Hong Kong is a city that enjoys freedom of thought, expression and belief, creating a diversified society that supports its growth as an international metropolis.
However, these freedoms that we value are being eroded as the government stresses the importance of patriotism, that the interest of the motherland should override our individual freedoms.
Jeffrey Lam, a pro-Beijing member of the Legislative Council and the Executive Council, stressed this point in his remarks during a talk show on Commercial Radio on Sunday.
He said since Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China and Leung Chun-ying is the city’s chief executive appointed by China, Hong Kong people should support Leung to rule the city according to law.
“It’s unfair to society if we don’t support him in ruling Hong Kong just because we don’t like him,” Lam said.
It’s not surprising that a pro-Beijing politician will seek to support the legitimacy of Leung’s rule in Hong Kong.
But from the point of view of the people who cherish their freedom, Lam’s reasoning smacks of an unwelcome intrusion into their individual right to support or oppose Leung as chief executive.
In fact, many Hong Kong people are becoming increasingly disappointed and frustrated with Leung’s administration of the city for the past three and a half years.
The core reason for his unpopularity is his abuse of power. And his abuse of power is seen in his administration’s focus on marginalizing the opposition, and efforts to cement Beijing’s influence over every aspect of Hong Kong life.
We don’t need to go too far. Let’s just have a look at the news headlines last Friday:
1) Leung appoints two pro-Beijing and anti-Occupy campaign lawyers as council members of Lingnan University.
2) The governing body of Chinese University of Hong Kong refuses to issue a statement upholding the school’s academic independence.
3) Hong Kong Post Office insists on covering the Royal cyphers on some vintage postboxes across the territory, saying the insignias of British colonial rule are not appropriate to show in Hong Kong now.
4) Pro-Beijing lawmakers dominate the chairmanship of Legislative Council panels.
Let’s take the appointment of university council members as an example. It is true that under Hong Kong law, the chief executive is the chancellor of all government-funded universities, a situation that harks back to the colonial era.
But why was there no controversy over such appointments before 1997?
Because before the handover, the governor had seen to it that the independence of the individual universities, their academic freedom, was respected.
In the current case, it is as plain as the nose on CY Leung’s face that he is bestowing these appointments as political rewards for his supporters.
The two new Lingnan University council members have shown their loyalty to the chief executive by opposing last year’s Occupy protests. One of them is a lawyer responsible for filing an injunction to clear an “Occupy zone” in Mong Kok.
With their appointments, the new council members will be in a position to help ensure that CY Leung critics do not get the upper hand in influencing the direction of the university.
It is this predilection to abuse power that has prompted the Hong Kong Federation of Students to call for a referendum seeking to abolish the system that makes the chief executive the chancellor of government-funded universities.
The objective is to uphold academic independence and academic freedom, for which CY Leung has shown little respect.
CY Leung may deny it, but it is clear to many that the rejection of the appointment of Johannes Chan as a pro vice chancellor of the University of Hong Kong is the result of his political intervention.
Chan’s case has opened a Pandora’s box of similar academic appointments and interventions, leading to the belief that CY Leung is actively monitoring the affairs of educational institutions, which have become hotbeds of opposition, to ensure that critics are marginalized and Beijing’s authority is promoted on campuses.
This political intervention is reflected in the number of pro-Beijing politicians and scholars who have been appointed council members in local universities.
Another evidence of this abuse of power is the plan of the Hong Kong Post Office to remove all the vintage postal boxes with the British royal cyphers.
This decision, obviously with the imprimatur of CY Leung, is quite puzzling because the 59 vintage postal boxes have been here for so many decades and doing no harm to anyone at all.
The post office said it is “politically incorrect” to keep the royal insignia when the city is now under Chinese rule.
The government, represented by the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau, told Hongkong Post that it is not appropriate to show the royal cyphers now.
People cannot help but wonder: Why is it now appropriate to remove those insignias? Why didn’t the government do so right after China resumed sovereignty over Hong Kong on 1 July 1997?
The truth is that the postal boxes have been a part of Hong Kong history, and we have the duty to preserve such historical reminders. Only the most insecure of governments will think that those postboxes represent a challenge to their legitimate rule.
But while they may not be throwing a challenge to Beijing, those innocent postal boxes do remind people of the good old days under the British rule, when the city was being administered by British-appointed governors who did their best to improve our economy and livelihood.
And as they remind remind us of the pleasant days of yore, they offer a stark contrast to the current state of affairs where the chief executive is more interested in playing political tricks with Beijing authorities than promoting the welfare of Hong Kong people.
Still, there will be politicians like Lam who not only profess undying loyalty to CY Leung but also exhort other people to support him, regardless of how he uses his authority and power.
But Hong Kong people know better than that. They know how to think independently. And though they may accept Beijing’s rule over Hong Kong, they don’t necessarily support CY Leung.
Those are two completely different issues.
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