Ideology seeping into Hong Kong way of life

January 31, 2018 14:26
Chief Executive Carrie Lam suggested that Agnes Chow was disqualified because her party Demosistō is advocating "self-determination", an ideology that does not fit the legal requirements for a candidate. Photo: Reuters, GovHK

The government is on the defensive amid local and international outcry over the disqualification of pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow from running in the March 11 Legislative Council by-elections. 

Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Tuesday stressed that neither her administration nor the central government had put pressure on the returning officer responsible for rejecting Chow's candidacy.

She noted that the returning officer acted "in accordance with the law to determine the eligibility of each case based on provisions in the law as well as the evidence" at hand.

The Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng made a similar argument when she faced lawmakers on Monday. She said: “It is not the responsibility of the secretary for justice [to reject Chow’s candidacy] nor the Chief Executive Carrie Lam. It’s the responsibility of the returning officer.”

So both Lam and her justice minister are shifting the responsibility to the returning officer, who is just a junior administrative officer in the government bureaucracy.

Lam said Chow was disqualified not because of her political affiliation. (Chow is co-founder and key member of the Demosistō party and closely associated with some of the leaders of the 2014 Occupy Movement.)

But at the same time, the Hong Kong leader said if a prospective candidate's "political ideology" is "clearly contravening" the Basic Law or the One Country, Two Systems principle, then that ideology does not fit the legal requirements for a candidate.

She is, of course, referring to Chow's party, Demosistō, which is calling for self-determination. For Chow and her party mates, it simply means that they want Hong Kong to be able to determine its own destiny, which it could do even as a special administrative region of China. But for Lam and her like-minded associates, this is the same as calling for Hong Kong's independence from the People's Republic of China.

So while Lam is saying that Chow was disqualified not because of her party affiliation, she is also saying that the "ideology" of Chow's party contravenes the provisions of the Basic Law.

Lam's use of the word "political ideology" reminds us of the Communist Party of China's moves to ease out its enemies by accusing them of being counter-revolutionaries or of espousing a different "ideology". 

In Beijing's eyes, ideology is the true light that distinguishes a patriot from a traitor, the truth from lies.

Ideology, thus, can be used to determine a person's loyalty. It's like saying that if your ideology is different from ours, then you are an enemy and you must be eased out.

And so Chow was not even given the chance to explain her party's "ideology", to defend herself from allegations that she is advocating for Hong Kong independence, to argue that her call for "self-determination" is not inconsistent with the Basic Law.

The decision to bar her from running for a seat in Legco is based on the government's perception of her "ideology".

Under the "ideology" of President Xi Jinping, all Chinese people have the responsibility to uphold the nation’s sovereignty and fight any move toward separatism in all its forms.

It is this "ideology" that resulted in the suspension of two Baptist University students, who joined a protest against the school's Putonghua proficiency test as a requirement for graduation.

While the students simply wanted the school administration to review the requirement, the pro-Beijing camp, which was joined in by some Chinese state-owned media, saw the protest in terms of "ideology". 

They accused the students of lacking in patriotism for not wanting to learn the mother tongue, and looked at the protest as a reflection of their localist ideology.

The HKSAR government is working hard to promote the importance of the Basic Law and the implementation of One Country, Two Systems.

However, Beijing is obviously working to integrate Hong Kong into China's economic, political and cultural system – in short, One Country, One System.

"Ideology" is playing a key role in transforming our city into an integral part of China's sovereignty. Ultimately, it is "ideology" that will destroy One Country, Two Systems.

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EJ Insight writer