27 October 2016
The recent controversy over the use of the term "national" in promotional materials of a drama production indicates that some of our civil servants no longer act within reason. Photo: Internet
The recent controversy over the use of the term "national" in promotional materials of a drama production indicates that some of our civil servants no longer act within reason. Photo: Internet

When kissing-up triumphs over reason

It seems there is no end to troubles for our city under Leung Chun-ying’s rule.

Recently, according to media reports, an official of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD), which sponsored a local drama production, asked the theater company to delete the word “national” from the profile of the group’s art administrator in the promotional materials for the event.

Since the art administrator in question graduated from the Taipei National University of the Arts, the official who made that request was apparently worried that the word “national” might not conform to Beijing’s official position that Taiwan is not a sovereign state.

What that official didn’t expect is, his tiny little request has inadvertently created a public relations disaster that would soon evolve into a “diplomatic” dispute between Hong Kong and Taiwan.

I would say this “glitch”, as some referred to it after it had come to light, could have been by far the most stupid and embarrassing thing the Leung Chun-ying administration has ever done.

Thanks to the stupidity, excessive caution and micro-management of our ignorant and overpaid government officials, our city has once again become the laughingstock of the entire world.

This latest fiasco is indeed comparable in the degree of ludicrousness to another world-class subject of mockery created by the very same department several years ago when it banned the exhibition of a full-size replica of the Statue of David in public area on grounds of obscenity.

I really feel deeply embarrassed by such a dumb act taken by our government and ashamed of being a Hongkonger because this incident has not only hurt the feelings of our Taiwanese friends, but has also demonstrated to the entire world that our city is being run by a bunch of shoe-shiners and eunuchs who are just too eager to please their Beijing bosses even at the expense of the most basic decency and common sense.

Perhaps the LCSD official who kicked up a fuss about the word “national” should indeed be made to take a crash course in the history of cross-strait relations and the details of the so-called “1992 consensus” (九二共識), because obviously he is completely ignorant about Beijing’s official stance on Taiwan and the meaning of “One China” adopted by our supreme leaders.

According to the “1992 consensus” officially endorsed by both Beijing and Taipei, leaders of both sides of the strait have agreed on the principle of “One China, Different Interpretations”, under which one can either pledge allegiance to the People’s Republic of China or the Republic of China, as long as they agree that there is only one China.

As far as the Taipei National University of the Arts is concerned, the term “national” obviously refers to the Republic of China, which means there is still only one China, so what on earth is wrong with using this term?

Perhaps that official should also be taught about the “Seven Principles of Qian’s” (“錢七條”), which have laid down the basic guidelines that govern Hong Kong-Taiwan relations after 1997, and of which I bet he has never heard.

Officially known as the “Basic Principles and Policies on Hong Kong’s Issues Concerning Taiwan” (香港涉台問題基本原則與政策) and announced by former Chinese foreign minister Qian Qishen (錢其琛) in 1995, this so-called “Seven Principles” have set the tone for the relations between Hong Kong and Taiwan after the handover, under which the HKSAR government cannot engage in any official contact nor conclude any agreement with Taipei without the authorization and approval of Beijing.

However, when it comes to cultural, sport, academic, religious and other non-political exchanges or activities on civilian levels, the “Seven Principles” stipulate that they can continue in the same manner as before 1997 as long as they are carried out on the basis of mutual respect and mutual non-interference.

Drama production obviously falls into the category of cultural activities, and therefore according to Qian, who was often dubbed the “Diplomatic Czar of China” when he was in office, is politics-free and shouldn’t be subject to any political scrutiny by the Hong Kong authorities.

So, in conclusion, the drama production itself and its promotional materials are completely in line with both the “1992 consensus” and the “Seven Principles”, and therefore I don’t see any reason why the LCSD had to interfere in the whole thing.

The official who gave the order to remove the word “national” must have been either some wise guy who thought he was doing a great job or some idiot who was completely ignorant about the two important themes mentioned above, or both.

In fact, what is most alarming about this man-made PR disaster is that it demonstrates the mentality of playing it safe, self-censorship and the obsession with upholding political correctness that concerns anything about the “motherland” have become so dominant among our civil servants that some of them no longer act within reason, and they are just too eager to kiss up to Beijing and sometimes are not even afraid of overdoing it.

Chris Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong, said in his last Policy Address in October 1996 that “my anxiety is not that this community’s autonomy would be usurped by Peking, but that it could be given away bit by bit by some people in Hong Kong”.

Unfortunately, it appears his prediction has come true.

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