Over 600,000 Hongkongers showed threats don’t scare them

July 16, 2020 07:47
Over 600,000 Hongkongers participated in an unofficial primary election last weekend. Photo: RTHK

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Those wise words date back to US President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1933 inauguration speech. Most of today’s Hongkongers likely have never heard of Roosevelt. But last weekend they showed the world yet again fear is not something they fear.

Constitutional affairs secretary Erick Tsang Kwok-wai tried to instill fear with a warning the opposition’s unofficial primary election could breach the new national security law. Instead of being intimidated, over 600,000 Hongkongers showed Tsang their middle finger. They braved not only the summer heat but thuggish government threats to select candidates for this September’s Legislative Council elections.

It was a daring display of democracy that sent a powerful message to the local and central governments – nothing, not even a draconian national security law – will scare Hong Kong people into silence. Instead of waking up to this fact, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor – who has morphed from being our chief executive into Beijing’s emissary here – tried to instill more fear.

She warned ominously of dire consequences following the huge turnout, insisting Hong Kong’s election system excludes primaries. I won’t bother explaining to her last weekend’s primary was unofficial, not part of our election system. It was an expression of freedom – over 600,000 people deciding amongst themselves who should represent them in an election. How does that threaten national security?

Pro-Beijing political parties also decide amongst themselves – often with input from the liaison office – who should run in Legco elections. Yet Lam claimed many people had complained about last weekend’s primary as unfair.

How many does she mean by many? More than the 600,000 who voted in the primary? What were they complaining about? And how did the primary cause unfairness? Opposition candidates freely chose to join the primary. Over 600,000 freely chose to cast unofficial votes. Nothing unfair about that.

If Lam meant it was unfair to pro-Beijing political parties, she needs to explain how and why the opposition selecting their Legco candidates can in any way be unfair to loyalist parties. She has not done so. That makes her warnings grossly unfair to the 600,000 people who exercised freedom without interfering with the loyalist camp.

Lam even warned the primary breached privacy laws. How? All 600,000-plus Hongkongers willingly shared personal details – last four digits of their identity cards, date of issue, and proof of address – with the organizers. So whose privacy has been breached? Certainly not the 600,000-plus Hongkongers.

Lam chillingly branded the primary as subversion under the national security law because its aim was for the opposition to win a majority of Legco seats to derail government policies. Let me remind her she is using taxpayers’ money to bombard the people with propaganda TV and radio ads about learning the Basic Law.

Nothing in the Basic Law says Legco members cannot vote down the budget or unpopular government policies. That’s part of Legco’s role. In 2015, opposition legislators voted down Beijing’s political reform package. What if they did it now? Would that be subversion?

If the security law doesn’t allow the opposition to oppose, the government should give each legislator a rubber stamp for Legco to function like the National People’s Congress. That can be the third reunification now that Beijing has declared the security law as the second reunification.

There is a simple explanation why the government is trying to scare the people. Lam and her Beijing bosses fear the opposition could win a Legco majority in September. They should study Roosevelt’s words – the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

Why should loyalists fear when they claim three million people signed a petition to support the security law? That far exceeds the 600,000 who participated in the primary. If the three million number is true, loyalist candidates would have a landslide win in September.

Yet they are afraid. They remember but have not learned a lesson from last November’s district council elections when voters ejected them. A petition with three million signatures supporting the security law is hollow when compared to 600,000 real people willing to line up, share private information, and defy government warnings against a primary election.

Hong Kong is now in a surreal situation where anything that remotely resembles criticism of the local and central governments draws warnings of possible national security law violations. What next? Would sneezing in front of the national flag or passing gas while the national anthem is being played violate the security law?

Aside from a primary, last weekend’s huge turnout was a de facto referendum against the security law in the same way last November’s district council election was a referendum against Lam, her extradition bill, the police, and Beijing.

History shows a tormented future awaits leaders who are at war with the people. Lam is at war with Hongkongers. She seems to have forsaken Catholicism for communism. That’s her free choice. But she still needs to ask herself why the threat of the national security law did not scare 600,000 Hongkongers.

The government, acting as Beijing’s proxy, will most likely skew the September elections. But if the opposition still wins, it shows Hong Kong voters don’t mind electing candidates with an agenda to paralyze the government. What will Beijing do then – listen to the people or further tighten the noose?

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A Hong Kong-born American citizen who has worked for many years as a journalist in Hong Kong, the USA and London.