22 October 2016
Protesters call on Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, derisively called "689", to step down in the July 1 march last year. Photo: HKEJ
Protesters call on Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, derisively called "689", to step down in the July 1 march last year. Photo: HKEJ

Are July 1 march organizers barking up the wrong tree?

As usual, the Civic Human Rights Front will organize a march on July 1, the anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule.

What’s strange is that a major theme of this year’s protest is “showdown against 689″, referring to Leung Chun-ying who garnered only 689 votes from the 1,200-member election committee to win the chief executive election in 2012.

It’s as if all of Hong Kong’s woes will vanish once CY Leung is booted out of office.

Hong Kong people are angry because of the way Beijing is implementing the “one country, two systems” policy.

They are angry at CY Leung, but he is only Beijing’s hatchet man. Certainly, once his term ends in 2017, or if he is kicked out even before that, Hong Kong will not suddenly turn into paradise.

To be sure, Civic Human Rights Front has chosen “Solidarity, defend Hong Kong and showdown against 689″ as the theme of this year’s protest.

That’s probably to focus public attention on CY Leung’s sins against the people, on the many ways he is destroying the city’s core values, on his attempts to turn Hong Kong into a police state, on his implementation of Beijing’s agenda at the expense of the people’s interests.

But Leung is just a low-ranking official in the broad scheme of Beijing politics. His authority to rule Hong Kong comes from Beijing, where the real power lies.

Over the past few months, the “anyone but CY” campaign has been growing in both pan-democratic and pro-establishment camps.

The Liberal Party, for example, has been outspoken in calling for Leung’s ouster, while the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, the leading pro-Beijing political party in the city, has been reluctant to endorse Leung for a second term.

During his recent visit to Hong Kong, Zhang Dejiang, a top Communist Party leader, was urged by pan-democrats to fire Leung for his poor governance record.

In short, a consensus appears to be forming that Hong Kong will be better off if Leung is removed from office.

That sort of thinking, however, seems to ignore the fact that Leung’s authority comes from the Communist Party, and it is Beijing’s misjudgment of Hong Kong that is forcing Hong Kong people to seek for a way out of Beijing’s control.

It was Beijing’s refusal to adopt a public nomination of the candidates for chief executive in the 2017 election that broke Hong Kong people’s trust in China, led to the rise of localism, and fueled the debate over Hong Kong independence.

While the Civic Human Rights Front apparently refuses to recognize Beijing as the source of anger among Hong Kong people, there are several new political organizations that are focusing on localism as their theme in this year’s July 1 march.

For example, Youngspiration, which was founded after the Occupy protests of 2014, said they won’t join the July 1 march because they do not agree with the choice of the theme for this year’s protest.

Instead, the group will set up counters along the route of the march to promote the idea of Hong Kong as an independent ethnic group with no links with China, and to educate the public on the need for self-determination after 2047.

This may be a bold move on the part of the young activists, but they feel that they should convince the public that it is Beijing’s wrong policies that are forcing Hong Kong to seek an exit from the “one country, two systems” policy.

Despite paying lip-service to the policy, Beijing has been trying to control Hong Kong in both official and non-official ways.

The decision of French cosmetics firm Lancôme to cancel a promotional event featuring Hong Kong pro-democracy pop singer Denise Ho is but one of the latest instances of Beijing’s attempts to manipulate the city’s affairs.

This is happening despite the central government’s commitment to respect Hong Kong’s way of life during the 50 years since it regained sovereignty over the city in 1997.

And so, with the anniversary of the handover approaching, it is but proper for those seeking to present the true meaning of July 1 to the people to recognize the real source of their unhappiness and frustration.

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EJ Insight writer

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