Date
11 December 2017
Senior Chinese official Li Fei says advocacy of separatism on campus has much to do with the city not enacting Article 23 of the Basic Law. Photo: AFP/Reuters
Senior Chinese official Li Fei says advocacy of separatism on campus has much to do with the city not enacting Article 23 of the Basic Law. Photo: AFP/Reuters

Pathetic propaganda

If I want to start each day in a good humor I really should not read China Daily. Five minutes into it and my teeth are grinding. So, you ask, reasonably, “Why do you do it?”

Quite simply because if you are opposed to something, whatever it may be, it is essential that you know what the opposition is saying and how their mind works.

Now, I know that this runs counter to the current fashion in universities in the United States and England where the students demand not to be exposed to any views with which they may disagree; a more moronic approach to intelligent debate I have yet to hear.

All rational discussion is based on thesis and antithesis. If I don’t know my opponent’s argument, how can I meet and counter it? Debate is not a unilateral series of propositions in a vacuum. In the vernacular of the fairground, if you do not put up an Aunt Sally, how can I knock it down?

Of late, there has been an unhappy practice among some of Hong Kong’s students to shout down those with whom they disagree. I have little doubt that those making the loudest protests are also the leading protagonists of freedom of speech. Sadly, their minds are so closeted that they ignore the innate conflict between their philosophy and their actions.

What purpose is served in opposing the theory and practice of communism in principle but parroting it in one’s own behavior?

Perhaps the most powerful argument against coercive suppression of thoughts and ideas is mankind’s legacy of courageous individuals who have refused to abandon their principles in the face of torture and incarceration by autocratic governments.

Thoughts and ideas cannot be destroyed or invalidated by drowning them out or physically suppressing them. Throughout history the great political thinkers have demonstrated the truth of this. Twenty-seven years of imprisonment did not erase the integrity of Mandela’s opposition to apartheid. Proscription and imprisonment did not extinguish Gandhi’s advocacy of an independent India.

It is a lamentable fact that currently we live in a world in which the extreme polarities of political thought and action have become the norm. Quiet diplomacy has been cast aside for the infantile invective of such as Trump, Kim Jong-un and Erdogan.

Yet these megaphone demagogues are not nearly as dangerous as the insidious creep of political double-speak, subconscious brainwashing and, worst of all, a law drafted in such vague terms as to be capable of any interpretation those invoking it wish to put upon it.

The Jesuits teach their novices the art of winning an argument. Probably the most important rule is to make your opponent define precisely what it is that they propose, and the second essential rule is never to permit your opponent to stray from his proposition. The secret lies in insisting upon and adhering to definition.

The spurious strength and inherent flaw in communist reasoning is its addiction to terms and phrases so vague as to defy definition and permit its proponents to wander at large through a borderless arena.

Beijing’s current onslaught on the “two systems” element in Hong Kong’s constitutional status is aimed at frightening Carrie Lam’s administration to knuckle down to the imposition of a format of Article 23 which will erode the SAR’s unique freedom.

Underlying the whole approach is the pressure to give daily ascendancy to the “one country” element and marginalize the genius of “two systems”.

The irony and the absurdity is that those young Hongkongers who advocate independence from China are frightening Xi Jinping’s minions to take a steamroller to crush a nut. Conversely, Beijing’s disproportionate reaction lends credence to the youthful cry for separation. It is, objectively, a vicious circle.

It is trite reasoning that a bad idea, given exposure to open analysis, will die a natural death. Held up to the light, the flaws and fissures in the fabric of the proposition are there for all to see.

Notwithstanding the understandable wishes of youthful zeal, the realities dictate that a political status for Hong Kong independent of the People’s Republic of China is a non-starter. Had it been truly viable, Margaret Thatcher would have handed it its freedom as the UK had done with every other liberated colony.

China’s rich history seems to indicate that only ruthless autocrats, whether emperors or dictators thinly legitimized by rubber-stamp legislatures, can govern it. This gives rise to a mindset that cannot afford dissent of any color. It is this mindset that sets it apart from the Hong Kong Chinese who, by virtue of their environmental upbringing and education, are not so intellectually constrained.

If communism with Chinese characteristics was so sound a political system, it would not need to be imposed by force. Which, in essence, is why Hong Kong’s free thinkers object to the imposition of any format of Article 23 which would have the effect of subjecting the people of the SAR to the direct jurisdiction of Beijing.

Equally regrettably, our chief executive and her cabinet of mediocrities provide no protection against the vicissitudes of Chinese communist lawmaking. Like cats on a hot tin roof, they are obsessed with not taking a step that, in their fearful perception, would offend their masters in the North.

Then there are Hong Kong’s Politburo Standing Committee adherents who genuflect so deeply that they demonstrate they could not possibly have a spine.

But let me return to the sophistry propagandized in China Daily.

When Li Fei, the chairman of the Hong Kong SAR Basic Law Committee under the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, said that advocacy of separatism on campus had much to do with the city not enacting Article 23, could that be interpreted any way other than what Beijing requires is a draconian prohibition against freedom of expression?

But this is the product of a system so insecure in itself it is hypersensitive to anything that is not automatically complicit and deferential. How else could anyone justify the nonsense that “absent Article 23 Hong Kong would become an easy victim used by foreign forces to attack the nation’s overall security”?

Rimsky Yuen, misleadingly referred to as “Hong Kong’s justice chief”, is reported as saying that “it is appropriate to enact the national security law (note ‘the’ not ‘a’) with full consideration of the city’s existing system and legal framework, so the legislative process will be suitable for Hong Kong’s situation”.

If you are able to make sense of this vacuous garbage, you’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din.

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CG

EJ Insight contributor

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