Sunday, October 5, 2014

Dear Children of Hong Kong

by an anonymous resident of Hong Kong

Dear children of Hong Kong:

Most if not all of you are very concerned about the puzzling scenes and conflicting interpretations/comments (some with fake photos) flying around, each perhaps serving some untold purposes. Concerned but not necessarily adequately informed (not as those who have followed the socio-political development in Hong Kong as a cool pursuit of truth rather than passion – to look for sometimes unpalatable truth rather than what you might prefer to believe, and have done so for a considerable length of time), this must have been a difficult time– though to some, they may actually have a privately congratulatory feeling of “being part of history or history making” as they do what they usually cannot on the streets.

It is difficult because you’ve seen friends estranged because of difference of belief. But it could also be excited (as revolution– what some cold minded scholar had labeled the “opium of intellectuals”)-- is said to be going. However, deep down you may feel unsure and worry about something may happen to destroy Hong Kong. This is particularly hard for those who are deeply entrenched in their beliefs (because you cannot turn back now), but somehow not really sure if what you have long upheld is true --- particularly as things don’t turn out as simple, easy, clear-cut and tangible as originally thought (or led to believe by the so-called “leaders” of civil disobedience).

Here I am not trying to explain the historical metamorphosis of events (for the past 17 to 30 years actually, and accumulated feelings on both sides---actually there is at least one third party few young people would think of---foreign governments). I am only offering a summary analysis plus some recommendations for you to consider.

First, the real bone of contention: “Lack of Mutual Trust”.

The central argument now is all about whether anyone can stand for election to become CE of HK—what pan democrats called “true universal suffrage”. Beijing obviously is worried about this and insists that : First, it must be nominated by the “Nomination Committee” (as spelled out in the Basic Law accepted by both Britain and China); second, only a candidate who claims allegiance to Hong Kong (jargon: “love” Hong Kong), and by extension, allegiance to China of which Hong Kong is a part.

Pan Democrats alleged that this is not true universal suffrage as there is some conditions for who can run. This view is accepted by most youths and some of their parents and teachers (who, because of the British ban of contemporary Chinese history in curriculum during their own school days, are largely uninformed about the development of the country save for its negative – though quite true—aspects). This camp then alleged that the Central Government does not trust Hong Kong people and therefore they are angry. They want CY Leung to step down as they alleged that he had not helped Beijing understand the “true” views of most Hong Kong people.

Let us first remember: trust must come from both sides to be mutual. Pan democrats, on one hand, has never said they trust Beijing. Now, let’s see whether the things they’d done since (actually before) the hand-over till now have laid a solid or even shaky but workable foundation of trust for Beijing? Hell, no! Look at some of the following:

Ever since 1997, from insulting the flag, to challenging the authority of the nation’s congress over the local court, to physically thrusting at then Vice Premier Li (now premier) when he was invited to deliver a lecture on China’s economy at Hong Kong University… and endless blockading and thrusting by force at the Liaison Office of the Central Government at Hong Kong, as well as the fanning up of anti-Mainlanders activities in recent years---apparently all aimed at alienating Hong Kong from Mainland which was united only after 150 years.

Some of them have openly (on TV etc) asserted that they aim at changing China (so much for the principle of “River and Well water stay away from each other 河水不犯井水);

Endless filibuster acts in the Legislative Council (Legco) to block almost all important actions of the government with the purpose of discrediting it --- so as to uphold the myth that only elected government can rule. What about the 150 years rule by governors directly sent from London? No argument about democracy but the message is fabricated and therefore not true.

Now, more in focus is the question for candidacy for the CE post. Before judging the validity of the pan democrats’ claim or understanding Beijing’s worries, let us be reminded of the following facts:

The Britain cunningly devised (and Beijing perhaps unknowingly accepted then) a system in which any foreigner who have resided in HK consecutively and legally for 7 years can become “Permanent Residents”. Note: purposefully blurring the distinction between a citizen and just a person allowed to reside and work (who are not considered citizens in any country), the so-called “permanent residents” in Hong Kong can vote and enjoy all privileges of citizens here without any obligation or commitment! Actually, they enjoy more privilege than the “real” Hong Kong people because: a. They need not forsake their original nationality or allegiance/loyalty to it; b. They can vote in both their own country and here; c. if Hong Kong collapses (and causes harm to China), they either could not care less or even secretly congratulate themselves if their countries are at odds with China – and many of their original countries are. A “genuine” citizen’s vote carries only the same weight as these “permanent residents” in Hong Kong who have no commitment to this place!

The Basic Law specifies that only people of Chinese origin or Chinese born in Hong Kong can assume leading positions in the government. Can the highest government post of Chief Executive be an exemption?

The pan democrats has a verifiable record of trying to push for permanent residency status for foreigners. E.g., the South Asians (members of the British Commonwealth) and even Filipino domestic helpers. No offense to Filipinos but --- need I remind you of the two nation’s hot argument on south sea isles? They are by definition a foreign interest.

Lai Chi Ying, owner of the notorious (chased out of Taiwan as he tried to meddle in the island’s politics) Apple Daily News, was found to have given HKD 40,000,000 to anti government politicians last year (actually, a lot more money in previous years), including Anson Chan who wanted to be CE and the retired archbishop of Hong Kong (who criticized anything related to Mainland China). The case is now under investigation of the ICAC (Independent Commission Against Corruption). Can Beijing trust these people?

Can Hillary Clinton refuse to pledge loyalty to America if she runs for president? Can anyone in any country do that if he/she runs for a chief public office in their own land? Then how can Beijing accept this to happen in Hong Kong --- where it is no secret that Britain and the US want to have influence, in fact, control?

What would happen if we really have a CE who does not put the interest of Hong Kong (and China) above those of other nations?

Beijing, through the local government, ask Hong Kong to “accept for now 袋住先” the rather stringent requirement (most important, that the nominee must be supported by half or more of the Nominating Committee) the People’s Congress (the highest legislative body in China) has announced – hinting that the conditions could be relaxed later. This is a promise it can hardly go back. But this not accepted by those going to the streets.

Regarding voting right --- what universal suffrage usually means—there is no argument. Beijing already committed itself to that EVERY eligible voter in Hong Kong (including foreigners who may be against China) can have a vote for the CE ---if the present package is accepted by the Legco. This is a required step since the British days. If Legco does not accept it, there will be NO universal suffrage and the old system (through which the previous 3 CEs were elected) would remain.

Next I would like to Beijing’s suspicion and whether it has grounds for it.

Beijing alleged all along that opposition movements (plenty since and before 1997) have been instigated, supported, designed by foreign powers (particularly the US) who provide technical expertise not only on electioneering (seen in previous elections where Democrats often won, though not any more) but also street fight techniques.

Selina Yip Lau (previous Secretary for Security of Hong Kong, now elected Legco member after studying at Stanford) has just published her findings on techniques including the “firechat” software used in Taiwan students’ previous occupation of its legislative college (which does not need the internet to function, is an excellent field communication and command software which works both on the internet and mobile phones). She pointed out that the “amateur” students were able to break through police blockade in a mere 5 minutes, and their stationing of defense and guard posts cannot be done by non military people. See or Yahoo it. (Not sure if not blocked in Google)

America’s blockade of China is known by anyone in the study of Geopolitics (not available to HK university students yet). Also, separation of any part of China has always been part of American strategy vs a rising China. Hong Kong has always been a key financial, political, and social-cultural hub for China sitting at the mouth of the Pearl River where it meets the South China Sea.

Beijing is aware of the series of “color revolutions” ranging from the Arab Spring to Yugoslavia, Thailand and Ukraine etc. In both Thailand and Ukraine, the democratically elected presidents were thrown out of office by street protest. All these countries touched upon by America are now in miserable conditions. Will Hong Kong be next?

Whether or not we think Beijing’s suspicion has grounds, when it suspects, it naturally takes a more defensive, conservative attitude towards the election of Hong Kong’s CE.

Conclusion drawn from the above discussion:

Unrestricted universal suffrage including the free choice of candidates is attainable only if a genuine mutual trust between Beijing and all people in Hong Kong is built up. Now what will democrats do to help build this? At any rate, given the loophole in our election system, there is no way a candidate should run without professing allegiance for Hong Kong, and by extension, China.

Personally, I would like to see that the voting system be more open – if Beijing can become less worried and more confident. First, I would like to see the number on the committee to expand by two or even three folds; Second, I would like to see a wider representation of various “sectors” by the committee; Third, I hope to see a less stringent requirement for any candidate to acquire before he/she can actually stand for election --- less stringent than the current specified 50% of the Committee. But I will insist that anyone who wishes to be leader of a part of China must pledge allegiance to both Hong Kong and the country --- and I reserve the right of the people to replace any government for valid reasons.

For that to happen, the pan democrats must reconsider their strategy: Instead of deliberately putting down both the local and Central Government (often very unfairly) to argue (actually establish the myth) that only a democratically government can govern Hong Kong, they should think about how to build up mutual trust. With that, I will not object if any one of them runs and become our next CE. I just do not see how one without the trust of the central government can help Hong Kong.

Now, a few comments about the current situation for the Children of Hong Kong:

It is a tragedy to alienate your friends , particularly long time associates, just because of difference of opinions in this single matter. You should share what you know, and respect his or her choice even if they do not agree. Though this in some way may affect your evaluation of his/her abilities. We need to stand together now, not fight because things are actually much more complicated than what an average person can comprehend;

Both sides (HK govt & Demonstrators) have learned quickly from the early clashes. The government withdrew the riot control units and is adopting a very soft-handed way of dealing with the demonstrators, using TV explanations as well as pleas to the so-called “leaders” of the Occupy Central movement to deliver their previous claims or promise: that the movement will be non-violent, demonstrators will not resist arrest and that if matters get out of and, they will dissolve the crowd. (Truth is: control of the crowd is no longer in the hands of these scholars living the ivory tower—but in the hands of the radical, young students. The “old folks” are making hardline announcements just to “stay with” the crowd, pretending that they are still leading the movement. Actually, the real leaders are the young student leaders trained and supported by a foreign power)

Demonstrators try to show their civil side now (after the initial violent thrashing at police lines which brought tear gas and criticism from some HK people). They now allow passage of some ambulance and fire service vehicles. Actually, most who participated believed in what Tai (the law teacher of HKU) claimed : to perform a civil, i.e., non violent, disobedience. But mass movements are often dominated by passion, particularly among the young. It remains to be seen how long and how dominating civil acts of students could continue as probably some who had seen the unexpected, ugly and violent scenes may have already left;

The Government is obviously playing a “Wait and Wear” game --- waiting to see if a critical mass of the demonstrators can see that they are going nowhere or get fed up with stepped up violence the foreign trained student leaders are advocating, and to see if their TV persuasion, explanation and pleas work; wearing means let the sun, rain and mere physical fatigue to wear out the energy and determination of those on the streets;

The radical student leaders’demands are impossible and unreasonable --- may be after all, they do not really want a peaceful solution of the matter. They demand Leung to meet them at a time they specify, with preconditions Leung is powerless to implement etc., and to step down as the “deadline” they set is now over. Leung cannot possible accept terms he as a local official cannot take up to override those of the Central Government. Stepping down in this time of chaos would lead to what? Beijing will not bend --- as usual it does not, particularly if it suspects foreign governments are behind. Also, bending means not only a loss of face (or legitimacy), authority towards other local governments (most anti-corruption work is directed at local officials). Also, submission could mean endless more demands. Finally, Beijing suspects this is a crucial step of HK going “independent” – as many in the legal profession and foreigners try to interpret “high degree of autonomy” to mean. If it bends, there will be a widespread riots inside China protesting this and the nation will lose face.

Whether they (or the brains behind them) may change their mind remains to be seen. If peacefully solved, however, this group will continue to aggressively cause problems because that would keep them in the lime light. Without that, their value (to themselves as well as their patrons) will be finished.

Friday October 3 will be an important time: People will return to work after two days of public holidays. What would the street “heroes”do? The Government had just explained detailed with a map on the TV how their present “occupied areas” affect traffic. You can assume that they are persuading demonstrators to occupy elsewhere so as to cause less inconvenience to the public. However, it MAY be hinting to them how they can cause even more severe traffic. Somehow I feel that government seems to want it to continue for some time --- no proof, just a gut feeling.

Since the movement, the Hang Seng Index lost several hundred points, meaning 50 billion HKD is already lost. The Mainland has canceled many tours to HK --- the National Day “Golden Week” for tourism is lost, affecting approximately 250,000 people working in tourism and related business. Short term impact: there may be a temporary fall on property prices, particularly the high ended units. As China now eases its property purchase policies, why not buy big, comfortable houses up north with better air and less pollution – including noise (political) pollution?

Worst Case Scenario: History shows that many, in fact, most mass movement with clear-cut, noble goals were often hijacked by opportunists who seek their own goals. While the “Old” leaders such as Tai (HKU) has already lost real leadership of the movement, it remains to be seen if the 17-year old Wong Chi-feng can control the whole scene. “Spontaneous” outburst of occupation actions in various areas may reflect that actually, no single group is actually controlling the “wild cat” type movement. If that happens, be prepared for a long term disturbance. Then the Central Government will need to consider whether to use force and risk being criticized as in 1989 Tiananmen Square incident; or allow HK to “sink” as Thailand or Ukraine. It may also consider “clipping the wings” of the local economy. If the Mainland government is persuaded to adopt a policy providing less favoritism or privilege to HK (which it has been doing all these years), our young people may need to spend more time making a living than roaming the streets telling their Central Government as well as the older people who have built up HK in their younger years what to do. Children of Hong Kong, what choices are you leaving for Beijing?