Voice of Hong Kong http://www.vohk.hk One Hong Kong, Many Voices Mon, 14 Aug 2017 01:14:31 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.5.9 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.

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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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Balance budget for what? http://www.vohk.hk/2017/08/03/balance-budget-for-what/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss http://www.vohk.hk/2017/08/03/balance-budget-for-what/#respond Thu, 03 Aug 2017 17:18:04 +0000 http://www.vohk.hk/?p=1804
Is Hong Kong's economy slowing because of conservative public finance policy?By Joseph Yam – Those with an interest, from whichever perspective, in the public finance of Hong Kong post-1997 may be familiar with Article 107...
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Is Hong Kong's economy slowing because of conservative public finance policy?

By Joseph Yam –

Those with an interest, from whichever perspective, in the public finance of Hong Kong post-1997 may be familiar with Article 107 of the Basic Law, which requires that:

“The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall follow the principle of keeping expenditure within the limits of revenue in drawing up its budget, and strive to achieve a fiscal balance, avoid deficits and keep the budget commensurate with the growth rate of its gross domestic product.”

Reading through Article 107 quickly, the overall message on the need to be prudent in the management of public finance in Hong Kong, which everybody supports, seems to be very clear. The specific requirements therein, such as “follow the principle of keeping expenditure within the limits of revenue”, or the need to “avoid deficits”, have also not been subject matters of controversy or even of significant interest in the community or in academia, important though they may be. The general sentiment seems to be that, as long as Hong Kong is not running fiscal deficits, then the HKSARG, in the management of public finance in Hong Kong, is dutifully observing Article 107. The fact that in the past decade Hong Kong has been continuously running substantial fiscal surpluses, notwithstanding the requirement in Article 107 to “strive to achieve a fiscal balance”, has not been a matter of public concern, other than the mild criticism directed at the Financial Secretary in being a miser.

But Article 107 justifies much more attention in the community. There is the obvious question of compliance by the HKSARG. Another question is whether the HKSARG is prudently making full use of the framework defined in Article 107 to promote the public interest. Indeed, with Hong Kong experiencing historically slow economic growth rates in the past decade and a strong desire of everybody in Hong Kong to invest in the future of Hong Kong and build a more dynamic economy, the contractionary fiscal stance on the economy of a decade of fiscal surpluses seems inappropriate, if not irresponsible. The problem of fiscal drag on the economy is, of course, a complex one that is not totally within the control of the fiscal authorities. But at least budgeting should appropriately allow for, on the revenue side, progressivity in the tax structure interacting with expected inflation to boost receipts, and on the expenditure side, the restraining effect of budget allocations being in cash terms and, regrettably, worsening Hong Kong style filibustering. A deeper and wider understanding by all concerned of Article 107 will help to take Hong Kong confidently forward.

Deeper understanding of Article 107

Let me first deal with the easier and non-controversial aspect concerning the time dimension. It was never the intention that there should be balanced budgets with no deficits year after year. Sensibly, we should be talking about achieving a balance over an economic cycle. But, given the externally-oriented nature of the Hong Kong economy and the frequent external economic and financial shocks that we are exposed to, it will be difficult to be definite about the duration of an economic cycle. And so there is a need to be pragmatic and flexible in terms of the time frame for striving to achieve fiscal balance, and to exercise best judgement in the preparation of the budgets for individual years, while being transparent about the theoretical foundation for arriving at that judgement.

The second point concerns the distinction between the budget (ex ante) and the outcome (ex post). With all the good intentions in the world, things never quite turn out exactly the way they were planned. Article 107 refers to the budget and not the outcome, understandably allowing for the many unexpected developments that affect the public finance during a financial year. Thus, judging compliance should be in respect of the former and not the latter, but obviously the difference between the two, inevitable as it may be, is a reflection of the robustness of the budgetary process that the authorities need to reflect on and improvements, if identified, introduced.

The third point is that Article 107 is conceptual in nature and not prescriptive. It uses, for example, words such as “follow the principle” (of keeping expenditure within the limits of revenue), “strive” (to achieve a fiscal balance) and “avoid” (deficits). Yes we simply should not live beyond our means. But Article 107 does not prohibit counter-cyclical budget deficits that mirror budget surpluses over an economic cycle. It also does not prohibit budget deficits arising from, for example, the HKSARG making productivity-enhancing investments in the future of Hong Kong, which will boost future economic growth and government revenue, and can be seen as a necessary effort now to strive to achieve fiscal balance in the future in the light of the enlarging fiscal burden arising from an aging population.

The fourth point is most important and, regrettably, much neglected as well as misunderstood. This concerns the requirement for the HKSAR to “keep the budget commensurate with the growth rate of its gross domestic product”. This has been interpreted as either a requirement for government expenditure (and revenue) to grow at the same rate as GDP or a requirement for government expenditure to be limited at a fixed percentage of GDP, for example, 20%. I do not think that these interpretations are correct. If there were such requirements intended, Article 107 could have simply said so.

It is important to appreciate that in this part of Article 107, we are talking about the budget as a quantitative measurement in terms of dollars and cents on the one hand and the growth rate of GDP as a measurement of speed on the other hand. A requirement for the quantity of something to be commensurate with the speed of something else is, of course, predicated on there being an interactive relationship between the two. The use of the words “commensurate with” (instead of, for example, “at the same pace”), is most interesting in that it recognizes the need for the use of fiscal policy in macroeconomic management. Readers will more readily appreciate the wisdom behind all this by considering the example of driving a car: you inject a greater quantity of gasoline when the speed of the car is too slow and less when the speed of the car is too fast! In other words, the budgets should be characterized by more spending and less tax to the extent of running deficits when the growth rate of the economy is too slow and the opposite when the growth rate of the economy is too fast.

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Let me hasten to add, as I am sure some will want to point out, that with a highly externally-oriented economy, the scope for active macroeconomic management in Hong Kong is perhaps more limited than in other less externally-oriented economies. Indeed, large leakages into imports means a low multiplier effect for public expenditure. But let me quote from The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics. In the entry on “fiscal stance”, it says: “there is usually a general tendency for public expenditure to involve a lower import content than private spending, at least at the first round, and a measure of fiscal stance not adjusted for this might therefore misrepresent the scale of long-term demand effects if policy is heavily concentrated on, say, expanding public expenditure or reducing taxes”. Furthermore, in crafting an expansionary budget to speed up the economy, whether as a counter-cyclical measure or as a measure to address the structural problem of a sub-par growth trend, priority can be given to those items with higher multiplier and productivity-enhancing effects. And if the danger of growth in recurrent expenditure becoming excessive is a concern, then priority can also be given to those with relatively low recurrent implications.

I have been encouraged by the honourable desire of the new term government of HKSAR to “Seize the Opportunity to Invest for the Future” in its “New Fiscal Philosophy”. I thus offer these viewpoints on Article 107 for consideration. But I am acutely aware of the fact that I am not a lawyer. I was, however, involved as a member of the inner team assisting successive financial secretaries in preparing the annual budget and in helping to draft their budget speeches for about 20 years from the mid-70s. And I did have an opportunity to express my views when Article 107 itself was being drafted.

Joseph Yam is an Executive Council member and former chief executive of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority. This article was first published in his personal blog, http://www.josephyam.com.?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss

The headline was written by VOHK. It original headline was Viewpoints on Public Finance in Hong Kong.

Photo: VOHK picture

 

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Deconstructing ‘decolonialization’ http://www.vohk.hk/2017/08/01/deconstructing-decolonialization/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss http://www.vohk.hk/2017/08/01/deconstructing-decolonialization/#respond Tue, 01 Aug 2017 16:56:47 +0000 http://www.vohk.hk/?p=1797
20 years after its reversion to Chinese rule, Hong Kong is troubled by identity issue.By Wu Ruoqi – Chen Zuoer (陳佐洱), a mainland official who has overseen Hong Kong affairs for over two decades, said it broke his heart...
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20 years after its reversion to Chinese rule, Hong Kong is troubled by identity issue.

By Wu Ruoqi –

Chen Zuoer (陳佐洱), a mainland official who has overseen Hong Kong affairs for over two decades, said it broke his heart to see the city’s people waving colonial flags at street protests, for it showed they still clung to their identities as colonial subjects.

Had Chen known about the kind of education I received in the twilight years of colonial Hong Kong, he would have some idea why shedding off a colonial mindset can be so difficult.

I had a Eurasian teacher who instructed, when explaining the rules of charade (the game in which one person has to by gestures alone give hints on the word she has in mind while the rest of the group guess what that word is): if we wanted to indicate the word “Chinese,” we should push up the outer corners of our eyes and produce slanted eyes.

If anyone needs proof that one need not be born and raised abroad to be a banana – yellow on the outside, white on the inside – the above scene should be it: the message became ingrained in me that If I wanted to be Chinese, I had to make an effort to pretend to be one.

Then there was my headmistress – a transplant from Shanghai who spoke English with a crisp British accent – who recounted in a tone of disbelief that her sister (presumably westernized like herself) suddenly became enamored of Chinese literature after she went abroad to study.

“You should think of it as strange that someone would pursue a subject so remote and exotic” was the implied meaning of the story.

Back then, if someone had told me the time would come when I, too, would be entranced by the culture of my ancestors – that traditional Chinese culture would frame the way I see the world so much that I couldn’t help but identify myself as Chinese – I wouldn’t have believed her.

Yet this was exactly what happened.

Colonial flags raised at July 1 rally.

Colonial flags raised at July 1 rally.

It all began as a practical need: I went to mainland China to work as a reporter and had to cultivate sources. I noticed many of those who could help me share a passion for Chinese literature and history. Even though my Chinese proficiency wasn’t great, I could always rely on modern translations to understand the classics. So I deemed it worthwhile to acquaint myself with such subjects: if I could share an interest with mainlanders, I would have people to call in the event of breaking news.

Initially, I thought I had to turn to my kind (i.e. white people) to obtain a sense of how daunting the task of learning Chinese literature and history would be. I found a quote shared among 19th century British missionaries in China listing the qualities necessary for the study of Chinese: “bodies of iron, lungs of brass, heads of oak, hands of spring steel, eyes of eagles, hearts of apostles, memories of angels, and lives of Methuselah” – and steeled myself up for the ordeal.

My fears were unfounded. China was in the process of reviving cultural education (國學), so learning tools in the form of TV programs and books were widely available. I became particularly hooked on “Lectern of a Hundred Schools” (百家講壇), a series of lectures delivered on state television by professors notable for making the Chinese classics accessible to a general audience. Before long I was able to captivate potential sources by sharing my takeaway on the lectures. I had little trouble getting people to take my calls after that.

As time went on, their culture became my culture, too. Most intriguing was the impact my metamorphosis had on my orientation to the English language: the less of a banana I was, the more of an egg – white on the outside, yellow on the inside – my approach to English writing became, and, paradoxically, the further writing in English evolved as a way to fall in love with traditional Chinese culture.

I can’t identify with my ancestral culture through Chinese alone because my westernized education exposed me to far more English than Chinese – so I’m far more attuned to the workings of the former. When I admire an English copy – say I’m awestruck by an author’s off-label use of a rule – I understand something of the bliss ballerina Margot Fonteyn drew from her dance partner when he illuminated for her the intricacies of her art: “”during a performance I can still become fascinated if I catch sight out of the corner of my eye of the way in which Rudolf (Nureyev) will place a foot on stage.” When I’m reading Chinese, however, there is a distinct drop in such moments of epiphanies, so I can only conclude I’m largely tone-deaf to the beauty of Chinese that I know must exist.

Luckily, all is not lost. While familiarizing myself with Chinese poetry, I discovered Chinese poets who became my guide through the English writing process because they elucidated truths about it that I wouldn’t have otherwise noticed.

To cite just a few examples: “When books read exceed thousands, The pen is gripped by a force not of this world” (讀書破萬卷, 下筆如有神) is a counsel to seep the many English texts I admire into my consciousness, so that when I grapple with my own copy, they can guide my hand the manner of the spirit behind an Ouijia board as I eye the most engaging way to present my thoughts; I have yet to write a piece I hadn’t thought of giving up halfway, so “Last night the rising tide rendered the warship light as feather, Though previously all efforts to push it were in vain, now it floats effortlessly on its own” (昨夜江邊春水生,艨艟巨艦一毛輕。向來枉費推移力,此日中流自在行) provides me with a much-needed hand-holding service when I’m stuck in my writing; I write while staring out at a window, and “Thousands of scrolls old and new dissolve the hours of the day, From dusk to dawn the lone window bids the years farewell” (萬卷古今消永日,一窗昏曉送流年) heightens my awareness that even as I’m so absorbed by the task of poring over ancient texts and pondering their relevance to the present that I lose my sense of time, the changing light outside my windows is there to remind me of the transient nature of my existence.

If (to paraphrase E. M. Forster) one can’t know what one thinks until one can see what one says, then, in achieving greater clarity about my ancestral heritage through seeing my thoughts about it expressed in English, I have made English my conduit through which to understand the cultural legacy of my homeland.

Other unexpected conduits kept occurring to me as well. I teach English writing – I do so the way I wish I had been taught, by writing along with my students and letting them witness the process by which barely grammatical gibberish is chiseled into compelling copy – and more than anyone, the Chinese calligrapher Zhang Chonghe(張充和)opened my eyes to the possibilities of this coaching approach.

Like Fonteyn, who was so captivated by Nureyev’s footwork on stage that she momentarily forgot she was supposed to perform as well, Zhang, too, was so arrested by this scene of her teacher the calligraphy master Shen Yinmo(沈尹默)at work that it was only halfway that she had the presence of mind to ask herself, “why have I allowed myself to fall under his spell when I should be watching his technique?”: “the tip of his brush pirouettes like a dancer, and the stage is set for a flurry of movements that will unveil the beauty of symmetry at its most sublime. Under his cunning, the brush is spirited across all fours of the paper, rising and falling, advancing and retreating, orchestrations in thrall to a tempo of their own, a spectacle that enraptures me so much that it throws me off balance, while at the same time instilling in me an eerie calm.” (只見筆尖在紙上舞動著,竟像是個舞者,舞台的畫面與動態,都達到和諧之美的極境。運筆時四面八方,抑揚頓挫,急徐提按都是音樂的節奏,雖然是看得我眼花繚亂,卻於節奏中得到恬靜).

Zhang went on to become an acclaimed calligrapher herself, and the Chinese scholar Yu Yingshi(余英時)credited Zhang’s artistry to her capacity to be most in her element when immersed in her craft (游於藝) – a state of mind prized by Chinese thinkers since Confucius, who likens it to a fish swimming with joy and abandon by gliding along the current and loosing its consciousness of the waters (人之習於藝,如魚在水,忘其為水,斯有游泳自如之樂). In retrospect, this quality she was already in possession of back when she was a student; now that I have students of my own, I absorbed from Zhang the idea that the ultimate heights my lessons can aspire to is my mastery of English writing is such that I can induce my students to lose themselves in the act of watching me write.

My conversion from banana to egg would have pleased Chen Zuoer, who has called upon Hong Kong government officials to use education as a tool to instill a sense of national identity in Hong Kong youths. I’m probably no poster child for his brand of decolonialization, though: my change was self-propelled and self-paced, my affection for my homeland merely the accidental by-product of the pleasures my immersion in Chinese culture has given me. Hole me up in a classroom and force me to participate in a program that trumpets its agenda as making me feel Chinese – the very approach Beijing’s control-freak disposition will incline it to take – and I will feel like a fish out of water. Confucius would have understood.

To me, the one thing that stands out about feeling comfortable in my own skin as Chinese is it consists of moments that can’t be planned for. The very act of writing this piece yielded a surprise of such nature: a few paragraphs back, when I translated Zhang Chonghe’s prose into English and experimented with ways of keeping her voice intact, I felt the force of her words acutely, and, for a split second, it felt as if it was she and not I who were labouring to deliver the original text in the reincarnated form of another language. It spooked me a little, but to have the spirit of doyen of Chinese calligraphy take possession of me – it doesn’t get any better than this, especially considering I had once thought to experience even a semblance of Chinese-ness I had to resort to slanted eyes.

Educated at the Diocesan Girls’ School and Oxford, Wu Ruoqi lived in mainland China and worked in the PR and media sectors for a decade before returning to Hong Kong. She is now working on a book on Chinese astrology and coaching senior school students on English composition, as well as writing about the complexities of being Chinese in post-colonial Hong Kong on the side. She can be reached at1647349984@qq.com

Photo: VOHK pictures

This article also appears on CitizenNews, www.hkcnews.com?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss

 

 

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Truth the victim in rail propaganda war http://www.vohk.hk/2017/07/31/truth-the-victim-in-rail-propaganda-war/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss http://www.vohk.hk/2017/07/31/truth-the-victim-in-rail-propaganda-war/#respond Mon, 31 Jul 2017 00:51:14 +0000 http://www.vohk.hk/?p=1801
高鐵-一地兩檢-20170725150704_1b6b_largeBy Chris Yeung – It is a case of “one checkpoint model, two different worlds” with the Government and loyalists claiming the joint checkpoint arrangement...
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By Chris Yeung –

It is a case of “one checkpoint model, two different worlds” with the Government and loyalists claiming the joint checkpoint arrangement at the West Kowloon rail terminus will be the fast lane to heaven and the opponents warning it is a path to hell. Truth is feared to be the victim in the fiercely-fought propaganda war between the two sides.

The two poles-apart scenarios have emerged as the battle-lines over the co-location of checkpoints plan at the West Kowloon terminus of the cross-border high-speed rail were drawn as soon as it was unveiled last week.

On Sunday, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung has inflated the significance of the cross-border rail link. He said rail link’s checkpoint arrangement hinged upon the city’s long-term competitiveness.

Not just tourism and its related sectors, he argued that a list of the city’s pillar industries including finance, trade, logistics and professional services would all benefit from speedier and more convenient transport across the border.

According to government estimate, the trip from Hong Kong to Guangzhou on a high-speed train will take 48 minutes, less than half of the present ride on through-train.

Without the cross-border speed rail link, Cheung warned the city risks being marginalised.

Speaking also on Sunday, a key adviser to Chinese government, Anthony Wu Ting-yuk, issued another no-nonsense warning. He was worried that Hong Kong would be in decline becoming “China’s Venice”, which was once a booming trade centre in Europe, if the joint checkpoint arrangement was not in place at the high-speed rail link. Wu is a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference Standing Committee.

Alarmist rhetoric by both sides

The alarmist rhetoric of top officials and pro-establishment figures sounds ironical as it came on the same day Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor blasted remarks by some critics of the checkpoint plan as “politicised,” “incomprehensive”, “rather ridiculous.”

Without naming names, she expressed disbelief to remarks made by a senior legal figure, who urged people not to get near to the West Kowloon terminus if they did not want to be arrested and sent to the mainland for a trial in mainland courts.

Her advice to people who feel worried about their personal safety at the West Kowloon terminus is simple. Just not take it. Go to the mainland by other means if they want to, said Mrs Lam.

Mrs Lam, whose popularity rose since she won the Chief Executive election in March, and her team seem to be determined to talk what they deem as the hard and naked truth in the battle for public support over the joint checkpoint arrangement.

Apart from her “take-it-or-drop-it” advice to the doubters of the checkpoint plan, justice minister Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung made an uncaring analogy about the leasing arrangement for mainland authorities to enforce law at the West Kowloon terminus.

Yuen cited Basic Law Article 7 to say Hong Kong’s land resources belong to the nation. He likened the leasing deal to the return of land rent by landlord to tenants back to the landlord after the latter found he or she did not have enough land and wanted to have it back.

The blitz of insensitive remarks by the Lam team has inflamed the feeling of anxieties and uncertainties among the populace about the scenarios of letting the mainland authorities enforce mainland laws in the leased area at the terminus.

Not surprisingly, the pan-democratic camp has played the “communist-phobia” card, portraying a gloomy picture of Hong Kong if the joint checkpoint arrangement is turned into law.

They likened the move by the Government to “lease” land to the mainland authorities as “self-castration”, meaning a surrender of the city’s autonomy entitled to in the Basic Law.

The truth of the implications of the checkpoint model, however, lies between the sharply different scenarios envisaged by the proponents and opponents.

Joint checkpoint arrangement is perhaps the best in terms of economic effectiveness of the rail link. It is not the only path to Rome. Nor it has no demerits and risks.

Dismissing people’s jitters about the law enforcement of mainland authorities on Hong Kong soil as merely scaremongering could be counter-productive, breeding more fears and half-truths and further widening the gulf between the two sides.

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: MTRC picture

This article also appears on CitizenNews.

 

 

 

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Row over education No 2 post puts Lam to test http://www.vohk.hk/2017/07/09/row-over-education-no-2-post-puts-lam-to-test/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss http://www.vohk.hk/2017/07/09/row-over-education-no-2-post-puts-lam-to-test/#respond Sun, 09 Jul 2017 23:46:11 +0000 http://www.vohk.hk/?p=1789
A group of Professional Teachers' Union joins the July 1 rally, protesting against communist influence in education.By Chris Yeung – The first week of the Carrie Lam administration could not be better for her. Her debut at a Legislative Council question-time...
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A group of Professional Teachers' Union joins the July 1 rally, protesting against communist influence in education.

By Chris Yeung –

The first week of the Carrie Lam administration could not be better for her. Her debut at a Legislative Council question-time was largely peaceful and orderly. It contrasted sharply with the mayhem at the chamber as soon as her predecessor Leung Chun-ying appeared.

The truce between her and the pan-democrats may soon come to an end, however.

A brewing row over the appointment of Christine Choi Yuk-lin, a pro-Beijing school principal, as education undersecretary has given an early warning to the Chief Executive about the underlying tensions in mainland-Hong Kong relations.

The deep-rooted feeling of distrust towards the Chinese Communist Party and those being seen as their associates in the city among some quarters of the populace is set to continue to prevail, if not worsen. Like it or not, it will add oil to flame in cases like the naming of Choi to join the ruling team.

It is unclear whether it is a case of political naivety when Mrs Lam reportedly told a group of senior editors last week she did not understand why Choi was at the brunt of attack when she was named in the media as the next Undersecretary for Education. Mrs Lam was quoted as saying the number of people who signed up in an online campaign to oppose her appointment, or 9,000-odd by the time she spoke, was “small.”

Her dismissive attitude towards the opponents has given a fillip to the anti-Choi campaign. The number of signatories to the campaign has hit the 10,000-mark as of Sunday.

Educationists and the pan-democrats have joined hands to upgrade the campaign, which has now emerged as the first political test for Mrs Lam, just about one week after she took power.

Abilities, not political stance, count

Publicly, Mrs Lam has insisted she would pick people to join her team because of their qualities, not their political stance.

But behind the scenes, it is inconceivable that the selection and appointment of principal officials and undersecretaries and perhaps even political assistants have no politics in it.

Speculation was rife that Ms Choi was originally named by the central government’s Liaison Office to become the Secretary for Education, but was rejected by Mrs Lam.

The reported appointment of Christine Choi as deputy education minister causes a stir.

The reported appointment of Christine Choi as deputy education minister causes a stir.

If the report is true, there is good reason to believe the appointment of Ms Choi to become the Number Two in the Education Bureau may be a compromise between Mrs Lam and Beijing with the post of minister being take up by Kevin Yeung Yun-hung, a former senior administrative officer who became the education undersecretary in the Leung Chun-ying administration.

If the report is true, it is clear that Mrs Lam has indeed taken into account political factor in her reported decision to block Ms Choi from becoming the education chief for obvious reasons.

Ms Choi is one of the vice-president of the leftwing Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers, which is largely comprised of teachers from the city’s patriotic schools. It hit headlines in 2012 when a booklet called The China Model compiled by the group was distributed to primary and secondary schools for the now-shelved national education teaching. Critics lambasted the booklet as biased and brain-washing, citing its contents.

Choi vows to promote students’ national identity

Shortly after her possible appointment was leaked to the media, Ms Choi said in a China Central Television news programme one of her missions was to cultivate students’ sense of national identity.

A coalition formed to block her appointment said Ms Choi was not a suitable candidate because of her strong political views, which ran against the professional code requiring educators to remain neutral and balanced.

Fairly speaking, Ms Choi is not the only cabinet member with close ties to pro-Beijing groups if she is appointed. Tsang Tak-sing, sat on both the Donald Tsang and Leung Chun-ying administration as home affairs secretary. Tsang has close ties with both the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong and the Federation of Education Workers.

More young leaders from the DAB are set to join the Lam team as undersecretaries and political assistants.

That Ms Choi’s reportedly appointment has caused jitters and whipped up a storm of protests is because of Beijing’s call for the strengthening of national education and education about patriotism. Among the advocates was President Xi Jinping, who made the call in a speech delivered on July 1 in Hong Kong.

A no to Ms Choi’s appointment is also a no to Beijing’s intensified pressure on the city to impose national and patriotic education among the youth and in the society at large.

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 and Ip Kin-yuen Facebook pictures

This article also appears on CitizenNews.

 

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Green Hong Kong – Past, Present, Future http://www.vohk.hk/2017/07/02/green-hong-kong-past-present-future/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss http://www.vohk.hk/2017/07/02/green-hong-kong-past-present-future/#respond Sun, 02 Jul 2017 14:53:17 +0000 http://www.vohk.hk/?p=1781
Old apartment in hong kongBy Joyce Lau – When Hong Kong was handed from British to Chinese rule 20 years ago in 1997, nobody knew what a “green group”...
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Old apartment in hong kong

By Joyce Lau –

When Hong Kong was handed from British to Chinese rule 20 years ago in 1997, nobody knew what a “green group” was. Almost nobody recycled, bought organic groceries, or checked daily pollution ranking on an app. Or, for that matter, knew what an “app” was.

The very physical city was different, with sea breezes from Victoria Harbour wafting up to City Hall. The airport was not a gleaming facility on Lantau Island, but wedged between crowded tenements at Kai Tak. West Kowloon – now home to ICC, Elements and a budding cultural district – was a plot of dirt. And to go to Disney, you had to fly overseas.

Making room for growth

Hong Kong’s population edged up from 6.5 million to 7.3 million in two decades. But a much larger impact on the city was the opening up of the border with China. Annual cross-border trips boomed from 2.3 million to 42 million. Today, countless crowds commute daily into Hong Kong for school, work, or just plain grocery shopping.

To accommodate those extra people, vehicles jumped from under 500,000 to more than 750,000. And to accommodate all those extra vehicles, there are now more than 2,100 kilometres of road, as opposed to 1,800 before. The number of MTR stations has grown from 38 to 93, with one of the world’s top-ranked subway systems reaching from Ocean Park to the University of Hong Kong, from Kwun Tong to the China border.

With those physical changes also came a greater concern about – the quality of the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, and design of the neighborhoods we live in.  It was at about the time of the handover that a small number of people began to grow the city’s green movement.

Christine Loh Kung-wai, a lawmaker whose terms in the Legislative Council covered both British and Chinese rule, was one of those people. In 2000, she left politics to co-found a public policy think-tank called Civic Exchange, along with researcher Lisa Hopkinson. (Loh ended her term as the government’s Under Secretary of Environment on June 30).

Since those early days, Civic Exchange has helped pioneer environmental tools like the Hedley Index ttp://hedleyindex.sph.hku.hk/html/en/ and enacted major changes to both corporate and government behaviour, in fields like ship emissions.

So what’s next

Looking ahead

The handover anniversary coincides with a new change of administration, as Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-Ngor takes office as chief executive. She does so at a time when society is increasingly aware of issues like air pollution, water scarcity, global warming, and the protection of our green spaces.

Speaking to experts working with Civic Exchange, we offer these policy recommendations for the new government, so they can run Hong Kong as a better city with better public health.

Air Pollution

In May, Civic Exchange and the City University of Hong Kong publicized a research project which used a newly designed sensor to track individuals’ exposure to PM2.5, a type of particle that is particularly dangerous to health because it is small enough to be breathed deeply into the lungs. The technology used for this pilot study was only the beginning in what we hope will be long-term development of tools and apps used to track both indoor and outdoor pollution.

In the important field of air pollution, we recommend that the government should:

– Reduce individuals’ exposure to pollutants through better urban and transport planning

– Promote low- or zero- emission buses and heavy duty vehicles

– Enhance vehicle inspection and maintenance programmes

– Adopt low-emission and fuel-efficient technologies for ferries, harbour crafts and river vessels

– Further tighten the mandatory sulphur cap of marine fuel for ocean-going vessels when berthing in Hong Kong from 0.5% to 0.1%.

Water Security

In May, Civic Exchange and ADM Capital Foundation published “The Illusion of Plenty,” a report examining water security in Hong Kong. It focused on local challenges, such as leakage, an out-of-date tariff system and high per capita consumption, as well as exploring regional considerations, largely surrounding the HK$4.2 billion deal with Guangdong that provides up to 80% of the city’s water. The report sparked debate about the sustainability of Hong Kong’s water system. Civic Exchange and ADM experts had the following recommendations for the new administration and the Legislative Council:

– Formulate a broader water policy that ensures the integrity and resilience of Hong Kong’s entire water system, from source to tap

– Develop and align Hong Kong’s policies with Guangdong’s commitments to national water management, ensuring our contribution to water security within the Pearl River Delta

– Pass legislation so that our laws match current-day technological advances. Specific, do-able actions include requiring private building owners to address leakages quickly; allowing for greater uses for reclaimed waste water; and mandating the use of labelled water-efficient appliances.

Public Space

In the past year, Civic Exchange has launched major initiatives around both walkability, and the use of public open spaces like parks. Here are ways we feel the government could improve neighborhoods for pedestrians and residents:

– Find solutions for Hong Kong’s waterfront, a prime piece of property along Victoria Harbour, and one of the few places left downtown where significant green space can be built

– Establish an Energizing Central Office – similar to the efficient Energizing Kowloon East Office – which can be used to find localised solutions to the area from Tamar to Western Market, and  up to Tai Kung, the historic former police station on Hollywood Road

– Stop eco-vandalism on land reserved for conservation and agriculture, with enhancement of enforcement powers and resources

– Expedite investment in new rail, including the North Island and East Kowloon lines

– Given the recent debate over both protected country parks and urban green spaces, establish a broad advisory committee on land supply strategieswith members including representatives from professional institutions and concern groups

Much has changed in Hong Kong over the past 20 years, including a drop in some types of air pollution despite an increase in people and cars. Hong Kong residents can also pat themselves on the back, for one of the world’s highest usage rates of public transportation. However, many challenges remain, including pollution and overcrowding. The government needs to act quickly and intelligently, if we want to keep Hong Kong green 20 years from now.

Joyce Lau is Civic Exchange’s communications director.

Photo: Picture provided by Civic Exchange

 

 

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The shadow of Leung lurks in Lam’s reign http://www.vohk.hk/2017/06/25/the-shadow-of-leung-lurks-in-lams-reign/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss http://www.vohk.hk/2017/06/25/the-shadow-of-leung-lurks-in-lams-reign/#respond Sun, 25 Jun 2017 13:14:19 +0000 http://www.vohk.hk/?p=1776
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying is fighting to the last minute of his term to make decisions on controversial issues despite a lack of consensus among major stake-holders.By Chris Yeung – In a no-unambiguous reference to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, a pro-Beijing heavyweight Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai has cautioned the departing leader...
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Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying is fighting to the last minute of his term to make decisions on controversial issues despite a lack of consensus among major stake-holders.

By Chris Yeung –

In a no-unambiguous reference to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, a pro-Beijing heavyweight Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai has cautioned the departing leader to mind his words when commenting on Hong Kong affairs after July 1.

The city, she said, should be governed by the current Chief Executive and his or her  team.

“Hong Kong people and non-establishment people may not be able to influence the overall scene when they make a comment. But as state leaders, (they) should be extremely careful.

“They should not give too many personal views,” said Mrs Fan, the only delegate from Hong Kong who sits on the National People’s Congress Standing Committee.

Mrs Fan, who is not known as a fan of Leung, did not name Leung in the interview with RTHK.

But she named both former chief executives Tung Chee-hwa and Donald Tsang Yam-kuen. She said Tsang no long commented on Hong Kong issue after he stepped down in 2012. Tung, she said, only gave his views on Hong Kong issue at CPPCC (Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference) meetings, of which he is a vice-chairman, who is given the status of state leader under the Chinese hierarchy..

Leung, whose term will end on Saturday, has refrained from making a clear promise not to comment on Hong Kong issues after he stands down. He has said Chief Executive, while in office, has regularly consulted local NPC and CPPCC delegates on the annual Policy Address.

Leung was elected as a vice-chairman of the CPPCC in March.

A source close to Beijing said Leung would not have any official role on Hong Kong affairs after July 1. Just as Tung, he said Leung would not sit on the Politburo’s Leading Group on Hong Kong and Macau Affairs led by President Xi Jinping.

Despite the fact that Leung would be elevated to the national political stage in six days, there are fears that he would continue to make waves, if not trouble, in the city’s political scene.

Tall order for Leung to shut up

It will be a tall order for him to heed Mrs Fan’s advice to shut up when he no longer hold an official position.

This is partly because of his uncompromising personality and strong sense of self-belief in the way the city should be governed and the direction it should go.

His decision to rush through two highly-contentious labour issues this month, the last in his five-year reign, is illuminating. They include an arrangement to regulate working hours by contract, instead of a statutory working hours system, and an abolition of the offsetting mechanism for mandatory provident fund.

Both were approved at the Executive Council amid opposition from major stake-holders. Labour unions stood firm on the demand for mandating working hours. Both unions and major employers association opposed the government-proposed offsetting mechanism. Barring a U-turn, the relevant bills face a veto when they are tabled at the Legislative Council for an approval during the current term.

Speaking on Sunday, Leung said unions and employers have failed to reach a consensus on the offsetting mechanism in the negotiating process, nor they have made any counter-proposals on the government’s blueprint.

He said he would be happy to see both sides coming up with a new blueprint that won an approval from the Legco.

According to a press report, Leung had pushed for a stamp of approval at the special Executive Council meeting on Friday despite opposition by members from both unions and employers’ groups.

That Leung insisted to give an Exco approval to major issues during in his term reflects his keenness to do whatever it takes to ensure his policies will prevail even after he is no longer in power.

True, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who will take office on Saturday, can start all over again on such issues as working hours and MPF offsetting mechanism. The reality is that she and her team will no longer be able to work on a piece of blank paper. They will have to pay a political price if they decide to start from scratch or to overturn the Exco decisions on issues like working hours.

Leung influence lurks

Policies aside, it is apparently clear that the Leung factor has featured in Carrie Lam’s new team. Several key principal officials including Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po, Secretary for Home Affairs Lau Kong-wah are widely seen as Leung’s close allies.

A brewing row over the reported appointment of Choi Yuk-lin, a vice-chairman of the pro-Beijing Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers, as deputy education minister also seems to have exposed a political tussle between Leung and Lam.

Choi Yuk-lin, a leader of a pro-Beijing education group, is tipped to be appointed as deputy education minister.

Choi Yuk-lin, a leader of a pro-Beijing education group, is tipped to be appointed as deputy education minister.

Press reports said Choi was named by the central government’s Liaison Office to become the education minister. But fearful of a massive public outcry, Lam has said no, but has conceded to offer Choi the post of deputy education minister.

Choi does not look likely to be the only candidate nominated by the Liaison Office and Leung to join the next ruling team.

By installing as many as possible people who share his views into the new team, Leung is keen to see the policies he spearheaded will be carried on by Mrs Lam, hoping that they will achieve success he could claim as part of his legacy not before too long.

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.

 

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Xi urged to recognise HK citizenship http://www.vohk.hk/2017/06/18/xi-urged-to-recognise-hk-citizenship/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss http://www.vohk.hk/2017/06/18/xi-urged-to-recognise-hk-citizenship/#respond Sun, 18 Jun 2017 02:04:39 +0000 http://www.vohk.hk/?p=1771
Last governor Chris Patten speaks at a Project Citizens seminar in Hong Kong in 2016.By Chris Patten – The handover was, in many respects, unique. It was the handover of a great city and territory around it, and by...
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Last governor Chris Patten speaks at a Project Citizens seminar in Hong Kong in 2016.

By Chris Patten –

The handover was, in many respects, unique. It was the handover of a great city and territory around it, and by one of the world’s oldest democracies to a country which, however you describe it, it is not a democracy. Whether you say it’s authoritarian, or the other end, totalitarian, or just a strange mixture of Leninism and capitalism, it’s very different from what Hong Kong was becoming. And that was something that we try to secure and that is the future of Hong Kong through negotiating with China, the Joint Declaration which was supposed to ensure that Hong Kong remain free and autonomous within the sovereignty of mainland China for 50 years.

It was originally Deng Xiaoping’s great idea of course, “One Country, Two Systems.” If you look back to the 1980s, Deng Xiaoping said over and over again how capable people in Hong Kong were of running their own affairs. It was an important point to make because nobody could conceivably continue to try to justify colonialism running Hong Kong or taking a part in the running of Hong Kong from thousands of miles away. It’s not a very 20th or 21th century thing to do, we know the history of Hong Kong and why it happened.

So, the future of Hong Kong was underpinned by the Joint Declaration and the Basic Law. And what they secured was the Hong Kong system.

How has Hong Kong done in relation to the Joint Declaration and the Basic Law since then? Well, the Taiwanese for, doubtless their own reasons, claim that there have been, I think, it’s a hundred and sixty, a hundred and seventy breaches of the Joint Declaration. That, I slightly raised my eyebrow at that. There are obviously reasons for that argument. But you can observe three things that have happened over the years.

First of all, the suggestion that the government in Hong Kong, both the chief executive and the administration, should within a tripartite system breaking down executive, legal system and the systems of legislative control. The legislature within that has gone backwards. It’s not more democratic as one hoped it would be. And Hong Kong people, despite the promises that were made by officials, by foreign ministry and others back in the 1990s, Hong Kong people have not been allowed to determine the way in which their democracy should be managed, and I think that is a pity. And if you deny intelligent moderate people control over their own destinies, it’s not surprising that they sometimes become a bit immoderate.

Secondly, as I think we saw the other day with the speech by Zhang Dejiang, who had previously been rather a moderate voice on Hong Kong affairs, member of the Politburo, senior official responsible for Hong Kong, there has been a steady tightening of grip on Hong Kong’s windpipe, on Hong Kong’s autonomy and on its ability to do things for itself. You’ve seen that, I think, in the extent to which Beijing’s offices in Hong Kong try to get involved in every branch, every aspect of government – you’ve seen it in the attacks on the judges and the rule of law.

Do Chinese officials understand rule of law?

I sometimes wonder whether Chinese officials actually understand what the rule of law means. You’ve seen it as well in attacks on the way in which the rule of law works, with the Beijing authorities actually intervening in a law case being held quite properly before Hong Kong courts. You’ve seen people being snatched from Hong Kong’s streets by mainland people. And there’s been a sort of subtle campaign, I think, to raise questions about the autonomy and independence of educational institutions, and of course for free press. Nothing quite as bad as the machete attack on Kevin Lau, a brave journalist. But things that give the impression that perhaps the way Shanghai operated in the 1930s and 40s hasn’t been entirely forgotten.

So that’s all been a bit unsettling. Why has it been happening? Well I suppose it reflects in a way what has been happening in the mainland, the crackdown on dissidents under President Xi Jinping. I think it also reflects the fact that, 20 years on from

1997, there are some in the Chinese government who think that the rest of the world won’t care what happens in Hong Kong anyway, whereas in 1997, in Hong Kong, with around 7 million people represented I think 17 percent of Chinese GDP, that’s come down to about 3 percent, not because of any failure in Hong Kong, but because China has been doing so wonderfully well economically. And I think that probably encourages some people in the mainland to think that they can, and they’re wrong about this, that they can do without Hong Kong’s success.

The world cares about Hong Kong

And I suspect also 20 years on, people wonder whether the rest of the world really cares about Hong Kong. Well, it does and it should. Certainly Britain does and should. I am quite alarmed by the number of times the Joint Declaration is referred to by Chinese officials as though if it were simply a gift in Beijing’s hands. It was actually a treaty agreement between Britain and China with guarantees for the way of life of the people in Hong Kong, guarantees which the United Kingdom was responsible for before 1997, and guarantees which the mainland is responsible for after 1997.

And it doesn’t seem to me unreasonable to ask this question – If Beijing breaks its word on Hong Kong, how much are we going to be able to trust, in Britain, in America, in Europe, China’s word on other things? People used to say to me that, while the Chinese were difficult to negotiate with – and I can vouch for that – but once they reach an agreement with you, they kept to it. I hope that doesn’t turn out to be a faith-based proposition. I hope it continues to be sustained by facts.

You know we use over the years the suggestion that “One Country Two Systems” guarantees Hong Kong until 2047, and that mantra has been used again and again by Chinese officials and others. Sometimes I wonder whether people actually think to themselves what Hong Kong’s system actually is. Hong Kong’s system is rule of law, is accountability, is free press, is all the other freedoms we associate with a free and plural society. And it is of course still Chinese, Hong Kong is a Chinese city, but it’s a Hong Kong-Chinese city, it is a city with its own sense of citizenship and I think people recognize how that sense of citizenship underpins Hong Kong’s success, and underpins Hong Kong’s attractions. And it would be very nice when president Xi Jinping visits Hong Kong, probably later in the summer, if he would underline that point.

Now just two other thoughts. First of all, what Hong Kong represents in terms of its management of the economy. What it represents is a liberal, open, free-trading approach to economics and economic welfare. And that’s been very much under attack, under assault in recent years by people who oppose globalization, in rust belt America, in rust belt Europe. But it’s not globalization which threatens jobs. What threatens jobs is the way that governments in America and governments in Europe actually respond to competition from others. For example, in America, whereas in other comparable countries about 0.6 percent of GDP goes on re-trading, in America the figure is 0.1 percent. So I don’t blame Chinese economic success, which I hope will continue, for the problems in Michigan and Pennsylvania which helped to elect President Trump. I think there’re failings in the American system and you could say the same about Europe.

Newspapers not to become ‘ideological drum-thumpers’

The other point I would just make is this. We know that the environment for the media is changing very rapidly. As a business model, newspapers have a tough time. circulation falls, advertising falls and there’s more and more competition from other forms of, particularly the internet and the social media, other ways of getting the news. I hope that doesn’t drive newspapers into becoming not journals of record but ideological drum-thumpers. There’s a bit of a sign of that in the United Kingdom. Circulation’s falling, so you try to prevent it by increasingly extreme headlines. I also hope that we can see off the competition from people like Breitbart and the Identitarians, who want to focus so much of what is happening around the world on attacking external critics or opponents or they called ‘the other’. Tom Stoppard, the great playwright, once said he was passionately in favour of freedom of the press, it was just one or two newspapers he didn’t like. And I think that the more newspapers there are, and the more news agencies there are, which try to tell things as they are, rather than indulge in fake news or in excessively extreme tabloid headlines, the more likely it is that we will be able to have an electorate citizenry which is well informed and is capable of dealing with the challenges which lie ahead. Those challenges are going to be for Hong Kong as for others. And there is a part of me which thinks that Hong Kong is right at the centre of a lot of the biggest issues that we will have to face in the 21st century.

This is an edited version of the video speech given by last governor Lord Patten at the dinner hosted by the Society of Publishers in Asia (SOPA) 2017 Awards for Editorial Excellence on June 15 in Hong Kong.

Photo: VOHK picture

 

 

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Lam bets on independence threat for political leeway http://www.vohk.hk/2017/06/12/lam-bets-on-independence-threat-for-political-leeway/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss http://www.vohk.hk/2017/06/12/lam-bets-on-independence-threat-for-political-leeway/#respond Mon, 12 Jun 2017 01:51:25 +0000 http://www.vohk.hk/?p=1764
Carrie Lam plays down pro-independence activism in a political gamble aims to get more leeway in her five-year term.By Chris Yeung – Chief Executive-elect Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has taken one more step to distance herself from Leung Chun-ying, casting doubts about the...
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Carrie Lam plays down pro-independence activism in a political gamble aims to get more leeway in her five-year term.

By Chris Yeung –

Chief Executive-elect Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has taken one more step to distance herself from Leung Chun-ying, casting doubts about the support of the so-called pro-independence thinking in the society.

In an intriguing revelation at a Cable TV programme on Saturday, she revealed she has told central government officials and friends from mainland China she has reservation about the idea that pro-independence thinking has become a “wave.”

“It is (an idea) pushing by just a very small group of people. It is unrealistic and should not be raised,” she said.

Her remarks are in stark contrast with the tone and substance of comments not just made by Leung, her former boss, but also the Liaison Office director Zhang Xiaoming and NPC chief Zhang Dejiang on separatist thinking in the society.

Leung gave a high-profile warning against the advocacy of “self-determination” in his 2015 Policy Address, singling out the 2014 February issue of Undergrad, the official magazine of the Hong Kong University Students’ Union, for attack.

The student publication featured a cover story entitled “Hong Kong people deciding their own fate”. Leung also cited a book named “Hong Kong Nationalism” published by Undergrad, which advocates that Hong Kong should find a way to self-reliance and self-determination.

Leung’s salvo against the HKU student publication has, deliberately or inadvertently, given a fillip to the pro-independence activism. Monthly after he called on citizens to stay alert of the rise of pro-independence idea, the first political party that formerly advocated Hong Kong independence was launched.

Since then, mainland officials and the pro-Beijing camp and media in the city have intensified their attack and warning against the idea of pro-independence, self-determination and the like.

In his annual government work report delivered in March, Premier Li Keqiang has warned the advocacy of Hong Kong independence is a “cul-de-sac.” In response to Li’s remarks, Leung claimed pro-independence activism has become more open recently.

Zhang warning on independence

Speaking at a Basic Law symposium in Beijing last month, Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the National People’s Congress, has warned advocates for “self-determination, Hong Kong independence” were attempting to deny the central government’s jurisdictions over the city. He said those people were attempting to turn Hong Kong into an “independent, semi-independent political entity,” warning the Beijing could not ignore it.

Mrs Lam ventured to take a softer line on the highly-sensitive Hong Kong independence issue days after a poll showed a marked drop of support for independence, especially among the young people.

A poll conducted by a Chinese University of Hong Kong research centre published early this month shows support for Hong Kong independence dropped from last year’s 17.4 per cent to 11.4 per cent. The drop in the 15-24 age group was the sharpest, down from about 40 per cent last year to 15 per cent this year. Meanwhile, about 71 per cent back the preservation of “one country, two systems.”

A CUHK poll shows support from the 25-34 group for independence drops sharply.

A CUHK poll shows support from the 15-24 group for independence drops sharply.

The findings are in line with signs of a waning of the advocacy of pro-independence ideas, including self-determination in the past year or so. The past year saw the conviction of several participants in the Mong Kok unrest in 2016 for riot charges. A spate of trials relating to the Mong Kok clash and the Occupy Central movement has also begun.

It is difficult, and also too early, to say the pro-independence activism has lost its momentum. If anything, the row over Hong Kong independence in the past few years shows the way the Chief Executive and Beijing leaders handled the issue could make a lot of difference.

The simple truth is: the harder they hit the so-called independence activism the stronger the resistance and opposition against the pressure from the Hong Kong and mainland authorities.

In view of the hard-hit approach of Leung and the Beijing leadership against pro-independence thinking, the room for Mrs Lam to handle the issue with flexibility and in a softer approach is limited.

Poll findings help Lam

The poll findings have provided timely evidence for her to play down the threat of pro-independence thinking.

Doing so will help moderate the political atmosphere, thus easing the pressure for her to enact a national security law in according with Basic Law Article 23. Though stopped short of giving a deadline, top Beijing officials have given clear indication there should be no more delay in the Article 23 legislation.

The irony is that any move by her to resume the legislative work, which was shelved in the wake of the July 1 march in 20013, in the next few years is set to heighten tension in mainland-Hong Kong relations.

Support for independence is poised to raise again and the backing for the “one country, two systems” will drop. Calls for Mrs Lam to act and talk tough on independence, as Leung did, will emerge from both Beijing and the local pro-China circle.

Mrs Lam took the risk of being criticised by hard-liners in the pro-Beijing camp for talking down the severity of pro-independence thinking. Hard-liners, including Leung, have attributed the rise of separatist thinking to the lack of vigilance and the abundance of wishful thinking in the officialdom and society at large in recent years.

She has no choice but to take a political bet on her judgment, hoping that a more objective and softer assessment on the so-called independence threat among the populace will help lower the political temperature and create more leeway for her to focus on economic and livelihood issues after July 1.

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.

 

 

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Contesting visions of Hong Kong’s rule of law http://www.vohk.hk/2017/06/11/contesting-visions-of-hong-kongs-rule-of-law/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss http://www.vohk.hk/2017/06/11/contesting-visions-of-hong-kongs-rule-of-law/#respond Sun, 11 Jun 2017 14:53:26 +0000 http://www.vohk.hk/?p=1759
PICCFA93By Karen M Y Lee – Last British governor, Chris Patten, when praising the “Hong Kong way of life”, averred: “It is the Rule of...
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PICCFA93

By Karen M Y Lee –

Last British governor, Chris Patten, when praising the “Hong Kong way of life”, averred: “It is the Rule of Law which provides a safe and secure environment for the individual, for families and businesses to flourish.” But this would not be telling the whole truth. Hong Kong has always been a city of pragmatists – a people who, against the odds, turned this ‘barren rock’ into “a goose that lays the golden eggs.” Beneath Hong Kong’s liberal legal underpinnings lies a collective yearning for order and prosperity.

As the Union Jack came down and “One Country, Two Systems” came to life on 1 July 1997, the staunchest of activists vowed to defend a liberal vision of the rule of law – a vision which encompasses democracy promised under the Basic Law. Some, however, began to embrace a rule of law seen through the lens of socialist China.

20 years into its role as a Special Administrative Region (SAR), the contrast between the two schools of thought has grown increasingly stark. Look no further than the legal profession for a glimpse of the contesting visions of the rule of law. Even as early as 1998, sinister signs had appeared over Hong Kong’s rule of law. At that time, Secretary for Justice Elsie Leung (now vice-chairwoman of the Basic Law Committee under the Chinese National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) declined pressing fraud charges against a “Beijing loyalist” media mogul on public interest grounds. Leung would later go on to cede criminal jurisdiction of a local resident to Chinese authorities.

But it was the first interpretation of the Basic Law by the NPCSC which brought about active protest from Hong Kong’s lawyers. By overturning the Court of Final Appeal’s landmark right-of-abode decision in 1999, the NPCSC triggered the first lawyers’ silent march. Reactions from the Bar Association and the Law Society, which represent the city’s barristers and solicitors, respectively, were telling. Whilst the former denounced the decision as compromising Hong Kong’s judicial independence, the latter apparently deferred to the NPCSC’s plenary powers under the Basic Law. That division, to a certain extent, reflects two perspectives on Hong Kong’s rule of law, what some scholars have labeled “fundamentalist” and “pragmatist.”

Here, fundamentalists refer to those who resist any tampering with the city’s longstanding judicial autonomy. This position puts them at odds with the pragmatists, who believe that law does not operate in a political vacuum. One such clash was over a 2014 State Council’s White Paper on the Practice of “One Country, Two Systems” Policy, which, among other things, affirmed Beijing’s “comprehensive jurisdiction over Hong Kong and asked judges to “correctly” understand the Basic Law and be “patriotic.”

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Whilst the Bar Association promptly went on the defensive, then Law Society president, Ambrose Lam, sang the praises of the White Paper, and for that matter, the Communist Party. This triggered a revolt among his own ranks and a historic passage of a motion of no confidence against a sitting president. But the story did not end there. Dubbed “patriotic” by a state mouthpiece, Lam acknowledged “gaining more than he had lost,” speaking of his new joint venture with a mainland law firm – one of the few approved to do business in Qianhai, a rising special economic zone in Shenzhen – months after his humiliating ouster. Lam probably represents not only those who place business before politics, but also those who chose to accommodate themselves to the realities of Chinese rule.

It is against this backdrop that law-professor-turned-legislator Priscilla Leung described the Basic Law as a “crystallization” of two different legal systems. Unabashedly pro-Beijing, Leung saw the Basic Law as essentially Chinese legislation; hence, its implementation must hew to China’s official line despite Hong Kong’s common law traditions. That “One Country” precedes “Two Systems” is exactly what troubles the pan-democrats who believe the latter was designed to shield Hong Kong from socialist China, a sentiment apparently not shared by the chief architect of the project.

Deng Xiaoping made the “50 years unchanged” pledge allegedly on the assumption that the mainland system would have caught up with that of Hong Kong by 2047. That pointed to “merging” rather than “separating”. By extension, no matter how hopeful one is about the “democratisation roadmap” provided by the Basic Law, its realization is inextricably tied to the ruling one-party regime. True to form, China’s socialist rule of law has a “policy override law” or “party override law” – a measure which does not conform with the rule of law in the western sense. The Basic Law, therefore, is essentially a tool to implement “One Country, Two Systems” in the same way the SAR was designed to be a “transitional” creature to meet the ultimate goal of national unity.

This explains the fissure between members of the legal profession over the legitimacy of the civil disobedience movement. The Occupy Central campaign – later dubbed the Umbrella Revolution – in the fall of 2014 saw lawyers on both sides of the political debate proffer their respective versions of the rule of law. While Beijing-friendly elements denounced the act as a threat to law and order, scores of pro-democracy activists – including several former chairpersons of the Bar Association – joined the 79-day protest vowing to “achieve justice through law”.

With a regime that shows no sign of budging, these contesting visions of the rule of law will continue to provoke political agitations in an increasingly restless society torn between the desire for prosperity and liberal democracy.

M Y Karen Lee is Assistant Professor in the Department of Social Sciences at the Education University of Hong Kong. Her research covers human rights discourse, rule of law, legal culture, and democratisation. She has recently published: “Lawyers and Hong Kong’s democracy movement: from electoral politics to civil disobedience”, (2017) Asian Journal of Political Science, 25:1, 89-108.

Photo: VOHK picture

This article was first published on an online journal of the China Policy Institute base in the University of Nottingham.

 

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