During the Lunar New Year gatherings, Hong Kong’s political impasse and scandals, as well as the outbreak of influenza that has claimed hundreds of lives, inevitably dominated conversations among friends and family members.
Some youngsters vented their grievances via the internet, rewriting lyrics of traditional new year songs to make fun of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, his family members, loyalists and other principal officials.
Following a longtime tradition, Lau Wong-fat, chairman of the rural community advisory body Heung Yee Kuk, paid a visit to Che Kung Temple in Sha Tin on the second day of the New Year to draw a stick from a cup in a kau cim (Taoist divination) ritual to tell the fortune of Hong Kong.
In classical Chinese verse, the message of this year’s fortune stick, which falls into the neutral category of luck (there are three types: good, neutral or bad), is interpreted by feng shui masters as telling people not to be greedy and that the pursuit of superficial fame and fortune is doomed to be in vain.
Lau, an old-line pro-Beijing rural patriarch, added his own take, saying, this “don’t be greedy” message suggests Hongkongers should not be greedy in politics but should consider pocketing Beijing’s proposed arrangements for the 2017 election of the chief executive.
I believe people will have differing views whether Lau’s attempt to use the fortune stick’s message to lobby Hongkongers to accept Beijing’s conservative framework is a bit far-fetched.
Since the start of the second round of consultation on the plans for the 2017 election, the authorities have lost no time ballyhooing the “one person, one vote” format with catchy slogans like “Seize the opportunity”, “Your vote, gotta have it” and so on.
Chen Changzhi (陳昌智), deputy chairman of the Standing Committee of the Chinese National People’s Congress, has gone so far as hinting that opposing Leung equals challenging the central government.
Beijing lackeys, business tycoons and Leung’s supporters have joined in the pocket-it-first propaganda.
Yet recent public opinion polls, like the one conducted by Lingnan University, have found a noticeable increase among democracy advocates who insist that the Legislative Council must not pass Beijing’s proposal. This is a clear message to pan-democratic lawmakers.
Human Rights Watch concluded in its 2015 report that the human rights situation in China has deteriorated drastically since Xi Jinping became Communist Party chief in 2012, with ruthless, widespread suppression of dissidents, the intelligentsia, the media and the internet.
The non-governmental organization also expressed concern about Hong Kong, warning that another wave of mass protests will be “not at all surprising”, since the core issues remain unresolved.
This is consistent with Vice-President Li Yuanchao’s (李源潮) remarks that the struggle against Occupy Central is far from being ended and that “high drama” is yet to come.
On top of the electoral logjam, fresh skirmishes have been caused by old problems.
Residents in Tuen Mun and Sha Tin have joined the renewed movement to “recover their lost places” with chaotic, headline-making protests in malls against parallel traders from the mainland who have long been a source of trouble to locals.
Most people will agree our city is close to being in a state of confusion and havoc.
The usual cliché among local politicians and businessmen is that China is making steady progress and, as a special administrative region, Hong Kong will undoubtedly and automatically progress along with the nation.
Former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa is famous for his cant phrase “the better our nation is, the better Hong Kong will become (國家好，香港好)”.
And at one point, many Hongkongers were fooled by such sentiments — until China’s legislature handed down its retrogressive ruling on the 2017 election in August.
The Umbrella movement brought a wake-up call: the better China is, the less secure Hong Kong’s own way of doing things will become, and the richer China gets, the less Beijing will care about Hong Kong’s economy and the livelihood of its people.
Once China regards itself as a superpower, whether Hong Kong perishes or flourishes will be of no account to Beijing.
As Hongkongers try to save their city from the threats that face it, the only comment from the government is from Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor: “They are unrealistic.”
The Spring Festival should be an auspicious moment to look forward to a new year, yet when it comes to our city’s prospects, “bleak” — a word I hate to mention at the beginning of a year — is all I can think of.
Bleak, like the landscape of the city in the smog that constantly envelops it.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Feb. 24.
Translation by Frank Chen
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