Voice of Hong Kong http://www.vohk.hk One Hong Kong, Many Voices Sun, 08 Oct 2017 17:12:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.5.10 Verdict of Lam’s 100 days mixed, real test just begins http://www.vohk.hk/2017/10/08/verdict-of-lams-100-days-mixed-real-test-just-begins/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss http://www.vohk.hk/2017/10/08/verdict-of-lams-100-days-mixed-real-test-just-begins/#respond Sun, 08 Oct 2017 17:12:20 +0000 http://www.vohk.hk/?p=1861
Chief Executive Carrie Lam  receives a petition from a patients' group on her 100th day in office.By Chris Yeung – Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor marked her 100th day in office on Sunday with no propaganda extravagance, but an apparently...
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Chief Executive Carrie Lam  receives a petition from a patients' group on her 100th day in office.

By Chris Yeung –

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor marked her 100th day in office on Sunday with no propaganda extravagance, but an apparently well-planned little touch of care for the weak and the sick in a pre-Policy Address petition.

In a departure from her predecessor Leung Chun-ying, she emerged from her office to receive a petition from a group of patients who suffered from spinal muscular dystrophy and their family members. She pledged to do their best to help the patients. A 23-year-old woman patient was impressed and pleasantly surprised with Lam’s positive feedback.

The political scores Mrs Lam might have scored in the Sunday petition, however, have been diluted by a string of negative developments that have and will pose tough challenge to her and her team.

100 days after she was sworn in, the verdict of her administration is mixed. The real battles are ahead.

On the face of it, the first 100 days of Mrs Lam has been largely smooth-sailing. There were no major blunders and scandals involved her ad her team. Although her popularity has slipped recently, she is still more popular than Leung.

A HKU survey published last month shows her popularity rating stood at 56.4, out of 100, down from 63.7 in July. Leung’s popularity score was 38.7 in June.

Even the pan-democrat opposition is giving her the benefit of doubt; they have shown a degree of restraint in their criticism against some controversial government decisions.

Take the jailing of the 16 activists, including three student leaders (Alex Chow Yong-kang, Joshua Wong Chi-fung and Nathan Law Kwun-chung), as an example. The target of their attack was Secretary of Justice, Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung. At the National Day rally, there were calls for the resignation of Yuen, not Mrs Lam.

That does not mean, however, she has been immune from the strain and frictions in mainland-Hong Kong politics and the domestic Hong Kong polity.

The September episode of the serial drama under the theme of Hong Kong independence unveiled with a couple of banners that carried separatist idea at the Chinese University. As the row seems to have begun to quiet down end-September, emotions flared up again when a pro-Beijing legislator Junius Ho Kwan-yiu said advocates for independence should be “killed without mercy.”

Junius Ho says at anti-Hong Kong independence rally, 'kill without mercy.'

Junius Ho says at anti-Hong Kong independence rally, ‘kill without mercy.’

If anything, the mainland-Hong Kong relations are laden with landmines that Mrs Lam would have to tread carefully and try to detonate it, like it or not.

Aside from Hong Kong independence, she has taken the initiative to move a non-binding motion on the government’s co-location arrangement at the West Kowloon terminus of the high-speed rail link at the end of this month.

The government’s pre-emptive strike aimed to garner public support thus putting pressure on the pan-democrats may back-fire. It could add fuel to the opposition for them to attack the Government’s insincerity in consulting the public on the co-location model.

Another potential point of friction is the enactment of a local law on national anthem, which is now a matter of time following the promulgation of a national anthem law by the Chinese National People’s Congress Standing Committee last month. The imminent legislative plan has apparently emerged as the spark of a round of boos by some local fans at the start of a friendly soccer match between Hong Kong and Lao last week when the national anthem was played.

A mainland Basic Law Committee member Rao Geping has called on Hong Kong to enact a national anthem law as early as possible and, importantly, it should have retrospective power.

Although the idea of retrospective power goes against the common law system, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung has been coy in saying no to Rao. He said the Government would examine the issue.

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Mrs Lam faces a similar dilemma inside the Legislative Council. Publicly, she has said she would not take advantage of depleted force of the pan-democrats in the Legislative Council after six pan-democrat legislators were disqualified because of their oath-taking. She has honoured her promise when handling the by-election of four of the six vacated seats. Under the by-election arrangement, the chance of pan-democrats regaining the four seats is higher.

It may be a game of Mrs Lam playing good cop and the pro-establishment lawmakers doing the dirty job to capitalise on the down-sized fleet of pan-democrats to bulldoze changes to Legco’s rules and procedures. Those amendments are aimed to cripple the power of the pan-democrats in blocking the passage of bills and decisions by using tactics such as filibusters.

A battle over rules and procedures is looming at Legco, with the Government not likely to be able to stay aloof. Infighting at Legco risks making the legislature mal-functional and doubling the difficulty of Mrs Lam in building a workable government-legislature relationship.

The two sets of political troubles at the mainland-Hong Kong interface and inside Legco risks derailing Mrs Lam’s plan to deliver results in livelihood and economic issues to help put politics under the carpet, at least in the early part of her five-year term.

Beijing and the Lam team are happy with what they called a “good start” of the new administration since July 1.

Compared with the past five years under Leung, they have reasons to feel good. The simple truth is: it could not probably get worse with Leung gone. The grim reality is: Mrs Lam has and will soon confront with the real tests.

Chris Yeung, Chief Writer of newly-launched CitizenNews, is founder and editor of the Voice of Hong Kong website. He is a veteran journalist formerly worked with the South China Morning Post and the Hong Kong Economic Journal. He writes on Greater China issues.

Photo: CitizenNews pictures and picture taken from RTHK website

This article also appears on CitizenNews website.

 

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HK a city with Chinese, British values, Patten says http://www.vohk.hk/2017/09/24/hk-a-city-with-chinese-british-values-patten-says/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss http://www.vohk.hk/2017/09/24/hk-a-city-with-chinese-british-values-patten-says/#respond Sun, 24 Sep 2017 12:46:47 +0000 http://www.vohk.hk/?p=1856
Last Governor Chris Patten attends a book-signing session during his visit in Hong Kong.By Chris Yeung – In his new book First Confession, last Governor Chris Patten waded into the issue of relationship between politics and identity as...
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Last Governor Chris Patten attends a book-signing session during his visit in Hong Kong.

By Chris Yeung –

In his new book First Confession, last Governor Chris Patten waded into the issue of relationship between politics and identity as he embarked on his memory journey. “As I wrote, the question of identity moved from the wings to centre stage, and roiled politics and nations on both sides of the Atlantic.”

His commitment to promotion of his book had brought him to Hong Kong last week; he greeted his fans with his charm and autograph on his book. And his commitment to the city has given himself a special identity and role in and outside Hong Kong, which remains so 20 years after he bade farewell to Government House.

True, the last Governor is now a yesterday man. But he does not merely belong to the past. He is, as it was demonstrably shown during his just-ended visit, still a man of relevance in today’s Hong Kong.

His words on Hong Kong have resonated in some corners of the society. Suffocated by some nonsensical deeds and words recently, they found the last Governor has said something sensible. This is despite the fact that his sharp and clear criticism against the notion of Hong Kong independence is no music to some people, particularly young people.

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His no-ambivalent No to separatism should have put given me a membership in the “China friend club.” Although an air of pessimism has prevailed in the city, in particular in recent years, Lord Patten’s verdict on Hong Kong under “one country, two systems” remains on the positive side.

The veteran diplomat was no diplomatic venting his disappointments and concerns about the implementation of “one country, two systems” in the past few years. But he has pinned out hopes on Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor she would do a much better job than her predecessor, Leung Chun-ying.

He knew he could not possibly duck questions about the political strain in universities sparked by the posting of “Hong Kong independence” banners in some campuses. He called on university heads to talk to students. Similarly, he urged the Government to talk to the people.

His appeal sounds simple truth that even his staunchest critic cannot find fault. Ironically, it is the plain truth that is sadly gone missing in the Hong Kong polity.

To some cynics, Lord Patten is irrelevant and should have stayed out of the city’s limelight. It is clear, however, that his mere presence and words had continued to cause anxieties in some segments, including the Central Government’s Liaison Office. Pro-Beijing newspapers gave prominent Patten-bashing coverage during his visit. The only conclusion is that they fear what he said could create more troubles.

They cannot be more wrong.

HK has ‘as much Chinese values as British values’

Take the complicated question of identity and the burning issue of Hong Kong independence. With a sense of history and realism, he spoke against the advocacy of Hong Kong independence and what he described as a “distorted way” of asserting identity.

Speaking in an interview with CitizenNews, a digital-only media outlet, during his visit, he recalled having watched a video about mainlanders being described as “locust.” It was a video widely circulated on social media at the heyday of a massive outcry among Hongkongers against the influx of mainland visitors.

He said: “That (the video) was very regrettable… It is a sort of distorted way of Hong Kong people standing up to the identity of Hong Kong citizens. It seems to be me that you can be a Chinese patriot who feels strongly about Hong Kong values.

“I don’t think, to be a Chinese patriot, you have to assert everything the Chinese Communist Party does. Unfortunately, you have to do it in the mainland. But you don’t have to do so in Hong Kong.”

He said Hong Kong identity was made up of its history, such as migrants from the mainland, people and their ability, hard work and sense of responsibility. And importantly, they have an “in-built understanding” of the relationship between economic freedom and political freedom, he said.

Having revisited the city’s past and the difficulties of both the Chinese and British governments in making “one country, two systems” work, he is consciously aware of the danger of either overly optimistic or excessively pessimistic.

He prefers downright pragmatism, nevertheless. “Where are we now? There you have a fantastic, free city made by Chinese people with a scaffolding of values and institutions which were partly created by the British. There are just as much Chinese values as British values.

“I don’t think it is fair to deny your Chinese nationality and identity. “

Chris Yeung, Chief Writer of newly-launched CitizenNews, is founder and editor of the Voice of Hong Kong website. He is a veteran journalist formerly worked with the South China Morning Post and the Hong Kong Economic Journal. He writes on Greater China issues.

Photo: CitizenNews pictures

This article also appears on CitizenNews website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Universities now battlefields of politics, not ideas http://www.vohk.hk/2017/09/10/universities-now-battlefields-of-politics-not-ideas/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss http://www.vohk.hk/2017/09/10/universities-now-battlefields-of-politics-not-ideas/#respond Sun, 10 Sep 2017 16:23:25 +0000 http://www.vohk.hk/?p=1849
Posters carried the slogan, Hong Kong independence, are put on the 'Democracy Wall' at Chinese University.By Chris Yeung – Much has been said that university is a microcosm of a society. Hong Kong is no exception. A chain of clashes...
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Posters carried the slogan, Hong Kong independence, are put on the 'Democracy Wall' at Chinese University.

By Chris Yeung –

Much has been said that university is a microcosm of a society. Hong Kong is no exception. A chain of clashes erupted in the city’s university campuses recently over Hong Kong independence, the death of the son of a deputy education minister and late mainland dissident Liu Xiaobo and his wife Liu Xia say volume of the state of the society. They have, again, laid bare a host of complex and deep-rooted contradictions among the seven-million populace.

The latest unrest in universities was unfolded with the appearance of banners that carried with four Chinese words, 香港獨立, which mean Hong Kong independence, at the Chinese University of Hong Kong when the new academic year commenced ten days ago.

It reignited a debate about whether such acts as putting on a banner or poster with the “four-word” slogan are unlawful. And even putting that aside, whether an expression of the four words should fall within the ambit of freedom of expression allowed under the Basic Law.

The debate was put on the society’s public spotlight when former chief executive Leung Chun-ying singled out a student union publication of the University of Hong Kong, Undergrad, for attack in his 2015 Policy Address. He called on public vigilance against the growth of advocacy for Hong Kong independence, citing an edition of the publication that featured independence.

Leung’s warning was followed by a blitz of intensified jibes by the central and Hong Kong government and their supporters against separatist thinking.

Top mainland officials have hinted at a resumption of the enactment of an anti-subversion law, known as Basic Law Article 23. During his visit to Hong Kong in July, President Xi Jinping has set out the “bottom-lines” for Hong Kong under the “one country, two systems” framework. In short, they can be boiled down to a No to Hong Kong independence.

Apart from verbal warning against separatist thinking, the Government has stepped up acts against advocacy for pro-independence, in both deeds and words. One major initiative was to kick out pan-democrat legislators who deviated from the oath-taking ordinance when they were sworn in. A total of six pan-democrat lawmakers were disqualified after the Government challenged the validity of their oaths.

Pro-independence groups were given warnings that their activities might breach the law. Schools were cautioned by the education authorities not to hold discussion on independence in classrooms.

It is against the background of a hard-hit approach by the mainland and Hong Kong governments to stifle public discussion on the issue of Hong Kong independence that those posters had been put on, presumably by students.

Act of defiance

It is unclear whether those who posted the pro-independence are seriously contemplating the idea of seeking Hong Kong independence. It is obvious that their acts could also been seen as a show of defiance against the authorities’ move to muzzle any talk about independence.

To students, their universities campuses could perhaps be the last corner in the city where they can discuss anything freely without any restrictions.

The row between students and the management of universities over the room for free debate in campuses when it comes to the issue of independence is a prelude to sharper conflicts in the months to come.

The storm whipped up at the Education University of Hong Kong by a poster that congratulated deputy education minister Christine Choi on the death of her son represents an outburst of anger towards the authorities in some quarters of the society.

A poster ridiculing deputy education minister over the death of her son put on at the Education University has caused a storm.

A poster ridiculing deputy education minister over the death of her son put on at the Education University has caused a storm.

Although those insulting remarks have been widely criticised as inappropriate, the high-profile concerted efforts by Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, education officials and university heads to condemn the act have been seen as excessive and politically-motivated.

The Government, some argued, should also be blamed for being “callous and insulting” in their deeds and words over a range of political and policy issues.

The right and wrong of the act of two unidentified people who put up the poster to ridicule Ms Choi over the death of her son at the Education University have become muddled at a time when the society is still sharply divided.

The return of the issue of Hong Kong independence to public limelight has flared up fresh conflicts between mainlanders and Hongkongers. A stand-off between a mainland student and Hong Kong students at the Chinese University over a pro-independence poster put on the “Democracy Wall” has run viral on social media.

Universities have emerged as the battlefields of highly-sensitive political ideas and sharply-conflicting values. They have never been a quiet and peaceful days. But like our society, they will be getting more noisy and chaotic.

Chris Yeung, Chief Writer of newly-launched CitizenNews, is founder and editor of the Voice of Hong Kong website. He is a veteran journalist formerly worked with the South China Morning Post and the Hong Kong Economic Journal. He writes on Greater China issues.

Photo: CitizenNews pictures

This article also appears on CitizenNews website.

 

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Two young rebels with heart and will http://www.vohk.hk/2017/09/03/two-young-rebels-with-heart-and-will/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss http://www.vohk.hk/2017/09/03/two-young-rebels-with-heart-and-will/#respond Sun, 03 Sep 2017 12:37:16 +0000 http://www.vohk.hk/?p=1842
Young people come out e n masse to vent out their anger against a court ruling on the Occupy Central Student Trio.By Chris Yeung – Alex Chow Yong-kang and Tong Kam-ting probably do not know each other. Young both are, they have one major dissimilarity. In...
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Young people come out e n masse to vent out their anger against a court ruling on the Occupy Central Student Trio.

By Chris Yeung –

Alex Chow Yong-kang and Tong Kam-ting probably do not know each other. Young both are, they have one major dissimilarity. In a sense, they are living in separate worlds.

Chow is now serving a seven-month-long jail term after being convicted of storming into the Government Headquarters in a prelude to the Occupy Central in 2014. Tong Kam-ting, a Form Six student, is chairperson of the student union of Queen Elizabeth School Old Students’ Association Tong Kwok Wah Secondary School in Yuen Long.

They have one thing in common, nevertheless Like many in the 15-25 age group, they are persistent and dare to speak out in what they believe to be the appropriate way on things that matter to their future.

The pair were a sensation in social media at the weekend with their remarks given on separate occasions going viral. In his first “Letter from Prison”, Chow reaffirmed his belief in democracy. “Without democracy, any talk about rule of law is a luxury.” He warned the city’s core values would be endangered if the rule of law and judiciary became a tool to suppress dissent and prolong special privileges and totalitarian rule.

Occupy Central student leader Alex Chow Yong-kang is serving a seven-month jail term.

Occupy Central student leader Alex Chow Yong-kang is serving a seven-month jail term.

Citing novelist George Orwell, Chow wrote, “In a world of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

“At a time of proliferation of lies,” he said, “we must be courageous to tell the truth to the society. Do not be afraid of the power and the rich and keep silent. We ought to know silence, cynicism, apathy and resignation to fate are the biggest accomplice to all sins and injustice.

“At a time of rebellion against fate, we must keep a gentle and soft heart and sharp and clear mind. Only with that we will be able to shoulder the mission of our times. Against the wind we move forward. Remove the dark clouds. Let justice see the light again.”

Also having scooped tens of thousands of likes from Facebook was the footage of a speech given by Tong, the Form Six student, at the school’s commencement ceremony last week.

Entitled “Learn to become an inappropriate person,” Tong recalled the scene of her parents being told by her teacher that she was not “sophisticated and tactful” enough. Her parents were given a kind reminder by her teacher that Kam-ting would be in an disadvantaged position when she faced the real-life test in society in view of her character.

In a show of defiance, Kam-ting said she would indeed argue everyone should learn to act an inappropriate manner by persisting to do what is right.”

She cited another episode in school when a student was being criticised as disrespectful and inappropriate when she turned her back to the national flag at a flag-raising ceremony.

“But when you face that communist regime and the continuing erosion of our freedoms, we will persist on expressing our discontent clearly even in an inappropriate manner.”

Student union leader of a Yuen Long secondary school speaks at school commencement date of her persistence of speaking up.

Student union leader of a Yuen Long secondary school speaks at school commencement date of her persistence of speaking up.

There is no doubt both Chow and Tong would perhaps be deemed as rebels, if not radicals, in some quarters of the society. Chow was thrown into prison by a panel of Appeal Court judges for violating a law on public order. Tong’s act of defiance is not likely to be given harsh punishment. Without naming her, the school issued a statement after the episode to remind students they must express their views through lawful means and in a peaceful and rational manner.

Both Chow and Tong are the targets of a warning by the Appeal Court judges trio against the growth of “unhealthy wind” in the society, referring to challenges against the law on grounds of seeking justice.

That the young pair have presented their case and aspirations in a calm and thoughtful manner with a soft heart and a strong will is both a positive and negative sign.

The worry is that the generational divide fears widening if no efforts are made to bridge the different generations.

The positive sign is that the young generation still believe they should come out and speak up, albeit in ways not deemed by others as inappropriate and impolite, to defend their values and values. And they have acted what they preached.

Chris Yeung, Chief Writer of newly-launched CitizenNews, is founder and editor of the Voice of Hong Kong website. He is a veteran journalist formerly worked with the South China Morning Post and the Hong Kong Economic Journal. He writes on Greater China issues.

Photo: CitizenNews pictures

This article also appears on CitizenNews website.

 

 

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Nothing wrong with populism if… http://www.vohk.hk/2017/08/31/nothing-wrong-with-populism-if/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss http://www.vohk.hk/2017/08/31/nothing-wrong-with-populism-if/#respond Thu, 31 Aug 2017 08:39:33 +0000 http://www.vohk.hk/?p=1838
Former financial secretary John Tsang speaks at HKU on populism.By John Tsang Chun-wah – I was asked to say a few words today on the topic- “What’s wrong with populism?” and engage in dialogue...
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Former financial secretary John Tsang speaks at HKU on populism.

By John Tsang Chun-wah –

I was asked to say a few words today on the topic- “What’s wrong with populism?” and engage in dialogue with you. My speech is a short one, since my answer to the question is also very short and simple. Nothing. I don’t see anything wrong with populism.

First we need to see what we mean with populism. According to Wikipedia, it is a mode of political communication that appeals to the common man, often contrasted against the privileged elite. Populism is intended to be centrist to traditional political right left spectrum, as it sees both bourgeoisie capitalist and socialist organizers as having an unfair domination in the political field. Populism is common in democratic nations, where political parties and politicians would appear to empathizes with public through rhetoric or unrealistic approaches and proposals, in order to increase their political appeals across political spectrums.

In the traditional application of this mode of political communication, we have the iconic populist example of the President of Argentina Juan Perón, some 70 and 80 years ago, who promised the people a universal public pension, universal access to healthcare and massive public road projects. A large portion of Argentineans at the time loved it, just loved it, but some people say that they are still suffering from those in the past, even Broadway and all the show still says the phrase, Don’t cry for me Argentina.

More recently we have Rafael Correa, president of Ecuador from 2007 and middle of this year – 10 years – who spent public funds in abundance on schools, anti-poverty programs, health clinics and highways.

There are other populists leaders, such as Hugo Chávez, President of Venezuela from 1999 to 2013. Silvio Berlusconi, Prime Minister of Italy in 4 governments, who exercised of what I called “let-them-have-candies” approach.

These are all seemingly good things! Schools, pension plans, highways and so forth, and all of these benefit the people, especially who are in the lower economic strata, at least in a short term.

So what’s wrong with the populist initiatives?

Nothing at all

I still think nothing at all, if we can afford, and not just for short term. And if it would not damage our economy and well-being of subsequent generations. Problems would arise if we were to take a carefree, buy-now-and-pay-later kind of attitude towards these initiatives.

I know from my experience as the Financial Secretary that setting fiscal policy for large recurring expenditure, we need to take a more macro, longer term approach. And these leaders weren’t concerned about how their governments would pay for these initiatives and how these initiatives would impact on a longer term development of the economies. There will be other people worry, but in the time being, they would remain popular with their constituents.

To meet these promises they made to the people, they would implement policies that are expensive in nature, both fiscal and monetary policies, to redistribute income and also give the impression of growth of the economy. These methods are actually quite sweet for a while, but after a short period of economic utopia, bottlenecks would develop, macroeconomic pressures would build up to such an extent that real wages would fall, balance of payment difficulty would surface. This is the classic formula for high inflation, or financial crisis, or even collapse of the entire economic system.

Besides the “let-them-have-candies” school of populists, the recent populists have other populists agenda issues. The most prominent of this batch leaders is of course Donald Trump of the United States. Besides promising to make America great again by all means necessary- even though most of those appear to be rather irrational and inconsistent, particularly with international aspiration.

He undertook for example to build a wall along the Mexican border and get the Mexicans to pay for that, as well as getting out of the Paris Agreement, and deport undocumented immigrants. Those promises are actually quite well received by a good portion of the American population, good enough for him to win the presidency, despite losing the popular vote to Hillary by 2 million.

Another example is Rodrigo Duterte, the President of the Philippines. He ordered the police to execute suspected drug dealers and police have done so expeditiously as successful, killing thousands without due process. He has been severely criticised by international community but he does not seem to mind and his popularity remain very high. So I guess he understands well the saying created by Tip O’Neill, that “all politics are local”.

We also have Evo Morales, President of Bolivia, who expanded the rights of farmers who grow cocoa. As well as Geert Wilders, the Dutch politician who wants to get rid of hate speech laws.

We must also mention that Brexiters, who were delighted the people, the real people has smashed the elites.

As we can see, the recent leaders moved away from the “free-candy” approach. No more free-candy, replacing them with popular initiatives that concerned with different factions of local populations. These concerns are typically local in nature, and limited in scale, not necessarily supported by everybody in society.

Factions for each of the issues may be small, but when this issues represent different forces in society, it gradually align themselves, they can create wave after wave of latent but potentially potent actions, culminating in the formation of a loose majority.

Mainstream political force cannot ignore this additive process – that’s how different factions hold themselves to replace the incumbent mainstream without they even taking much notice.

Populists not known as ideologues

Populist politicians come in different forms, and they focus on different issues. They do have one thing in common – they are not known for strong ideologies. Populists are often defined by are their claims that they alone represent the people, and everyone else is illegitimate – kind of government by “my people”.

The populist believe the people, at least their people are always right. In a narrow sense, I cannot disagree with that. That’s indeed the essence of democracy, isn’t it? Government of the people, by the people and for the people. Populist leaders would articulate their rhetoric with such convincing strength and firmly, that the voters would give them their votes and the power to govern.

But is populist politics the true meaning of democracy, particularly liberal democracy? Should we not be concerned about the rights of minority? Or people other than their people? What about the rule of law? And I don’t mean the rule by law.

Some people told me that my election campaign this year was a populist movement. I have given some thought to that. It is true that it was neither right or left in a traditional political sense, in the circumstances of Hong Kong, neither “blue” or “yellow”. Perhaps a good portion of both, certainly it was centrist.

Some people criticized me for not being ideological, not standing for anything. I was not sure about that. I have reiterated many times, that I abide by the core values of the Hong Kong people, no doubt my supporters know what exactly I stand for.

My campaigns not only pursue 1,194 votes of the Election Committee members, I also appeal to people of Hong Kong, even though regrettably I knew well that we did not yet have universal suffrage, but I still want everyone to have a part in this election. And I sought their support and participation. In this sense, I think this is democratic, but unfortunately it was perceived by some as anti-system, some even think that’s anti-establishment.

I was pro-establishment

To be absolutely clear, I have no such intention. I have worked in the Government for 34 years, I was a pro-establishment candidate, even though the so-called establishment for tactical or for whatever reason, labeled me as opposition’s candidate, the one that they must collectively demolish.

My election manifesto sought to fortify the application of “One Country, Two Systems” principles in Hong Kong, highlighting the strength of our institutions, under a more liberal political regime. I sought to enhance it in a small way, the current operating system has become a little sluggish in the last administration. This approach was not embraced by the establishment, as shown by the results of votes, cast by the Election Committee members. I received 365 votes, most of them did not come from pro-establishment camp.

The campaign however lifted the spirit of the majority of the people in a significant way, with a generous public outpouring of emotions, by citizens who rarely demonstrated preference or interest at all in the governance of our community. I think that itself is worthy of our notice.

My election campaign was recognized by the community as hugely successful, in terms of its impact, in terms of its public acceptance. What concern the so-called traditional establishment was that I gain in the polls the support of the majority of people, even though I ended up losing the race. This is a difficult contradiction to explain to anyone, so you can say my campaign included attributes of a populist movement, and it was a good demonstration of what my good friend Derek Yuen called “decent populism”, in another form that help awaken the silent majority who has been sitting quietly in the middle of the bell curve for a long time, particularly in this new age of identity politics, as coined by Chris Patten in his new book, First Confession.

Going back to the original question now, what’s wrong with populism? I would still insist that there’s nothing wrong with populism. It is just a mode of political communication that seeks to garner support from people, which is the source of our political franchise. It is the content that we should scrutinise carefully, in order to ensure the promulgation of which will not in the process erode the value, the institution and the aspiration that we so jealously treasure, that we so wholeheartedly seek to preserve.

This is edited speech given by former financial secretary John Tsang Chun-wah at the HKU Faculty of Social Science Induction on August 30. It is compiled by CitizenNews without reconfirmation by Mr Tsang. Any errors are ours.

Photos: CitizenNews pictures

 

 

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PLA show a sign of Macau ‘mainlandisation’ http://www.vohk.hk/2017/08/27/pla-show-a-sign-of-macau-mainlandisation/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss http://www.vohk.hk/2017/08/27/pla-show-a-sign-of-macau-mainlandisation/#respond Sun, 27 Aug 2017 17:25:57 +0000 http://www.vohk.hk/?p=1832
Typhoon Hato wrecks havoc in Macau, exposing weaknesses in governance and leadership.By Chris Yeung – To add insult to injury, the Macau authorities had denied entry to four Hong Kong journalists who were given the job...
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Typhoon Hato wrecks havoc in Macau, exposing weaknesses in governance and leadership.

By Chris Yeung –

To add insult to injury, the Macau authorities had denied entry to four Hong Kong journalists who were given the job from their media outlets to cover the aftermath of typhoon Hato in the enclave last week. They include the South China Morning Post, Apple Daily and HK01.

The move has drawn criticism from journalists from both cities. The Macau Portuguese and English Press Association deeply regrets the decision. They said the explanation given by the local authorities was “incomprehensible and unsatisfactory.”

They cautioned that this move, similarly to previous ones of the same kind, tarnishes the international image of the SAR regarding press freedom.

In a joint statement, the Hong Kong Journalists Association (of which this author is currently the chairperson) and the Hong Kong Press Photographers Association urged Macau to respect press freedom.

Compared with the enormity of the damages, both in terms of substance and image, inflicted on Macau, the barring of entry of four Hong Kong reporters seems to be a storm in teacup.

Yet it says something of the stark backwardness of the SAR despite the big strides they had made since opening up the gambling industry. The glitters of the gaming city, which has overtaken Las Vegas as the world’s leading gambling capital in 2007, dimmed as typhoon Hato took its toll on the city. Hong Kong fell behind the city when it comes to per capita income.

Like the Macau press’ fears about the damages to the city’s international image caused by the denial of entry of Hong Kong journalists, images of the People’s Liberation Army stationed in Macau being called upon to clean up the piles of rubbish in streets and help the city return to normal life are no doubt bad publicity for the city.

Those PLA-in-action images are normal scenes under such rare situations in the mainland as landslides and earthquakes or catastrophic industrial and transport accidents.

It made an unwelcome debut in Macau, which has followed the footsteps of Hong Kong to become a Special Administrative Region under the formula of “one country, two systems.”

Under the political framework, the SAR governments are given a high degree of autonomy to run their internal affairs, including disaster relief. They could seek the helping hands of Chinese troops in cases like disaster relief if they want to.

Macau governance problems exposed

That the PLA was called upon to join the relief work has laid bare the deficiencies of the governance and leadership of Macau, which have become more acute and apparent in view of its rapidly-growing economy.

From the outset, the sprouting of six-star hotels and casinos bearing global big entertaining and gaming brands have put the city on the league of global pre-eminent cities. But the chaos enveloped with the visit of typhoon Hato are reminiscent of the bedlam in disaster-devastated underdeveloped cities in the mainland and other parts of the world.

The glittering Macau at night.

The glittering Macau at night.

If there is one major difference between Macau and many of those places, it is the fact, welcome but now embarrassing, that the Macau government is flooded with cash so much so that cash give-away to citizens has virtually become an annual ritual.

Substandard governance has contributed to the rise of political activism in the city. Although the power of opposition is small, they have caused panic among the Macau authorities. In recent years, there are fears that the Macau government has screwed up political control to help maintain order.

It is apparently against the background of government fears about the political scene that they have enacted a law on internal security in recent years. Citing the internal security law, some Hong Kong journalists and political activists including district council members and ex-student union leaders had been denied entry into Macau, especially during political sensitive time.

The use of immigration control to turn away what Macau government deems as trouble-makers, be they from the pan-democratic camp or media outlets, bore resemblance to the way the communist authorities maintains order in the mainland.

If anything, the PLA debut show in Macau is yet another sign of the fast-moving mainlandisation of the enclave.

Chris Yeung, Chief Writer of newly-launched CitizenNews, is founder and editor of the Voice of Hong Kong website. He is a veteran journalist formerly worked with the South China Morning Post and the Hong Kong Economic Journal. He writes on Greater China issues.

Photo: Macau official website and website pictures

This article also appears on CitizenNews website.

 

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Make democracy movement strong again http://www.vohk.hk/2017/08/23/make-democracy-movement-strong-again/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss http://www.vohk.hk/2017/08/23/make-democracy-movement-strong-again/#respond Wed, 23 Aug 2017 20:57:14 +0000 http://www.vohk.hk/?p=1826
Nathan Law, Demosisto leader, is being jailed for having occupied the Civic Square outside Government Headquarters in 2014.By Chu Hoi-dick – Dear Nathan, The unique hardship endured by you and your party Demosisto is definitely not something to be celebrated. It is...
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Nathan Law, Demosisto leader, is being jailed for having occupied the Civic Square outside Government Headquarters in 2014.

By Chu Hoi-dick –

Dear Nathan,

The unique hardship endured by you and your party Demosisto is definitely not something to be celebrated. It is a clear remark of the dire political situation. During 1980s when Deng Xiaoping created the concept of One Country Two Systems, Beijing’s focus was to adopt the good elements of Hong Kong’s system for the development of China, in particular the legal system that had the trust of the majority; but in 2017, Beijing’s confidence of its one party authoritarian rule is so overwhelming that they ask Hong Kong to learn from the Mainland system instead. As a result, not only is the prospect of real democracy in Hong Kong being crushed, but even the judiciary is becoming a political tool of the executive branch.

Many observers have stated, Hong Kong’s accelerated fall to authoritarian rule is not something only enforced by Beijing, but are endorsed by many local elites who were grown up with a colonial mentality. The three judges of the Court of Appeal who grossly neglected civil disobedience as a rightful motive clearly put themselves in a cooperative role to keep the undemocratic status quo, rather than to promote the healthy change of the society towards democracy.

What worries me is that the legacy of our 30-year-old democratic movement is not substantial enough to resist the amalgamation of our 170 year-old conforming colonial mentality with the authoritarian agenda brought to us by our new master from the north. Since the Umbrella Movement cynicism became the prevalent mood, the number of people who dare to voice out dropped drastically, even when the population is confronted with major human rights setbacks such as the Causeway Bay Bookstore saga, the disqualifications of elected legislators using new interpretation of Article 104 of the Basic Law, and even the giving up of Hong Kong jurisdiction to the mainland authority in the high-speed railway co-location scheme.

When we dig deeper to the Hong Kong identity, I am surprised to see that although many of us have strong affection towards Hong Kong, we don’t really act as if this city belongs to us. For example when the government has total control to land sale and town planning and the whole land administration is a black box since the 19th century, we don’t feel the urgency to take back the power. That should be the core part of our democratic movement yet in many years no one talked about it until young protesters came out several years ago to fight against the Northeast New Territories new development area. Thirteen of them were sent to prison this month due to a review of sentence applied by the Department of Justice.

The government is also playing a very successful PR campaign since CY Leung became Chief executive in demonizing the democrats as anti-development and common enemy of the city. But in fact we are fighting for every in the city the rights to decide the allocation of land resources, which I think is the only solution to the housing problem of the city.

Beijing and Hong Kong local elites are encroaching every aspects of the democratic movement. We have the media mostly controlled by pro-Beijing businessmen, we have six elected legislators from the democratic camp disqualified, we have mega state enterprises continue buying up properties and public utilities with the aim to control the economy, and the most serious thing is, we have a demoralized population. It is when the above conditions ready that the SAR government started this round of imprisonment of young activists in order to decapitate the new generation of the opposition. They try to make this as the fatal blow to the movement.

黃之鋒-Nathan LAW-非法集結-20170817154336_11b5_large

It seems easy to predict the dreadful result of this David-Goliath struggle, and difficult not to feel desperate. But look at it from a comparative perspective, when in history has a modern democracy movement succeed before hundreds if not thousands were sent to prison? When in history has universal suffrage ever been granted from above by a one-party authoritarian state? If it is true that hope only comes with endeavours and perseverance, then it is of utmost importance for you being confined and I who still have a position in the establishment to rethink the vision, the mode of organization and the strategy of the democratic movement, in order to make it strong again.

Your party Demosisto is at the core of this new phase. I think, with less mass media coverage on our side, party members should not stick to the internet but pour to the streets to give political speeches, about the danger of co-location scheme, about the democratization of public finance and land administration, and about the Basic Law and the constitutional order we want. We need to actively re-orient the people of Hong Kong in this difficult time. We need to persuade them to realize that authoritarian rule in Hong Kong will only damage our livelihood and perpetuate the power structure that favours the rich, that democracy is our undefeatable cause towards dignity and prosperity.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liao Xiaobo died in custody last month. Due to censorship, Liao was definitely not a household name in China and even fewer people know about his contributions and sacrifices to the democratic movement in China. What made him so determined to risk his life to launch the 08 Charter? I finally understand after his death: the more difficult the movement becomes, the more important is to persevere. Facing the same Goliath, Liao sacrificed his life to keep the movement alive, the democratic movement that inevitably links China, Macau and Hong Kong and even Taiwan together.

Now Hong Kong began to have our own prisoners of conscience. I will try my best to support Demosisto and other democratic parties when I am still outside, and accept with no fear my turn to go inside.

Stay Strong!

Chu Hoi Dick

This is the letter of ousted legislator Chu Hoi-dick to Nathan Law, a student leader of the Occupy Central movement, at RTHK’s Letter to Hong Kong programme broadcast on August 20.

Photo: Voice of Hong Kong and CitizenNews pictures

 

 

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Protesters’ return a warning to Govt http://www.vohk.hk/2017/08/21/protesters-return-a-warning-to-govt/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss http://www.vohk.hk/2017/08/21/protesters-return-a-warning-to-govt/#respond Mon, 21 Aug 2017 00:24:44 +0000 http://www.vohk.hk/?p=1820
Angry Hongkongers stage a protest against the jailing of four student leaders.By Chris Yeung – The people are angry. Tens of thousands of protesters have braved torching heat in the biggest rally since the Umbrella Movement...
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Angry Hongkongers stage a protest against the jailing of four student leaders.

By Chris Yeung –

The people are angry. Tens of thousands of protesters have braved torching heat in the biggest rally since the Umbrella Movement to vent out their fury over the sentencing of three student leaders in the 2014 protests. And they have vowed not to resign to the fate of doom and futility in their fight for democracy under communist Chinese rule.

The city’s democratic movement might have slid to a low point 33 months after the 79-day civil disobedience protests ended in failure. That the angry Hongkongers came out again on Sunday has lifted up the mood of the pro-democracy camp and their supporters in the society.

The jailing of Joshua Wong Chi-fung, Nathan Law Kwun-chung and Alex Chow Yong-kang on Thursday will be remembered as a watershed in the city’s history in some important aspects.

The trio has been widely seen as the city’s first batch of political prisoners, or prisoners of conscience, after it reverted to Chinese sovereignty in 1997.

Also importantly, it appears to have emerged as a spark that has reignited the fire of anguish, frustration and anxiety among people across different segments of the society.

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It is not difficult to understand why the Court of Appeal’s ruling in favour of a government appeal for heavier punishment against the trio on Thursday has whipped up a public outcry. They are young. Although they had breached the law and their actions were deemed radical, they had caused no serious injuries to other people. To many people, they have a case for leniency.

Legally okay though it is, the Government’s decision to seek to overturn the original court decision to impose community services orders and suspended imprisonment has been seen as a case of political prosecution against dissent.

If the original court ruling has been seen as too lenient, the Appeal Court’s decision to send the trio to six to eight months in jail has been too harsh. Not just the pan-democrats found it difficult to accept, ordinary people have become sympathetic to the student leaders and sceptical towards the government-initiated judicial review.

Thursday’s jailing of the trio has aggravated the feel-bad sentiments of the pan-democratic segment of the society that has prevailed and deepened in recent years.

Cases unfavourable to the pan-dems

It came hot in the heels of a government victory in their judicial review against a court decision on the sentencing of 13 land activists over their protest against a Legislative Council’s decision on a financing plan for northeast New Territories development in 2014.

Clock turned further backwards. Following Youngspiration’s Sixtus Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching, four more elected pan-democrat lawmakers lost their seats after they were disqualified in a court ruling on the legality of their oath-taking.

To add insult to injury, at least two of them had been ordered to return the allowances they received and they money they spent on their offices to the Government. The other four are likely to face the same order with a bigger bill estimated at millions of dollars. They face bankruptcy if they fail to pay the money back. And if they go bankrupt, they will not be qualified to run for Legco elections again.

Four more legislators were disqualified for allegedly breaching oath-taking ordinance.

Four more legislators were disqualified for allegedly breaching oath-taking ordinance.

The flurry of government salvos against pan-democrats in the aftermath of the Occupy Central movement should not come as a surprise to them and their supporters. But taken together, they have inflicted wounds in the relationship between the pan-democrats and the Government and in the overall mainland-Hong Kong relations.

True, the decision of Leung Chun-ying not to seek another term has marked cooled down the political temperature. The overall political atmosphere has become moderate since Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor took office on July 1, but only on its surface.

Political strain is growing and may turn into fresh frictions in the wake of the string of disqualification of pan-democrat lawmakers and jailing of pro-democracy activists and political figures.

They will become fresh sparks that may set ablaze the political scene already laden with highly inflammable issues such as the joint checkpoints arrangements, political reform and Basic Law Article 23.

Eagerly keen to put highly-contentious issues including political reform and Article 23 low on her political agenda, Mrs Lam is hoping to moderate the socio-political atmosphere by seeking early results on economic and livelihood issues.

Sunday’s protest should give a warning to her and Beijing about the potent force of people’s aspiration for democracy and opposition against the government’s quell of political dissent.

Chris Yeung, Chief Writer of newly-launched CitizenNews, is founder and editor of the Voice of Hong Kong website. He is a veteran journalist formerly worked with the South China Morning Post and the Hong Kong Economic Journal. He writes on Greater China issues.

Photo: CitizenNews pictures

This article also appears on CitizenNews website.

 

 

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Beijing plan to rein in HK almost complete http://www.vohk.hk/2017/08/17/beijing-plan-to-rein-in-hk-almost-complete/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss http://www.vohk.hk/2017/08/17/beijing-plan-to-rein-in-hk-almost-complete/#respond Thu, 17 Aug 2017 17:32:33 +0000 http://www.vohk.hk/?p=1813
Three young student leaders of the Umbrella Movement put to jail.By Victoria Hui – Storms have taken over Hong Kong in recent weeks: the disqualification of four more legislators on July 14, the jailing of...
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Three young student leaders of the Umbrella Movement put to jail.

By Victoria Hui –

Storms have taken over Hong Kong in recent weeks: the disqualification of four more legislators on July 14, the jailing of 13 land rights activists on August 15, the additional sentencing of 3 student leaders of the Umbrella Movement on August 17, and the cessation to mainland authorities of jurisdiction in the West Kowloon train station by next year.

We knew that the storms were coming. Still, we are shaken by the severity. Beijing is increasingly brazen about violating the “one country, two systems” model and replacing it with de facto direct rule.

In the aftermath of the Umbrella Movement in December 2014, Chen Zuoer, the president of Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies and the former deputy director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, vowed to rein in “Hong Kong’s governance”. He declared a struggle against all the societal forces behind the protest, “from the street to the law courts, to the Legislative Council, to inside the government, and to universities and secondary schools, etc.” (“街頭轉到了法庭,轉到了立法會,轉到了政府內部,轉到了中學大學等”).

By August 17, 2017, he could declare “mission accomplished.”

The Umbrella Movement was fueled by anger over the erosion of Hong Kong’s much cherished freedoms – the rule of law, the independent judiciary, the impartial police, the free press, and the neutral civil service.

The rallying cry of the movement, “we want genuine universal suffrage,” did not come into fruition.

If Hong Kong’s protestors saw that they could not hold on to freedoms without democracy, Beijing’s officials seemed to learn that they should stifle freedoms if they want to deny democracy. Chen thus called for an all-out struggle against all pillars of Hong Kong’s freedoms.

It was the easiest to control the government. All it took was to anoint the ‘trusted’ Carrie Lam as the new Chief Executive. According to Zhang Xiaoming, chief of Beijing’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong, the Chief Executive has “overriding power” over not just the executive, but also the legislative and judicial branches, seemingly putting the chief executive above the law. The Chief Executive’s overwhelming authority on appointments and promotions has then made it easy to manage not just the civil service and the police, but also the department of justice and the courts.

HKU alumni protest against management.

HKU alumni protest against management.

To control universities, the former Chief Executive C. Y. Leung stacked university councils with pro-regime figures. The loyal councilors would then duly appoint the right candidates to top positions. Thus, Johannes Chan was denied promotion as a pro-Vice Chancellor at the University of Hong Kong, and Rocky Tuan was appointed as the new Vice Chancellor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

To control the legislature, the government first barred the independence advocate Edward Leung from running in the election at all. To get rid of two other localists, Yau Wai-ching and Leung Chung-hang of Youngspiration, who managed to slip through, C. Y. Leung asked the court to bar them from re-taking their oath. The duo had displayed a “Hong Kong is not China” flag during their swearing-in ceremony in October.

Before the court issued a verdict, Beijing issued an interpretation of the Basic Law which was used to retroactively disqualify any legislator-elect who made revisions or additions to the formal oath. The intervention was a sign of how much Beijing distrusted Hong Kong courts at the time. Faced with a strident and binding Beijing interpretation, the court fully complied with Beijing’s intention to expel the first two opposition legislators from the Legislative Council.

The department of justice sought to disqualify four more legislators: Democracy Groundwork’s Lau Siu-lai, Demosisto’s Nathan Law, the League of Social Democrats’ Leung Kwok-hung (Long Hair) and architectural sector lawmaker Edward Yiu. With Beijing’s wishes so clearly laid out, the court issued the desired verdict with retroactive effect going back to the day of swearing-in.

Has Beijing now reined in the last independent branch of government – the traditionally staunchly independent Hong Kong courts? It would be a good research topic to examine the impact of the Chief Executive’s “overriding power” over judges. It is worth noting that, in November 2016, Chen Zuoer sounded an unmistakable complaint about judges in a closed-door meeting. He was quoted to have said: “The price of committing an offence was too low in some situations in Hong Kong… Taking the Occupy Movement as an example, how many movement leaders were brought to the court up until now? Why were they not in the court?” http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/politics/article/2050425/no-mercy-hong-kongs-pro-independence-rats-says-head-top?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss)

13 land activists sentenced to jail.

13 land activists sentenced to jail.

The 2014 White Paper had already admonished courts to guard national security. Throughout 2015 and 2016, pro-regime voices repeatedly complained that judges released the majority of protest-related defendants or gave very lenient sentences to the convicted few. It is true that the common law has historically been sensitive to the free speech rights of public order defendants.

It was in this context that the Department of Justice appealed against the light sentences of community service to 13 land rights protestors who had stormed into the legislative council building in June 2014, and 3 student leaders who had clambered over the fence set up to close off the “Civic Square” in August 2014. By August 2017, the Court of Appeal could be trusted to comply with the government’s wishes. It handed down jail terms of 8 to 13 months in the former case and 6 to 8 months in the latter case. While the land rights case involves less known activists, the “civic square” case includes the well-known former student leaders Joshua Wong, Nathan Law (also one of the disqualified legislators), and Alex Chow, who were instrumental in sparking the Umbrella Movement.

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There will surely be more prison sentences for other political cases in pending.

Chen Zuoer has thus splendidly accomplished the goal of striking down pro-democracy forces in a short span of only two and a half years.

Somehow, for Beijing, it is not enough to avert democracy and stifle freedoms in order to fully rein in Hong Kong. The planned West Kowloon railway station will give final jurisdiction to mainland authorities. Hong Kong people are told that this is a done deal with no room for negotiation over better arrangements that would not violate Hong Kong’s autonomy.

With the “one country, two systems” model gone 30 years ahead of schedule, Hong Kong is fast becoming just another ‘mainland’ Chinese city. When the Chinese trains roll into West Kowloon under mainland jurisdiction in Fall 2018, Hong Kong will become a part of the greater Shenzhen.

Beijing has broken the promises of “Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong” under “a high degree of autonomy” for 50 years.

The one promise that Beijing has kept is that the PLA would not fire a shot in Hong Kong. It is a genius stroke to send in the train instead of the bullet.

What keeps Hong Kong distinct is what cannot be locked up: the yearning for democracy and freedoms and the commitment to fight for them among the city’s youngest.

Victoria Hui is Associate Professor in Political Science, University of Notre Dame.

Photos: CitizenNews pictures

 

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Mystery of Lam case may stay http://www.vohk.hk/2017/08/14/mystery-of-lam-case-may-stay/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss http://www.vohk.hk/2017/08/14/mystery-of-lam-case-may-stay/#respond Mon, 14 Aug 2017 01:14:31 +0000 http://www.vohk.hk/?p=1809
Democratic Party member Howard Lam claimed he was abducted and tortured by mainland agents for his attempt to send a postcard with the signature of Lionel Messi to Liu Xia, wife of late Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo. Supporters of Liu mourned his death at the Victoria Harbour.By Chris Yeung – An air of mystery is lingering over the alleged kidnapping and torture of Democratic Party member Howard Lam Tsz-kin purportedly linked...
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Democratic Party member Howard Lam claimed he was abducted and tortured by mainland agents for his attempt to send a postcard with the signature of Lionel Messi to Liu Xia, wife of late Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo. Supporters of Liu mourned his death at the Victoria Harbour.

By Chris Yeung –

An air of mystery is lingering over the alleged kidnapping and torture of Democratic Party member Howard Lam Tsz-kin purportedly linked to his attempt to contact Liu Xia, wife of late leading Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.

On Sunday, security minister John Lee Ka-chiu said Police has not yet collected evidence that showed the abduction of Lam as he claimed despite intense investigation by the Police, including a search of CCTV footage.

Meanwhile, some media pro-Beijing figures have begun to highlight what they deem as “suspicious elements” in the case, which are apparently made to question the authenticity of Lam’s claim.

One major query involved Lam’s contradictory remarks about the location where he was said to be abducted. At an interview with the Chinese-language newspaper Apple Daily, Lam said he was abducted near the junction of Hamilton and Portland streets in Yau Ma Tei after he bought a soccer shirt and after he used a toilet at a restaurant opposite Sino Centre on Nathan Road.

He did not mention of using the toilet at his press conference on Friday. Media quoted unnamed police source as saying Lam told them he was abducted when he was on the way to MTR, adding he made no mention of the toilet visit.

Lam also faced grilling from some media about the way he handled the alleged kidnapping. One key question was why he did not immediately report to the police after he was freed on Thursday night, as many people might normally do so.

Founding chairman of the Democratic Party Martin Lee Chu-ming, who joined Lam at the press conference, said it was foolish for Lam to wash the cloths he wore when he was abducted after he returned home.

HowardLamLegs

With doubts lingering, Lam is also faced attack over his previous political behaviour.. A video widely circulated on social media at the weekend showed him masterminding a protest campaign at an outlet of a chained supermarket in 2011. The campaign, joined by more than 10 young people, was aimed to cause disruption to show their resentment over “hegemony by developers.”

The video was re-run in an apparent move to smear Lam as a long-time trouble-maker.

A smear campaign against Lam looks set to be intensified until convincing evidence that gives credence to his claim emerges.

Claim a fabrication unbelievable

Superficially, it sounds unbelievable that Lam’s claim is a fabrication, judging from the fact that he had suffered from injuries and there were staples punched into his legs.

Also importantly, there appears to be no incentives for him to make up a story at the risk of causing huge damage to the credibility and trustworthiness of his party and the pan-democratic camp if the claim is proved to be a fake.

But equally, there has been no convincing theory to explain why Lam was abducted and tortured if what he said was true.

Lam said he believed he was targeted by the mainland’s “powerful organs” because he planned to pass on a signed postcard from Barcelona football star Lionel Messi addressed to Liu Xiaobo.

Even if it is true, it did not explain why sending a postcard could cause the extraordinary torture to Lam.

Speaking on Saturday, former Legislative Council President Tsang Yok-sing said the Messi postcard episode was “weird.” He said some politicians and public figures have resorted to even stronger language and clearer actions to support Liu Xiaobo and Liu Xiao. But he added he would not cast doubt on whether Lam had undergone that painful ordeal.

Proof of power fight theory lacking

Some pundits said the case was linked with factional fighting within the ruling Chinese Communist Party ahead of its watershed Party Congress scheduled for autumn. There is no doubting factional politics are at play, always, in Zhongnanhai But there has been no convincing explanation about how that was being played in the Lam case. A simple question is: who in the ruling party benefits from the alleged kidnapping case? There is no obvious answer.

It is too early to tell how the Lam case unfolds. But in view of the extraordinary claim and the complexities of Hong Kong-mainland politic, the whole truth may never surface. Whether the claim is true and why it happened are in the eyes of beholders. Like it or not.

Chris Yeung, Chief Writer of newly-launched CitizenNews, is founder and editor of the Voice of Hong Kong website. He is a veteran journalist formerly worked with the South China Morning Post and the Hong Kong Economic Journal. He writes on Greater China issues.

Photo: CitizenNews pictures

This article also appears on CitizenNews website.

 

 

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