23 October 2016
NPC chairman Zhang Dejiang says Hong Kong people should stay focused on economic development and not be distracted with political issues. Photo: CNSA
NPC chairman Zhang Dejiang says Hong Kong people should stay focused on economic development and not be distracted with political issues. Photo: CNSA

Beijing still has no clue what’s making us so discontented

As usual, during this year’s National People’s Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the so-called people’s representatives from Hong Kong were keeping their heads down, busy taking notes.

Then they would read the supreme leader’s decrees and words of wisdom out loud to reporters.

In one session, NPC chairman Zhang Dejiang commented on the recent Mong Kok clashes, saying economic development is the only source of Hong Kong’s strength and therefore we should stay focused on it and forget about politics and everything else.

Economic issues should not be politicized and that young people who threw stones at the police and set fire to sidewalk trash cans in Mong Kok on the night of Feb. 8 did so mainly because they were discontented about not being able to buy their own home or get a decent job, Zhang was reported as saying.

Zhang called these social problems “no big deal” because these can happen in any other major city in the world.

He said he was confident that Hong Kong can figure out a solution.

Ironically, a few days after Zhang’s comments hit the headlines in Hong Kong, a local newspaper reported that some of the suspects ín the Mong Kok violence are from upper middle class families.

Obviously, they were not there to show their “discontent” about not being able to afford a home.

There must have been something else that ignited their anger.

To me, it is absolutely mind-boggling that even to this day, Beijing officials still insist on blaming social discontent and conflict in Hong Kong on young people not being able to afford their home or get a decent job.

Worse, they seem to blame all of Hong Kong’s troubles on the poor economy, skyrocketing property prices and poor salaries.

Are they truly that ignorant about our sentiment and what we really want?

Or are they simply trying to sweep the dirt under the carpet by oversimplifying our problems?

Perhaps one shouldn’t be surprised by Zhang’s remarks. After all, he got his university degree from North Korea.

But where in the world did Zhang and his peers get their idea? 

Flash back to 2010 and you have your answer.

That year, Beijing sent a delegation to Singapore to observe its parliamentary election.

The Beijing officials were stunned by the disappointing result of the ruling People’s Action Party which lost a significant number of seats to the opposition.

They couldn’t figure out why Singaporeans, especially the younger generation, were unhappy with the PAP when the economy was booming, unemployment was at a record low and young couples were being offered subsidized housing.

The reason why they couldn’t understand is a no-brainer: after all this time, China’s ruling elite still have the same mindset as Mao Zedong: human rights are about feeding the people and as long as they have enough food, clothing and shelter, society will be hunky-dory.

But the harsh fact is that it’s not. After society has reached a certain level of economic prosperity and people enjoy a higher standard of living and material comforts, they start looking for something more spiritual and fundamental to their well-being — values, freedom, civil rights, social justice, dignity, equality and in Hong Kong’s case, universal suffrage.

This pattern applies to all societies throughout history and the reason for that is simple: human beings have the ability to think, pursue their social and political aspirations and defend their values. These are the qualities that set us apart from other animals.

These are also the same qualities that have motivated Hong Kong people to take to the streets on every July 1 since 2003 to march for democracy and inspired them to join the 2014 Occupy Movement.

These also played a part in the Mong Kok clashes.

People are indignant at our unjust political system that favors rich people and big companies, erodes rule of law and civil liberties and allows Beijing to meddle in our affairs.

In other words, all these recent actions and movements were not economically motivated, contrary to what Beijing thinks.

The sentiment that drives them will continue unless Beijing ditches its Stalinist mindset and stops treating people like livestock.

Is it really that difficult for our Beijing bosses to understand?

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