Why you can be blue and yellow at the same time

May 31, 2016 09:42
Although the 'yellow ribbon' and 'blue ribbon' factions  represent different sets of values, many Hongkongers are, in fact, a hybrid of the two. Photos: HKEJ

Ever since the Occupy movement in 2014, the people of Hong Kong have been divided into two opposing camps: the “blue ribbon", or pro-establishment, faction and the "yellow ribbon", or pro-democracy faction.

Liberal Party lawmaker James Tien Pei-chun described himself in a press interview recently as “60 percent blue and 40 percent yellow”.

I think what he said was a pretty accurate account of the relationship between being blue and being yellow.

Despite the fact that “blue ribbons” and “yellow ribbons” represent a different set of values, many Hong Kong people are in fact a hybrid of both blue and yellow, which means people from the two opposing camps often share some common or overlapping values.

Even the “deep blue” are not 100 percent against anything preached by the yellow ribbon faction, and vice versa.

So, what exactly are the values that the blue faction embraces?

And what are the values that the yellow faction stands by?

First, the blues apparently put more emphasis on social order, while the yellows lay more stress on individual rights.

However, that doesn't necessarily mean that the blues entirely reject the idea of individual rights, but only that they would give priority to upholding social order over protecting individual rights, because they believe more in the common good.

Second, the blues attach more importance to economic development, whereas the yellows believe more in fair distribution of public resources.

However, that doesn't mean the yellows totally neglect economic development and insist on commune-like redistribution of wealth.

What they want is to ensure a more dignified life for the underprivileged by increasing welfare spending.

Third, the blues believe that citizens should show more respect and submit to those in power, so as to guarantee government efficiency, while the yellows are much more skeptical about the growing power of the executive branch.

Again, that doesn't mean the yellows are totally anarchistic, only that they believe checks and balances are necessary to protect civil rights.

Fourth, while the blues believe in meritocracy and accept that social elites should enjoy more privileges, the yellows stress social equality.

As a result, most blues are in favor of preserving the functional constituencies in our legislature, whereas the yellows are pushing for the abolition of those constituencies.

However, the yellows are not entirely populist, and they also acknowledge that society does need social elites to govern.

Fifth, the blues take the view that democratization in Hong Kong must be carried out in an orderly and step-by-step manner to ensure social stability, whereas the yellows are pushing for drastic social changes and immediate universal suffrage.

Simply put, both agree that Hong Kong needs democratization, but they have a difference of opinion about the pace.

In fact, if we look more closely, we will find that the values embraced by the blues and the yellows are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

So, finding common ground between the two sides is not entirely impossible.

All it takes is good faith, reflection and the courage to take the first step toward mutual dialogue.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May 28.

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Associate Professor of Law at the University of Hong Kong