenment”, and we need to be heard, not “educated”.

This article first appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Dec. 23

Translation by Alan Lee

– Contact us at [email protected]


Zhang Rongshun should realize that enlightenment can be a two-way street. Photo: Xinhua

Head of Cluster (Humanities, Communications and Social Sciences), CPCE & Principal Lecturer, SPEED at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

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