Date
16 August 2017
Joshua Wong, secretary general of Demosistō, has publicly stated that he has no interest  in going to the mainland because Hong Kong is his only home. Photo: Reuters
Joshua Wong, secretary general of Demosistō, has publicly stated that he has no interest in going to the mainland because Hong Kong is his only home. Photo: Reuters

Why Beijing’s olive branch has come too little too late

The fact that Robert Chow, head of the anti-Occupy Movement organization Silent Majority, was suddenly summoned to Beijing and asked to pass on the important message that the central authorities are going to issue permanent mainland travel permits for Hong Kong and Macau residents, or the so-called Home Return Permit (HRP), to former or incumbent pan-democratic lawmakers, has raised some eyebrows in Hong Kong.

The traditional indigenous leftist faction are dismayed that Chow, of whom they are disdainful because of his insufficient and unimpressive resume as a “patriot”, was given such a warm and high-profile welcome in Beijing.

They think a political hack like him doesn’t deserve such a special treatment.

On the other hand, the pan-democrats are also unhappy about the fact that Chow has taken all the credit for getting the green light from Beijing to issuing permanent HRPs to them when in fact he was only the messenger.

There have been calls over the years for Beijing to return permanent HRPs to the pan-democrats, who had been denied entry to the mainland since the June 4 crackdown in 1989.

However, these calls have largely fallen on deaf ears.

For example, Jasper Tsang, the former Legco president, had made numerous attempts during his term in office to persuade Beijing to grant the pan-democrats permanent HRPs. Yet, all his efforts had proven futile.

Even his apprentice, Starry Lee, the current chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), has openly called on Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to take care of this long-drawn-out matter only to receive a lukewarm response.

However, it turns out all it takes to solve this seemingly unsolvable matter that has already lingered on for decades is a piece of written approval from our Beijing bosses.

And one should not have been surprised by Beijing’s sudden friendly gesture to the pan-democrats because Beijing is determined to root out separatism before it can ever take hold in Hong Kong. To do this, Beijing needs to form a united front across the political spectrum.

That is why Beijing has suddenly extended the olive branch to the pan-democrats by agreeing to grant them permanent HRPs, in an attempt to win them over and let them become part of the united front in the war against separatism.

The problem is, such friendly gesture from Beijing has come too little and too late.

The indigenous and pro-independence factions have replaced the traditional pan-democrats as the standard-bearer of the pro-democracy movement.

And these young new-generation activists are completely disillusioned with Beijing and feeling absolutely no bond with anything associated with the mainland.

For example, Joshua Wong, secretary general of the Demosistō, has publicly stated that he has no interest in going to the mainland because Hong Kong is his only home.

So, the only people that are thrilled to learn that they can have their permanent HRPs back are probably the old-school pan-democrats, or the so-called “June 4 generation”.

The problem is, most of these old-timers such as Emily Lau, Martin Lee and Lee Cheuk-yan have already taken a backseat in local politics and lost their influence in the pro-democracy movement.

Giving them back their permanent HRPs might be a monumental gesture that marks the eventual reconciliation between Beijing and the old-school pan-democrats, yet such gesture is of little practical value because these pan-democrats are completely washed-up and can no longer rally the pro-democracy camp.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Dec. 2

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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RT/RA

A columnist at the Hong Kong Economic Journal

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