Going all out to defend freedom and the rule of law in HK

September 11, 2015 17:01
Professor Johannes Chan was picked by HKU's search committee for a pro vice chancellor position, but the appointment has been delayed over and over again. Photo: HKEJ

Under the orders of the central government's liaison office in Hong Kong, Wen Wei Po and Ta Kung Pao have published at least 120 articles against Professor Johannes Chan Man-mun over the past three months.

The message of the two leading local pro-Beijing newspapers is clear: the anti-China and subversive law professor must never be named a pro vice chancellor at the University of Hong Kong.

The two papers even tried to put pressure on the Hong Kong government through their editorials and demanded that the Independent Commission Against Corruption probe Chan.

They claim he might have been involved in bribery and dereliction of duty by allegedly allowing his colleague, Associate Professor Benny Tai Yiu-ting, to accept illegal political donations to carry out Occupy Central last year.

Despite the fact that the indigenous communists looked ferocious and intimidating and that Beijing mobilized its proxies to vote against two non-binding motions by the HKU Alumni Concern Group, one urging the university council to appoint a pro vice chancellor within 30 days, the two motions were surprisingly passed by a 80 percent majority in the referendum called by the HKU convocation on Sept. 1.

In contrast, a motion by Lawrence Pang Wang-kee, head of a group of pro-establishment alumni, only received 20 percent of the votes.

The result spoke volumes, and justice once again prevailed.

Even though the motions are non-binding, they represent the general opinion of the majority of the HKU alumni on the appointment scandal.

No matter how much pro-Beijing proxies like Lo Chung-mau, Arthur Li Kwok-cheung and Leonie Ki Man-fung are throwing their weight around in the HKU council, they just cannot afford to ignore the voice of the HKU alumni.

I was there on the night of the referendum, and 90 percent of those who spoke at the meeting were in favor of the two motions put forward by the concern group.

Although I knew the motions would be passed, I didn’t expect the results to be an overwhelming “yes”.

History has again proven that once the conscience of the people is awakened, it is often difficult to predict the outcome of their actions, even for the biggest optimist.

The reason why the HKU alumni voted overwhelmingly “yes” to the two motions was probably not because most of them wanted Chan to get the job of the pro vice chancellor, nor was it because they were successfully swayed by the Civic Party, which was accused by people like Pang of pulling the strings behind the scenes.

The underlying reason they cast their votes in favour of the two motions was because everybody felt compelled to defend the long-standing core values of our city: freedom and the rule of law.

Since the handover, whenever a major political move by Beijing or the Hong Kong government threatened these core values, it always provoked a strong backlash among Hongkongers.

Examples include the massive march on July 1, 2003, sparked by the government's attempt to legislate provisions on Article 23 of the Basic Law, the public outrage caused by the white paper in June last year from the State Council that tried to overrule the principle of “one country, two systems”, and the Occupy movement, driven by the National People's Congress Standing Committee's resolution on Aug. 31 last year.

Beijing and Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s interference with the appointment of key personnel of HKU is just the latest example of the willingness of the people of Hong Kong to go to any lengths to defend the core values that define our city.

As the most prestigious tertiary education institution in Hong Kong, HKU is one of the most valuable legacies of the British colonial period.

For the past 100 years, it has continued to be the cradle of generation after generation of the social elite  who have contributed significantly to the prosperity of Hong Kong and who have been true believers in the universal values of rationality, tolerance, freedom, equality, democracy and procedural justice.

Today these values are still very much treasured by HKU's students and alumni, who are going to pass on the torch to their successors.

Interestingly, although many prominent figures in Hong Kong are pro-Beijing, they have never been willing to play a leading role in the recent “Cultural Revolution-style” onslaughts mounted by the indigenous communists.

Instead, they prefer someone else, mostly low-life thugs, to do the dirty work.

Many of the elite share the same set of values with the rest of us and are well aware that they would only disgrace themselves in the public eye if they ever spearheaded any of these uncivilized communist-style attacks.

Unless the current generation of Hongkongers all die off and are completely replaced by the “new Hongkongers” who settled in the city after the conclusion of the Sino-British Joint Declaration in 1984, freedom and the rule of law will remain the guardians of our city in the foreseeable future.

Any attempt by the communists to undermine or dilute these core values is bound to fail.

This article first appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Sept. 9.

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal columnist