22 September 2019
I do see a great deal of hope in Wong Zi-fung, because he dares to walk the walk to make a difference, unlike the  HKU alumni who only talk the talk when their university's autonomy is under  threat. Photo: HKEJ
I do see a great deal of hope in Wong Zi-fung, because he dares to walk the walk to make a difference, unlike the HKU alumni who only talk the talk when their university's autonomy is under threat. Photo: HKEJ

Leung getting his claws into other universities is imminent

Attempts by the Leung Chun-ying regime to take control of nine local universities (including the Hong Kong Institute of Education which will gain university status soon) has become all too apparent.

I also learned that Joshua Wong Chi-fung, convenor of the student group Scholarism, has just filed for a judicial review in his bid to lower the age requirement for those seeking an elective office to 18.

What a remarkable and brilliant move that was! Compared to the bunch of aging Hong Kong University (HKU) alumni who staged a useless silent march on campus to defend their so-called academic freedom, I really see a great deal of hope in this courageous young man. While old guys just talk the talk, Joshua Wong actually dares to walk the walk to make a difference.

In fact, no one is more legitimate or convincing than Wong to file a judicial review over the minimum age of those standing for elections, because he has already declared that he is going to run for public office, and he is deprived of his right to do so because of his age. That’s why he is taking the case to the High Court in a bid to change the law.

In other words, he is a major stakeholder on this issue whose civil rights are being infringed. Therefore, he has every reason to appeal to the court.

With the Legco election still one year away, if the court eventually rules in his favor, the government would still have sufficient time to change the law. Even if the court rules against him, the case would still raise the awareness among teenagers about their political rights. So either way, Joshua Wong’s efforts would pay off.

In contrast, the so-called “silent march” pulled by HKU alumni was nothing more than a reunion party with a seemingly noble theme. These condescending elites seemed to take pleasure in letting their self-inflated egos write checks their ability couldn’t cash.

Despite the fact that 4,000 people turned up at the event and they got a lot of media coverage on that single day, so what? Such a one-hit wonder would never make any difference whatsoever given the notoriously short attention span of Hong Kong people.

The next day all those 4,000 “elites” would go back to work and school as usual as if nothing had ever happened, and I bet the majority of the public won’t even remember there was such an event at all after a week or so.

Paying lip service to a noble cause is cheap, and everybody knows how to do that. However, in the case of the HKU alumni, the fact that they were pulling such nonsense only indicates their sheer hypocrisy rather than their righteousness.

All they are good at is pulling publicity stunts instead of putting up a real fight, and what usually follows is a big round of applause they give themselves and the three cheers from their ignorant supporters.

In early 2013, when the future of our political reform still hanged in the balance, several HKU law academics openly called upon the public to embark on massive civil disobedience actions to put pressure on Leung Chun-ying’s regime.

Yet it was that same bunch of academics who had cold feet about carrying on with the struggle after our courageous students had answered their call to action by taking to the streets in face of police batons and tear gas, and did everything they could to hold back the students and ask them to call it quits.

It was also the same bunch of HKU academics who immediately dissociated themselves from the students who had stormed the HKU Council meeting as a protest against its ridiculous decision.

As the saying goes, people always show their true colours in times of crisis, and the HKU people simply demonstrated the art of hypocrisy in the most vivid way.

The Machiavellian Leung Chun-ying didn’t even bother to hide his intention to seize control of our universities one by one. Shortly after the case of Professor Johannes Chan Man-mun’s appointment was closed, Leung immediately appointed several pro-Beijing figures to the governing board of the Lingnan University.

On the other hand, in order to avoid standing up and being counted, the Chinese University Council even refused to take a clear stance on academic freedom and the autonomy of tertiary institutions.

It seems my nightmare is coming true: not that our universities’ autonomy would be usurped by Leung Chun-ying openly, but that it would be given away bit by bit by some Beijing proxies and shoe shiners sitting on their governing boards.

So is it possible that the staff and students of our nine universities can keep themselves away from the claws of the dictators and keep their campus free from political interference for good? The answer is “yes”, let’s stage another Occupy Movement!

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct. 13.

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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HKEJ columnist