To dream the impossible dream

August 09, 2018 13:51
The Foreign Correspondents Club has a long history of providing a platform for anyone who believes he or she has something of value to express, provided it can be done intelligibly. Photo: AFP

With thousand such enchanting dreams, that meet

To make a sleep not so sound, as sweet.

-- Robert Herrick

A Hong Kong independent from the People’s Republic of China is a pipe dream. But if we cannot dream, or talk of dreams, what life is this?

When Martin Luther King said “I have a dream…” he dreamt of a time when Americans of every color and creed would unite without regard to the pigment of their skin. His dream is yet to be realized but it is, at the very least, begun and, theoretically, a possibility.

Not so the dream of the young Hongkongers who envisage a time when their destiny is not shaped by a distant and, in so many respects, alien philosophy, albeit one fashioned by people of a similar ethnic origin.

So the question that is posed is whether, simply because it is an impracticable dream and one that runs counter to the design of Beijing, it should not be heard but its voice silenced?

History teaches us that the greater the effort to stifle or snuff out completely a contrary opinion, the stronger it becomes.

Freedom to articulate an opinion can be like rhubarb, once it takes root it eventually thrives, no matter how one may try to grub it out.

Conversely, bad ideas, given sufficient space, are ultimately seen for what they are. Hold a flawed proposition up to the light and its inherent failings become increasingly apparent.

For this reason alone, those who propagate inherently cruel and repressive ideologies must shelter them from close examination. Evil and its ilk flourish in the dark.

Journalists are the trained foot soldiers of the press whom the philosopher and historian Thomas Carlyle described as "The Fourth Estate", recognizing the power and legitimacy of newspapers to influence popular opinion and guard against oppressive government.

In the flesh, the professional journalists who are members of the Foreign Correspondents Club are as eclectic a collection of individuals as you will find in any gathering in Hong Kong.

The FCC has a long history of providing a platform for anyone who believes he or she has something of value to express, provided it can be done intelligibly.

The fact that it affords a speaker a medium from which to articulate a point of view is expressly on the understanding that the Club itself does not subscribe to any such or indeed any opinion.

Were Satan himself willing to expound on his doctrine, I have little doubt that the FCC would afford him a platform, though they might also insist on it being a debate with God.

So when the unheavenly special envoy slithers from beneath the Foreign Ministry’s rock to advise the government to require the FCC to cancel the event and the Chief Executive dutifully reminds the Club that its lease is at the mercy of the government, you might think that the advocates of independence constituted a real and present threat.


Making every allowance for the fact that the chief executive’s election is rigged to ensure her elevation and she is safe in her sinecure, is it really so important to twitch when the puppet master pulls the strings?

Not content with the unsubtle message about security of tenure, CY Leung, that great has-been who really never was, steps forward to burnish his Party credentials.

Except that, perhaps not surprisingly, he got his facts wrong. How does an estate agent, sorry, erstwhile surveyor of everything he wished to master, convert a market rent complete with Grade II building maintenance guarantee into a “nominal” rent?

Our current and unlamented past chief executives have a well-honed talent for putting both their feet in their capacious mouths.

Hong Kong is not, nor in any of our lifetimes ever will be independent of the PRC. Sometimes, someone who asks for a Rolls-Royce really only wanted a Ford Mondeo but reckoned that by setting their sights impracticably high they would improve their chances of getting what they really set their hearts on.

Hong Kong is replete with well-educated, widely traveled young people who have grown up in a society in which their essential freedoms are protected by an independent judiciary that delivers common law justice just as in most other liberal democracies.

They value their Hong Kong. If they had not been made increasingly aware of Beijing’s covetous insistence on the mainlandization of the SAR, a philosophy and accompanying mindset that goes against the grain of the young Hongkongers’ way of life, there would be no calls for independence.

The hard truth is that the two philosophies are incompatible but the practical modus vivendi that Deng Xiaoping devised was designed to accommodate them without a fractious interface.

If Carrie Lam feels sufficiently worried about a viewpoint that has as much prospect of converting people as Screaming Lord Sutch and his Monster Raving Loony Party had of converting Englishmen to his cause, doubtless the FCC will give her equal billing.

CY Leung can organize his own meeting of fellow traveling old fogies for a love-in of their own. I doubt whether Rambling Sid Rumpole would bother attending.

Sadly, Christina Rossetti captured the aspirant independents:

“The hope I dreamed of was a dream,

Was but a dream and now I wake

Exceeding comfortless, and worn, and old,

For a dream’s sake.”

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Queen's Counsel