19 November 2019
Incoming Chief Executive Carrie Lam believes separatism in Hong Kong is merely a rhetoric among the absolute minority. Photo: Reuters
Incoming Chief Executive Carrie Lam believes separatism in Hong Kong is merely a rhetoric among the absolute minority. Photo: Reuters

Time to put separatism behind and get down to business

In less than two weeks’ time, our next chief executive, Carrie Lam, will be sworn in and, together with her new administration, they will open a new chapter in our city’s history.

For now, it might be too early to tell whether Lam will make a good leader in the next five years, but so far we have seen two good omens about her which may indicate that at least she and her new government won’t get off to a bad start on July 1 like her predecessor did five years ago.

The first good omen is that compared to Leung Chun-ying, who had already been engulfed by scandals over the illegal structures found at his own home, and who had provoked thousands of protesters to take to the streets and demand his resignation even before he officially took office, Carrie Lam seems to be a lot more popular among the public at this moment.

According to a recent poll conducted by the Hong Kong University, Lam’s approval rating stands at 54.7 percent, its highest level since March when she was elected the new chief executive. Her relatively high popularity suggests that Hong Kong people are eager to give their first ever female CE an opportunity to show them what she is made of.

The second good omen was created by Lam herself. During an interview she gave to former Legco president Jasper Tsang, Lam said that most people in Hong Kong, including the pan-democrats, have faith in “one country, two systems”; all they are demanding is to preserve “two systems” more properly.

On the other hand, she said she has strong reservations about whether separatism truly poses a real threat to “one country, two systems” like some people have suggested.

As she put it, separatism remains an impractical and infeasible idea proposed by a very small bunch of radicals, while the overwhelming majority of the public are against it. As such, she believes separatism in Hong Kong is a rhetoric among the minority and doesn’t constitute any cause for concern.

We believe Lam’s opinion about the so-called “growth” of separatism in Hong Kong is rational, objective and healthy. In contrast, Leung Chun-ying has entirely, or perhaps deliberately, blown it completely out of proportion over the past couple of years.

In fact, we are more than delighted to learn that our next chief executive hasn’t lost her head nor her sense of perspective over the issue of separatism in Hong Kong, if we can call it an issue at all, which is undoubtedly a good omen.

It is because her proper and sensible assessment of this issue, as well as her ability to keep things in proportion will help put an end to the controversy surrounding the false proposition of secession from the mainland and restore balance to “one country, two systems”.

In fact, the hype surrounding the growth of separatism has led to overreaction and misunderstanding in both Beijing and Hong Kong, thereby leading to Beijing’s toughened stance on our city in recent years on one hand, and deteriorating public confidence in “one country, two systems” in Hong Kong on the other.

As Jasper Tsang put it during the interview, as the separatism hype continues to heat up, Beijing has become increasingly under the impression that things in Hong Kong are spinning out of control.

And the oath-taking saga surrounding the Youngspiration duo in Legco last year only further reinforced Beijing’s impression that separatism poses a real threat.

As a result, it took quick and heavy-handed actions to intervene and curb the rise of so-called “separatism”, thereby arousing growing suspicion and apprehension among people in Hong Kong that Beijing is deviating from the original intention of “one country, two systems”. This is how much distrust across the border has grown.

As a matter of fact, some key Beijing officials almost share a similar view with Lam on this matter. For example, both Wang Guangya, director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office and Wang Zhenmin, director of the legal department of Beijing’s Liaison Office, have both dismissed separatism in Hong Kong as “negligible” and “insignificant”, let alone an imminent threat.

And there are numbers to support this view, and numbers don’t lie. According to a recent poll conducted by the Chinese University, only 11 percent of respondents said they are in favor of separatism, down 6 percentage points from last year.

In particular, among the 15 to 24 age group, the number of those who support separatism has plummeted by 24 percentage points compared with last year. Altogether, 70 percent of respondents are for preserving “one country, two systems”.

It is our sincere hope that Carrie Lam’s correct and rational assessment and understanding of separatism can help put an end to this meaningless controversy and the ongoing ideological witch hunt against separatists mounted by the pro-Beijing camp, so as to put “one country, two systems” back in working order again.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 19

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal