24 March 2019
Social injustice and failure of authorities to address political concerns prompted Hong Kong youth to take to the streets recently. It is incorrect to blame flawed ideologies for the Umbrella Movement, observers say. Photo: HKEJ
Social injustice and failure of authorities to address political concerns prompted Hong Kong youth to take to the streets recently. It is incorrect to blame flawed ideologies for the Umbrella Movement, observers say. Photo: HKEJ

Our youth don’t need ideological education

The year 2015 has just begun and ridiculous things are already all over the place.

First, a 14-year-old girl who had been caught drawing an umbrella and a flower on the “Lennon Wall” with a chalk was tracked down and arrested by the police on the charge of vandalism. What is more, the court later issued a writ of Habeas Corpus and allowed the girl to be held in police custody for three weeks.

Even though the High Court eventually granted bail to her on New Year’s Eve, the abuse of power by the police and the Department of Justice throughout the episode has already raised eyebrows among the public.

Second, on Jan. 2, the Legco Secretariat suggested banning democracy activists from staying overnight within the protest area. DAB lawmaker Ip Kwok-him immediately supported the idea and said there was no need for the protestors to bring along tents with them, while another lawmaker Chan Kin-por agreed that the protest area should be cleaned up every day so that others can use it as well.

It seems our government is not the only one that fears the active pursuit of universal suffrage by the general public; some of our representatives in the legislature and the so-called elites who got elected through functional constituencies are also displaying those signs.

Then on Jan. 3, former secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Frederick Ma Si-hang said during a TV interview that what he figured out from the Umbrella Movement was that young people in Hong Kong needed to undergo further ideological education.

He went on to explain that when he was young he used to think that the Communist Party was bad, but after he grew up and started working on the Mainland, he began to change his mind and became proud of being a Chinese. He also added that “our teenagers definitely won’t welcome it if you try to forcefully inject communist ideologies into their brains, therefore you might need to use some new terms and change the way you do it.”

Although Ma’s remarks sound objective, he actually confused the idea of being a Chinese with the Communist Party. What does the Communist Party being good or bad have to do with the Chinese identity? Does that mean the Chinese Communist Party is the equivalence of China and that being a Chinese automatically means being a PRC citizen? Even the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China passed by the National People’s Congress didn’t go to the same lengths to place an equal sign between the Chinese Communist Party and China.

Of course it would have been difficult for Ma to fully explain within a short TV interview why and how his impression of the Communist Party had changed so radically over the years. However, he had it all wrong if he truly believed our teenagers should welcome the imposition of the communist set of values on them simply because China is now a rising power and many people, including Ma himself, made a fortune under communist rule.

In fact the underlying causes of the Umbrella Movement were multiple, and must be examined in their historical and cultural context. They include the NPC’s “831 Resolution”, the rise of a sense of indigenousness among the local public, the fear of “Chinalization” of our society, conflicts arising from the cultural and behavioral differences between mainlanders and Hong Kong people, mis-governance of the Leung Chun-ying administration, the abuse of power by the police, and the poor performance of both pro-Beijing and pan-democratic lawmakers.

All these factors came together and generated intense social discontent and the desire for change, especially among our young people, which finally led to the outbreak of the Umbrella Movement. Young people took to the street not just because they couldn’t find decent jobs, as some officials argued, nor were they motivated by flawed ideologies, but because of their anger over social injustice and growing corruption in the territory, as well as their indignation at not being heard.

Unfortunately, instead of calling on the government to open up dialogue, Ma took the totally wrong approach on addressing their grievances and, to everyone’s surprise, called for enhanced ideological education.

It seems he was more concerned about the disturbance of public order brought about by the Umbrella Movement, rather than the deep-rooted failures in our city’s governance that led to the outbreak of the movement.

Or perhaps he might think our teenagers who took to the street were driven by wrong thinking or even their own delusion, a problem that can be fixed by introducing ideological education.

If this is really what Ma thinks, then I don’t see any difference between him and those local authorities on the mainland who arrest rural petitioners in Beijing and lock them up in mental institutions.

Ma didn’t go into detail about the content of the ideological education he proposed, but if his suggestion to mute public outcry against social injustice by changing young peoples’ minds is put into practice, it will not only lead to a social catastrophe but also pave way for enslavement of an entire generation.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan. 5.

Translation by Alan Lee

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Columnist of Hong Kong Economic Journal

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