27 October 2016
Leung Chun-ying's inability to defend Hong Kong's autonomy under "one country, two systems" has played an important part in the rise of nativism in our city. Photo: Bloomberg
Leung Chun-ying's inability to defend Hong Kong's autonomy under "one country, two systems" has played an important part in the rise of nativism in our city. Photo: Bloomberg

How Beijing and Leung are alienating our young people

In a recent interview with the South China Morning Post, Feng Wei, deputy director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, gave his views on the recent Mong Kok clashes and Legislative Council by-election.

Edward Leung Tin-kei of Hong Kong Indigenous, a localist group, took an impressive 66,000 votes in the election.

Feng said the central government is digging from an objective perspective into the underlying social causes that have led to the rise of nativism in Hong Kong in recent years.

I am delighted to see that Beijing can still keep a cool head and exercise restraint even in the face of the touch-and-go situation in Hong Kong, unlike our own chief executive, who still simple-mindedly embraces a “me-against-the-enemy” mentality with regard to the Mong Kok clashes.

I sincerely hope that the positive response from Feng is a signal that Beijing is starting to adopt a more flexible and pragmatic approach to Hong Kong affairs.

Anyone who’s been keeping an eye on what has been happening in our city over the past few years can tell that the rapid rise of radical nativism in Hong Kong has its roots in the fact that our young people are getting increasingly discontented with Beijing overemphasizing “one country” while deliberately belittling “two systems”, and with the Hong Kong government’s failure to defend our autonomy, freedom and way of life, guaranteed under the Basic Law.

As a result, more and more young people who were at first skeptical about “one country, two systems” are now growing completely disillusioned with this principle.

I remember on Oct. 1, 2012, dozens of young people staged a protest in front of Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong, waving the old colonial flag and putting up a banner that read: “We are Hongkongers, not Chinese”.

After that, I wrote an article pointing out it was abnormal for a bunch of young kids who were either not even born or still very young when the colonial government was still in power to feel so strongly attached to the colonial symbol.

I urged the Leung Chun-ying administration to take this abnormal phenomenon seriously.

In my article, I also pointed out that our chief executive has done several things that have given the public an impression that he is belittling himself and giving our autonomy away to Beijing bit by bit.

For example, Leung went to the liaison office to thank it for its support the morning after he had been elected chief executive.

He accompanied Li Gang, deputy director of the liaison office, on a visit to the victims of the Lamma Island ferry collision tragedy in October 2012.

As Li announced to the gathered media emergency measures to help the victims, Leung remained silent at his side.

All this, I said, gave the impression that it was Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong, not the chief executive, who has the final word on our city’s affairs.

And Leung’s image as a yes-man has continued to deepen four years into his term of office.

The recent mysterious disappearance of the bookseller Li Bo and the sluggish response from our administration further undermined the confidence of the public in our chief executive’s ability to uphold our city’s autonomy or even protect our personal safety.

In the latest opinion poll conducted by the University of Hong Kong, almost 90 percent of respondents aged between 18 and 29 wanted to get rid of Leung.

Besides pointing fingers at some of our citizens, accusing them of not being grateful to the “motherland” for its economic support for our city, and demanding that patriotism be promoted more intensely among our young people, have Beijing and the Hong Kong government done anything concrete and positive to restore our youth’s confidence in “one country, two systems”?

Professor Lau Siu-kai, former chief adviser of the Central Policy Unit, recently gave a rather insightful view on the current state of affairs in Hong Kong.

He said the soil in which nativism in our city is growing would be much less fertile if our chief executive and his administration could stop giving the impression that they were carrying out Beijing’s secret agenda to destroy our system and values.

Doesn’t Professor Lau’s comment speak volumes about the part our chief executive has played in giving rise to nativism and even separatism in our city?

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on March 23.

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Former Secretary for the Civil Service of the Hong Kong Government

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