The real & highly dangerous meaning of 'decolonization' campaign

September 26, 2015 08:06
A poster put up near an Occupy site last year by pro-democracy activists says the rigid attitude of Hong Kong's current administration is ruining the city. Photo: EJ Insight

The anti-democrats have discovered a new mantra – the need for "decolonization" in Hong Kong. This was recently advocated by Chen Zuoer, the former deputy head of Beijing’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, and echoed by the usual bunch of local sycophants who search for a wisp of wind from up North so they can turn it into a bellowing breeze down here.

Unsurprisingly Chen declined to elaborate on what he meant by Hong Kong's stubborn refusal to accept decolonization because, of course, the term is largely meaningless in its self but carries a clear message. The message being that Hong Kong should stop foolishly clinging to the ideas supposedly attached to the old regime, such as rule of law, freedom of speech and representative government.

However even Chen is aware that these principles are highly valued by the people of Hong Kong. Therefore it has become necessary to cast a shadow over their meaning by implying that they are colonial relics, no longer fit for use in the shiny new age of reunification with the Motherland.
This new campaign to diminish the principles that are the cornerstone of Hong Kong’s unique and much cherished identity is more dangerous than it at first appears to be.

The biggest danger lies in the attempt to paint Hong Kong’s principles in the colors of subversion because if these values can be depicted as being somehow alien and remnants of the old regime this also makes them culpable of being described as subversive. What follows from this is the pending enactment of Article 23 of the Basic Law, requiring the SAR to draw up anti-subversion laws of a kind that were scuttled by widespread protests that led to the downfall of the first SAR administration.

Calls for the rapid enactment of these laws are growing and fueled by the anti-democrats' mistaken belief that they defeated the Umbrella Movement and are now free to pursue a draconian form of legislation.

Many people will question this interpretation of what’s happening and argue that too much is being extrapolated from vague statements and their almost farcical repetition by the usual suspects. However, history has a lesson for us here.

Every single dictatorship, without exception, has tried to depict its enemies and their ideas as being somehow foreign. And the campaign designed to paint the ideas of those opposing dictatorship as being somehow alien has always preceded the horrifying crackdowns that are in turn shrouded by the claim that national integrity and sovereignty is being protected by rooting out these dangerous foreign elements.

The record of Nazism in Europe provides one of the worst examples of this kind of thing and it was mirrored by the murderous excesses of Stalin’s Soviet Union, which in turn were followed by Mao Zedong’s campaigns that left millions of people dead in China.

Does all this sound too alarmist for a quiet backwater like Hong Kong? Maybe but what is being discussed here is a state of mind and modus operandi of a totalitarian regime that cannot tolerate dissent or even a weakening of the dictatorship, yet feels the need to mobilize public support even when it knows that it is asking the public to accept ideas that are hardly popular but can be depicted as being the lesser of two evils.

In Hong Kong the regime will proffer an argument that aims to get people to believe that cornerstone freedoms and laws currently in place are somehow a threat to national security because they emanate from a foreign regime and ape practices which are prevalent in nations that are potentially hostile to the Motherland.

This is accompanied by accusations that the people leading campaigns against the dictatorship are either willing or duped agents of foreign powers. We do not even need to imagine this kind of charge because it is already being forcibly made by the anti-democrats who are still claiming to have evidence of how foreign powers manipulated the Umbrella Movement.

What comes next? Let’s assume that it is something considerably scaled down from the usual barbarism employed by dictatorships.

It will start with subversion of the forces of law and order to make them more politically sensitive. It will be followed by pressure on the judiciary to impose politically-motivated penalties on opponents, then there will be mass smear campaigns in the media, the increasing use of violence against prominent and not so prominent opponents, insidious moves to undermine the freedom and autonomy of educational institutions, political screening for jobs and so on.

Does any of this sound familiar? Moreover does anyone seriously believe it will end there?

The only certainty is that it will not cease as long as a passive population accepts the steady drip, drip of oppression without resisting it.

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Hong Kong-based journalist, broadcaster and book author