Mr President, nothing to fear from Hong Kong but fear itself

July 12, 2017 09:49
File picture of President Xi Jinping (center) attending a variety show in Hong Kong, part of the celebration for the 20th anniversary of the city's handover to Chinese rule. Photo: Reuters

I am hard pressed to think of anything quite as superfluous as President Xi’s flying visit to Hong Kong.

His every move was choreographed with the precision of a Diaghilev ballet and the security of a nuclear reactor. But who got to see him and, rather more to the point, with whom did he communicate?

Perhaps it is an unfair comparison, after all he is the leader of the second most powerful country in the world whereas she is the monarch of a country in post-colonial, Brexit decline but Queen Elizabeth can and does walk among her subjects, chatting to them and accepting bouquets of flowers from little children whose parents spontaneously want to greet her.

Juxtapose that monarchical ease of access to the absurd levels of protection surrounding President Xi, maintaining him at a distant remove from ordinary Hongkongers and one is compelled to ask of what is he or his advisors afraid?

Xi Jinping is far too intelligent to be unaware of the Kevlar carapace in which the dreadful CY Leung insulated him from the people of Hong Kong, and at a phenomenally disproportionate cost. So why did the President not break out of it?

Mobilizing the majority of the police, blocking off roads, creating inner barriers at every bridge; it smacked more of Trump’s efforts to keep all Muslims and Mexicans at bay than a triumphal procession through a city purportedly celebrating casting off the colonial yoke.

Even the President’s obligatory visit to his local control center in Western yielded no fewer than eight Marine Police boats and two helicopters.

Then there was all the brouhaha over which hotel he would stay at. Not the official residence in Upper Albert Road, no, all floors in the Grand Hyatt had to be cleared as well as the Renaissance Harbour View.

And all this ridiculous palaver at a cost to the Hong Kong taxpayer of HK$64 million. Unless I have been hoodwinked, I was under the impression that President Xi had clamped down on such wasteful extravaganza in the mainland.

Does this mean that all the stuffed monkeys in Hong Kong have a license to blow the budget on Communist Party fripperies? Their mainland counterparts must be green with mau toi envy.

I can well understand all Beijing’s local acolytes panting to shake the imperial hand and glow in the reflected glory of Mr. Xi’s powerful benediction.

But now the party is over and these waxy grey figures with their dyed crowns revert to their customary walk-on parts in the SAR’s pantomime. Now they will have to explain why health and education are subordinated to the cost of an imperial Punch and Judy show.

Perhaps the truth is that save for those who have a vested interest in the continuation of rule by marionettes and closet communists, Hongkongers are not elated at the shift from colony to a Beijing satrapy.

The economy really only benefits the very wealthy and young professionals see little prospect of ever getting onto the property ladder unless it is for a designer cock-loft at HK$25,000 a square foot.

Children and students are treated like battery hens, programmed to memorize rather than analyze and then exposed to a suicidal regime of unnecessary tests. Desperate parents cram hours of extra-curricula study into their children’s waking hours, fearful lest they fall behind in the scramble for university places that will lead to becoming a wage slave. Whatever happened to playtime?

President Xi’s review of the PLA may have contained the sub-conscious message that he wants all Hongkongers to follow the army’s example of unquestioning obedience. For certain sure, most young people believe that this is Beijing’s message.

Leave aside the lunatic fringe and the moon-gazing seekers after independence, the overwhelming majority of young people in Hong Kong are bright, ambitious and resilient – they have to be to survive the education obstacle course.

They are proud of being Hong Kong Chinese, a state of mind that incorporates a natural affinity for China, its culture and history. What they object to, and rightly so, is having Communist Party propaganda stuffed down their throats and the forced indoctrination of ideals that offend against ordinary human dignity.

President Xi missed, or was denied the opportunity to meet and to listen and learn. Most young Hongkongers are not rabid revolutionaries: they have grown up in an environment that values the free thought and speech that are integral to the essential dignity of mankind.

For them to abandon these precepts is retrograde, a return to a pre-civilization in which fear is the dominant key.

It is the Communist Party mindset that needs to have the winds of enlightenment blow through it, not as Carrie Lam proposes, for Hongkongers to acquire the closed perceptions that, sadly, are so venerated in the land that once upon a time produced great philosophers like Confucius and Sun Yat-sen.

But a fundamental premise of a civilized liberal democracy is the entitlement to articulate one’s opinions and be listened to respectfully. Those who would deny others a public platform simply because they disagree with their opinions are guilty of the very evil against which they rail.

Hong Kong’s students must learn from the stupid behavior of the Communist rent-a-crowds who try to drown out the opposition’s voices with loud hailing abuse. They must recognize that the greatest force against extremism is to allow it to blow freely in the wind. Otherwise they merely ape their inferiors.

Evelyn Beatrice Hall’s (not Voltaire’s) maxim "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" should be the motto of every students’ union.

Now that Hong Kong is free of the miniscule-minded and confrontational CY Leung, it is time to find common ground.

This will involve compromise all round but the past years of ingrained obduracy have demonstrated unambiguously that both sides of the political spectrum must learn to listen to each other if they are to engage in constructive dialogue that will rescue Hong Kong from becoming a Chinese backwater.

President Xi and the Chinese Communist Party need to recognize that there is nothing to fear from Hong Kong other than fear itself. There is both strength and dignity in diversity.

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Queen's Counsel