Voice of Hong Kong http://www.vohk.hk One Hong Kong, Many Voices Sun, 02 Sep 2018 11:42:41 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.5.15 Think big over land plan http://www.vohk.hk/2018/09/02/think-big-in-land-plan/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss http://www.vohk.hk/2018/09/02/think-big-in-land-plan/#respond Sun, 02 Sep 2018 11:37:12 +0000 http://www.vohk.hk/?p=1918
IMG_4016By Bernard Chan – Even at this time of the year, I know a lot of people are out in our beautiful country parks. One...

By Bernard Chan –

Even at this time of the year, I know a lot of people are out in our beautiful country parks. One of my family’s favourite pastimes is going for a hike along our amazing trails.

Visitors are often really surprised to find that a crowded city like Hong Kong has such wide-open spaces. And it does seem strange. We have a critical shortage of land for housing and other uses. Yet around 40 percent of our land area is green.

It is hardly surprising that we hear calls to use parts of the country parks for development.

It is probably true that some of the fringes of country parks are not beautiful or really worth preserving. In theory, we could get significant new land if we used just 5 percent of the country parks for housing.

Environmental groups oppose this idea. They say that after the first 5 percent, the same argument would come up again – and it would be another 5 percent. And then another. And so on.

I must say, I think the green groups are probably right on this.

If officials took land from the fringes of country parks, they would find a very easy new source of land. They would be very tempted to do it again – and then one day our country parks would be ruined.

The problem with the land supply issue is that everyone wants an easy solution that affects other people but not themselves.
But many people are also – I think – using the issue to score different political points.

I got in trouble a few weeks so ago when a newspaper quoted me as saying it would be “stupid” to use the Hong Kong Golf Club in Fanling for housing. I wasn’t actually defending the Golf Club. (For the record, I am not a golfer, but my company has a corporate debenture there.)

My point was that converting even the whole golf facility into housing would not have a meaningful impact on our land supply problem.

There is a good case for looking at how we use land currently occupied by exclusive private clubs. That is why the government is currently holding a public consultation on private recreational leases.

Many people think it is unfair that a small privileged group should enjoy such nice facilities – and for quite low rents. This is a “1 percent versus the 99 percent” conflict. And given public awareness of inequality, the government has to pay attention.
Personally, I think it would be appropriate to make Fanling golf course more open to the community. Maybe part of the area could be converted into a public golf course or parkland for everyone to enjoy.

But let’s not kid ourselves that converting clubs into housing will solve our long-term land problems – it won’t.
One problem with the land and housing debate is that people are arguing about different things. The Fanling golf course is a beautiful bit of green space – it would be pointless to destroy it for a few thousand apartments.

Another problem in this debate is that we confuse the current high cost of housing with the long-term land-supply issue. Obviously, there is a connection. But really – the land-supply issue is not about fixing today’s immediate problem. It is about making sure we don’t repeat the problem in the years and decades ahead.

It’s asking for trouble to make forecasts about any markets. But today’s housing prices in Hong Kong are massively out of line with affordability. This is the result of various distortions – like low interest rates. Many of these distortions are not permanent or sustainable. At some point, valuations will come more closely into line with what end-users can pay.

When that does happen, we will hear a lot of complaining from people who are angry because prices are lower!
But the debate about long-term land supply is about looking beyond this. It is about looking 10 years and more down the road.
If we look at the issue this way, we get a clearer view of what might be possible.

Much of the argument about brownfield sites, or using developers’ land banks, is about solving today’s affordability problem. We are talking about lots of relatively small parcels of land, with different owners and all sorts of existing uses. Each parcel of land comes with legal, planning, infrastructure and other complications.

By all means, let’s try and get more housing this way. But if we want to solve the long-term land-supply issue, we need to think on a different scale – in terms of time and of physical size.

The one big idea this is leading to is, of course, large-scale reclamation from the sea.

I recently appeared at a conference organized by Our Hong Kong Foundation proposing this sort of vision. That particular proposal was for a 2,200-hectare artificial island east of Lantau, which could house a million people.

This concept offers a way for Hong Kong to get its hands on a large amount of new land. This new land could be in one massive parcel, or several smaller ones. But it would not be hundreds of tiny scattered lots. And it would have just one owner – namely the Hong Kong government.

There would be no villagers or property developers to deal with. No debates over resumption. No need to worry about complicated zoning and planning regulations. There would be no need to fuss about land premiums. The government would have full control of things like apartment size and pricing.

We could use this new space to deliver plentiful, decent-size, affordable homes – through public rental, or some form of subsidized sales. It could include homes for retirees and child-care, more spacious leisure and retail facilities, and an alternative to ultra-high-density development.

We could design far more liveable and sustainable communities, with new approaches to transport and “smart city” features.
It means we could, at last, offer ordinary young Hong Kong people a hope of raising a family in a decent-quality environment that they can afford.

It would also give planners much more flexibility in dealing with old residential areas like North Kowloon. Much of the housing stock in these districts will come to the end of its life in the next 10 to 20 years. At the moment, redevelopment is on a building-by-building basis. The process will be far easier if there are relatively empty, attractive new districts for people to move into.

In other words, we could start again with a clean slate – or at least a large amount of space that we can work with to build a new sort of Hong Kong.

Of course, there are objections to this approach. Environmentalists are particularly concerned about the impact of reclamation.
But we have to make some hard choices.

Is the future of Hong Kong all about overcrowded districts with tiny apartments, where people don’t even have enough space for kids? In the short term, even using brownfield sites or golf courses, that is the best we can do.

Or can we be more ambitious and move on from this – and start making a genuinely more liveable city for the next generation?
Maybe something for us to think about next time we go out for a hike.

Bernard Chan is Executive Council Convener. This is the full text of his Letter to Hong Kong broadcast on RTHK 3 on September 2.


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Tough time for journalists http://www.vohk.hk/2018/08/05/tough-time-for-journalists/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss http://www.vohk.hk/2018/08/05/tough-time-for-journalists/#respond Sun, 05 Aug 2018 00:33:20 +0000 http://www.vohk.hk/?p=1913
Shue Yan journalism students take picture and Martin Lee during a visit to a vote-canvassing site in the Legco by-election in March.By Chris Yeung Below is the full text of a letter to journalism students for RTHK’s Letter to Hong Kong programme broadcast on August 5....
Shue Yan journalism students take picture and Martin Lee during a visit to a vote-canvassing site in the Legco by-election in March.

By Chris Yeung

Below is the full text of a letter to journalism students for RTHK’s Letter to Hong Kong programme broadcast on August 5.

Dear Students,

How’s life after you finished your four-year journalism study in May? Are you enjoying the precious break before looking for jobs? Are you pondering about the question of ‘to be or not to be’? To be, or not to be, a journalist. I don’t honestly have a must-take advice for you. This is plainly because of the environment, both at macro and micro levels, for passionate and talented journalists to do what they are aspired to do is getting worse.

On last Sunday, there are two pieces of news about the media themselves, bad ones at least on the face of it. In the United States, President Donald Trump and the publisher of The New York Times, A. G. Sulzberger, were locked in a fierce clash over Trump’s threats against journalism. Trump revealed on Twitter he and Sulzberger had discussed “fake news” and how that fake news has morphed into phrase, “Enemy of the People.”

Sulzberger later issued a statement, saying he had warned Trump although the phrase “fake news” is untrue and harmful he was far more concerned about his labeling journalists as “Enemy of the people.” He was worried Trump’s inflammatory language would contribute to a rise in threats against journalists. Sulzberger warned Trump was undermining the democratic ideals of their nation.

The war between Trump and American media sounds remote. It also seems to be too dramatic to be something real. That the real-life battle has indeed been going on for months in a country arguably known as a beacon of freedom and is renown for its free press is troubling. It adds gloom to the worsened environment for journalists to do their job in arguably one of the freest countries in the world. Chilly winds are blowing on the other side of the Pacific Ocean.


Back home, an air of doom and gloom has also engulfed the media scene. The Hong Kong Journalists Association, of which I am currently the Chairman, has published our 2018 Annual Report on freedom of speech and the press last week. We have taken a look at the broad picture of freedom of speech and the press, documented and analysed a list of media events in the past 12 months. One of our major findings is that the shadow of the principle of “one country” is looming while the room for freedom of speech and the press is shrinking. We are worried that self-censorship will get worse when it comes to politically sensitive issues like Hong Kong independence as people and journalists stay away from those “red-line” topics.

Doubters and critics have a point to question whether we are overly pessimistic. Some reporters have raised questions at our press conference and interviews thereafter about whether our concern about self-censorship over politically sensitive stories could be substantiated with concrete cases. Those are fair and legitimate questions reporters should ask. I have to admit it has never been easy to ascertain a case of self-censorship. Journalists or columnists involved understandably tend to be reluctant to speak publicly. In one of the articles in the Annual Report, a veteran journalist who now teaches journalism in university has detailed some subtle ways of censorship in the work process inside newsroom.

The report has also documented several suspected cases of self-censorship including the retraction of a business column from the website of the South China Morning Post shortly after it was posted. The column alleged links between a Singaporean investor and a top aide of President Xi Jinping. It was removed with a clarification stating that the piece was deleted as it included “multiple unverifiable insinuations.” The columnist, Shirley Yam, said she stood by her report. We put the different sides of the story on the record for the public to judge.

As we keep a close watch on media self-censorship, we are mindful of the danger of being interventionist and speculative over the way fellow journalists handled their stories. Being seen to be interfering with the editorial independence of media outlets is the last thing we want. But in view of the growing political and capital power of the mainland in Hong Kong, there are growing concerns that pressure for journalists to censor their work has and will become more subtle. It is vitally important for us to maintain an even higher level of vigilance against any threats to the city’s core values of freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution legally protects freedom of the press in the U.S. If there is anything we can learn from the battle between Trump and American media, it is the grim reality that press freedom cannot be taken for granted. There are always threats from the power and the rich against journalists who refuse to be frightened and to be bought. Journalists and society should stay vigilant and strive to preserve an independent and free press.

The importance of an independent and free press cannot be emphasised more. Just take a look at the stories about the plight of Liu Xia, widow of late Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, and poisoned products scandals, including baby milk powder and, more recently, vaccine. It has laid bare the dire consequences of a system with powers being exercised without effective checks and balances by an independent media and civil society.

When the going gets tough the tough gets going. For those who have passion and commitment to become a watchdog journalist, now is a good and challenging time to brace against the wind.

Wish you all a bright future!

Chris Yeung

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.






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Brace against the wind with a warm heart http://www.vohk.hk/2018/05/20/brace-against-the-wind-with-a-warm-heart/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss http://www.vohk.hk/2018/05/20/brace-against-the-wind-with-a-warm-heart/#respond Sun, 20 May 2018 07:49:19 +0000 http://www.vohk.hk/?p=1908
HKJA office-bearers propose toast with Sohn Suk Hee (second from right on front row), head of news department of South Korea's JTBC, and veteran photographer Chan Kiu (middle) at 50th Anniversary Gala Dinner on May 19.By Chris Yeung – 51 years ago, several reporters were injured when they were attacked during their reporting work on the 1967 Riots. To fight...
HKJA office-bearers propose toast with Sohn Suk Hee (second from right on front row), head of news department of South Korea's JTBC, and veteran photographer Chan Kiu (middle) at 50th Anniversary Gala Dinner on May 19.

By Chris Yeung –

51 years ago, several reporters were injured when they were attacked during their reporting work on the 1967 Riots. To fight for the rights and benefits of reporters, the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) was set up in 1968. In the wake of the 1967 Riots, the British Hong Kong colonial government had changed their ruling strategy, embarking on major social and economic transformation and livelihood reform. Beginning from the 1970s and 1980s, the Hong Kong economy started to take off. The Sino-British Joint Declaration. Basic Law. June 4. 1997 Handover. Asian financial turmoil. Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome). July 1 rally. Umbrella Movement… Hong Kong had undergone “great times” one after another in the past half a century. One generation after another, reporters stood at the frontline of history, watching and reporting the unfolding of events. In times of historic changes, reporters, both as individuals and as members of the media profession, could not stay aloof from the changes. We are confronted with shocks from all directions in the midst of sea changes around the globe  – and the good times and bad times of the city under the “one country, two systems” political framework.

50 years on, our task in defending the “fourth power, playing the role of watchdog and fighting for their reasonable rights and benefits has become increasingly arduous. There is no sight of an end of the chilly winter. The wind turns gustier. Bracing against the wind, it is not easy to stand firm, let alone  moving forward.

Behind us as we move forward are young students who are aspired to join the fleet of reporters and frontline reporters, some of whom facing pressure from their parents who want their children to go for something else. Behind us are our China-beat reporters, who want to tell the true China Story without fear and regrets despite the increased hostilities and violence by the public security officers on the mainland.

Behind us are senior journalists, many of whom with more than 10 years of experience, but earning less than what a fresh university graduate who joins the Police pockets each month. Behind us are news editors who persist despite having to work long hours every day, shepherd fresh reporters while having to play mind games with their management on matters ranging from the handling of sensitive news to the allocation of manpower and budget. Behind us are gatekeepers, many of whom still have passion, belief and commitment to journalism but have to play brinkmanship on a daily basis.

Behind us are also You. Your presence at our Gala Dinner tonight is a show of support for us, and more important, for journalists and for independent fourth power. It is a backing for us to keep finding out the truth, unearthing injustice and unfairness in our systems and society in the spirit of professionalism and fearlessness. We long for changes. Changes for a better society.

Behind us as we go forward against the wind are the people. We understand our media  have not done our job well; we can do better. Hong Kong people have mixed feelings towards the media. Many of them criticised us as they read and watched news. Why? It is because they still believe society cannot afford to lose media, which keeps staying independent, daring to criticise, telling the truth and making dissenting voices. We cherish and hope our journalist colleagues will not let you and the people down.

Recently, journalist friends have asked me about the question of unemployment protection for reporters. They fear about job security and what if media companies decide to cut costs by laying-off staff and off-sourcing work. With better protection, those who are aspired to become journalists and working journalists who remain passionate about journalism would feel more secured staying in journalism work.

Hong Kong is a market-oriented capitalist economy. Media is business. Media owners need to operate from a commercial perspective. Call it the rule of survival. But media is not just business. A healthy, dynamic, lively and pluralistic media can monitor the society against injustice. This is vitally important to the overall long-term development of the society. We sincerely hope that media bosses will not treat their media as mere business and that they will think big on their media outlets’ importance to the society’s future development. Regardless of the difficulties they may encounter, face them up and persist together with their reporters.

Starting from 2013, we have joined hands with academics to conduct an annual survey, entitled Press Freedom Index. The latest results for the past year were announced in April. Out of 100, respondents in a public poll gave a score of 47.1, 0.9 point down from the previous year, which is the lowest figure since 2013. In a separate poll, journalists gave a score of 47.1, up by 0.9 point. But it is still below the 50-point Pass level. Asked to compare the present press freedom situation with the previous year, 73 per cent say it has turned bad. Survey found most of the journalists and public who responded attributed pressure from the Chinese central government as an important factor that has undermined press freedom.

The results are not surprising. Over the past year, the Chinese central government has repeatedly emphasised the notions of “one-country overriding two-systems,” “comprehensive jurisdictions over Hong Kong” and the “red line” and “bottom line” under “one country, two systems”. Journalists and the public are increasingly worried about the preservation of “two systems”. They fear that media bosses, who have intricate ties with the mainland authorities, would become “harmonised.” Fearful of provoking Beijing and creating trouble, media proprietors might practise self-censorship when handling stories that are politically sensitive. There have been occasional cases of stories that touched on sensitive issues relating to the central authorities being allegedly withdrawn or censored. Some are difficult to prove or disprove. With almost no exception, they have fuelled jitters that the room for free press and free speech is shrinking. The overall atmosphere has been suffocating. When legislative work of Basic Law Article 23 will resume is still unclear, not to mention how. But in the wake of remarks by Beijing officials that the negative impacts of a delay in the enactment of an anti-subversive law are clear and that Hong Kong is obliged to do so, journalist and society feel the issue is now at their doorsteps.

To HKJA, 2018 is a special year. We have embarked on our journey for half a century. To journalists, 2018 is perhaps not something special. As it was in the past, we have not forgotten our original intention. We have not forgotten the wise words from a veteran American journalist, “The press was to serve the governed, not the governors.” There is a traditional Chinese saying, “At 50, know the destiny.” The destiny and mission of journalists is to be a watchdog. Bark when there is injustice. Bite for the truth. The media environment keeps changing everyday. It was the case in the 60s and thereafter. It will remain so in 2018 and the future. Unchanged the mission and destiny of journalists are.

HKJA is the largest journalists’ labour union in Hong Kong We stand at the frontline of history fighting for the reasonable rights and benefits of journalists, improvement of work conditions and enhancement of professional standards. More important, we fight for freedom of the press and freedom of expression. This is because powers must be given checks and balances for them to be exercised wisely and properly without abuses for the best interests of the society. Journalists will lose their soul and not be able to monitor the authorities if there are curbs on free speech and free press. We have stuck to our goal and mission, work direction in the past 50 years. We will continue to do so as we look forward to the next 50 years.

Bracing against the wind, we move on with a warm heart.

This is the full version of the speech given by Chris Yeung,  Chairperson of the Hong Kong Journalists Association at its 50th Anniversary Gala  Dinner on May 19, 2018. An abridged version was delivered at the dinner. Chris Yeung is also Chief Writer of CitizenNews.




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Hong Kong loses bet on China http://www.vohk.hk/2018/03/11/hong-kong-loses-bet-on-china/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss http://www.vohk.hk/2018/03/11/hong-kong-loses-bet-on-china/#respond Sun, 11 Mar 2018 00:55:08 +0000 http://www.vohk.hk/?p=1902
Hopes among Hong Kong people that China will become more open, free and democratic after reform dim.By Chris Yeung – All eyes are on China this week. The so-called “two sessions,” namely the annual plenary sessions of the Chinese National People’s...
Hopes among Hong Kong people that China will become more open, free and democratic after reform dim.

By Chris Yeung –

All eyes are on China this week. The so-called “two sessions,” namely the annual plenary sessions of the Chinese National People’s Congress, NPC, and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, CPPCC, kicked off in Beijing last Sunday and Monday separately. Stage-managed events though they are, the national plenums have and will shed some light on the latest development of the 1.4 billion-populated nation. And more important, what it means for Hong Kong and the world. This year’s “two sessions” are no exception.

There is no doubt a list of routine reports, including the government work report delivered by the Premier and others compiled by the country’s finance chief and top judge, are kind of must-read for those who are keen to know more about China. They will be tabled for a vote, or what cynics would say, being rubber-stamped by the national deputies. In addition to those reports, it is almost certain that members will also say yes to a proposal by the ruling Communist Party’s Central Committee to amend the Chinese Constitution. Scheduled to be tabled for an approval today, the proposed change, if approved, will allow President Xi Jinping to rule as head of the nation for as long as he chooses.

This is despite the fact that the move, which will effectively turn one of the most important reform initiatives taken by the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping into history, seems to have caused a stir among the people. Outside China, concerns about China under Xi may turn from autocracy to dictatorship are even more apparent. They fear China is moving backwards. Their fears are not unfounded.

Deng leads reform

Following the introduction of reform and open policy aimed to lift the country out of poverty in 1978, Deng started to fix the flaws in the political system. He moved to amend the Constitution to put a cap on the term of office of the State President. This was aimed to avoid giving too much power to one person if he or she can stay on the position as long as he or she likes to under the Constitution. The reform drive, coming at the end of the decade-long Cultural Revolution masterminded by Mao Zedong, has come a long way since then. Today, China is the second largest economy; it is poised to challenge the supremacy of the United States on many fronts. It is too early to say whether it will pose a serious military threat to the region and the world. But there are growing jitters in the West about China under Xi Jinping.


In its edition published last week, The Economist magazine put Xi on its cover, again. This time, without the costumes of an imperial emperor as it was the case a couple of years ago. It goes with graphics that raised a question about who Xi really is. Its headline read: What the West got wrong. The magazine’s verdict is bleak, saying Western countries’ bet that China would follow the path of many other countries, moving towards democracy and the market economy after it opened up, has failed. Hopes that Xi would move towards constitutional rule when he gained power five years ago were dashed. It says Xi has steered politics and economics towards repression, state control and confrontation.

With the NPC set to approve the amendment to the Constitution at the ongoing plenum, the article raises a question the West must face: What to do?

Xi reinstates life-tenure system

It is perhaps the same question that has come to the minds of many Hongkongers when they read and heard media reports about the proposed constitutional change last month. Like many in the West, they have reacted with disbelief, disappointment and perhaps disillusionment for the same reason. Isn’t that a Great Leap Backward after nearly four decades of reform and open door? If the answer is a clear yes, why? Their anxieties deepened as they reflected on what happened in the city after it became a Special Administrative Region under the “one country, two systems” political framework in 1997. The Economist’s article’s reference to “repression, state control and confrontation” has struck the raw nerves of many Hong Kong people. This is plainly because it sounds so familiar to them in the past few years with Beijing tightening its control over Hong Kong.

To be fair, there are no city-wide crackdown against political dissidents and human rights activists in Hong Kong as it happened in the mainland. Access to Internet remains free. There are increasing signs, however, the central authorities are trying to make the fullest use of their sovereign power without any restraint to dictate on how the city should be run. The fine balance between the principle of “one country” and the notion of “two systems” embodied in the letter and spirit of the Basic Law has been upset. Cases are aplenty.

One of the worst cases is the interpretation of the oath-taking provision in the Basic Law by the NPC Standing Committee last year, which came ahead of the ruling of a relevant case by a local court. On the political front, the central government’s Liaison Office, under its new head Wang Zhimin, is taking a more proactive on Hong Kong affairs, far exceeding what the name of its office, liaison, has suggested. In a striking resemblance to the penalty of stripping of political rights in the mainland’s judicial system, government officials have disqualified a student leader, Agnes Chow, from contesting the March 11 Legislative Council by-election. She lost the right to stand for election after a civil servant ruled the political party she belongs to advocates self-determination.

Hopes dashed

Like the West, Hong Kong people have put a bet on a China seeking to catch up following decades of political chaos and economic woes after Britain handed back the city to China in the 1984 Joint Declaration. They hoped the differences between the city and the hinterland would have been narrowed down as the reform drive deepened and broadened. With Hong Kong moving towards full democracy after 1997, democracy would have landed on the mainland, albeit in a slower pace. The bet has failed. The promise of democracy enshrined in the Basic Law has become a pipe dream, among other promises.

On the face of it, both Hong Kong and the West are losers in their bet on China. The ruling communist party, however, will be the biggest loser if their success in economic reform and opening up has failed to bring about progress towards a free, open and democratic China.

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.

This is the full text of his Letter to Hong Kong broadcast on RTHK Radio 3 on March 11.

Photo: VOHK pictures


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Lam’s ‘We connect’ slogan turns ‘We divide’ http://www.vohk.hk/2018/01/28/lams-we-connect-slogan-turns-we-divide/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss http://www.vohk.hk/2018/01/28/lams-we-connect-slogan-turns-we-divide/#respond Sun, 28 Jan 2018 10:42:50 +0000 http://www.vohk.hk/?p=1896
The pan-democrats hold a rally outside Government Headquarters on Sunday to protest against a government decision to ban Agnes Chow, a Demosisto student leader, from contesting a Legco by-election on grounds of her stance on self-determination.By Chris Yeung – At an Chief Executive election televised debate in March, former financial chief John Tsang Chun-wah upset Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor when...
The pan-democrats hold a rally outside Government Headquarters on Sunday to protest against a government decision to ban Agnes Chow, a Demosisto student leader, from contesting a Legco by-election on grounds of her stance on self-determination.

By Chris Yeung –

At an Chief Executive election televised debate in March, former financial chief John Tsang Chun-wah upset Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor when he said Hong Kong feared she would become “divisiveness 2.0” if she was elected. She made a strong rebuttal. Seven months after she became the Chief Executive, Tsang may have proved to be right.

Pledging to mend the wounds of the society inflicted by her predecessor during her campaign and after she won the election, Mrs Lam has done the opposite since taking power on July 1.

On Saturday, the Government moved to ban Agnes Chow Ting, a student leader of Demosisto, from contesting the Legislative Council by-election. It has deepened the city’s political rift. Worse, it has seriously damaged the fundamentals of Hong Kong’s governance system and rule of law.

Defending the decision, Mrs Lam insisted it was done by the book. “Any suggestion of Hong Kong independence, self-determination, independence as a choice, or self-autonomy, is not in line with Basic Law requirements, and deviates from the important principle of ‘one country two systems’.”

Chow, a founding member of Demosisto, was seeking to regain the Legco Hong Kong Island geographical constituency seat left vacant after the party’s Nathan Law Kwun-chung was disqualified for his convicted failure to comply with the oath-taking law.

Anne Teng, returning officer of the Hong Kong Island constituency Anne Teng, who gave the green light to Law’s candidacy in 2016, thwarted Chow’s bid. She argued each case must be considered on its merits, but admitted that she has considered Beijing’s interpretation of the Basic Law provision on oath-taking.

Six pro-democracy lawmakers, including Law and Edward Yiu Chung-yim – who has signed up for the by-election in the Kowloon West constituency – were being disqualified following the National People’s Congress Standing Committee interpretation of the Basic Law.

Yiu’s fate in the balance

Yiu, whose candidacy is still in balance at the time this article was posted, revealed he was asked by a returning officer in Kowloon West constituency to answer four political questions. They include whether he accepts Beijing’s interpretation of Basic Law Article 104 on oath-taking and his views of a Taiwan group, which advocates self-determination. Yau had attended a forum hosted by the group last year.

Mainland officials were quoted by the media as saying independence and self-determination are different in terms of expression, but are the same in substance.

In their manifesto, Demosisto advocates a referendum on the city’s post-2047 future with constitutional effect. Even though they do not call for independence, they agree that independence should be one of the options in the referendum to realise the principle of “sovereignty comes from people.”

Agnes Chow of Demosisto is out. Will Edward Yau the next?

Agnes Chow of Demosisto is out. Will Edward Yau the next?

Although Chow has not even announced his election platform, the election officer ruled Chow do not support the Basic Law in view of her affiliation with Demosisto.

Under existing election law, political thinking and affiliations of election hopefuls are not factors to be considered by returning officers when they judge whether whey support the Basic Law. Contestants are required to make a declaration of their support of the Basic Law as required in the post-1997 constitution.

Chow stripped of political right

That Teng, the returning officer, banned Chow’s candidacy on the basis of her political affiliation has not only damaged the apolitical civil service system but also fair election. It also contravened with the safeguards of freedom of expression and rule of law in the Basic Law. Chow was found guilty and stripped of her political right to stand for election without being given a chance to defend herself.

As HKU law professor Eric Cheung Tat-ming has rightly opined, the Chow case is a blatant case of political censorship against dissent and “putting politics above the law.”

More accurately, it is a case of “Without Law, Without Heaven,” a notorious Chinese saying associated with the tumultuous Cultural Revolution, but with one more “without”. The decision to bar what the authorities deemed as “pro-independence” and “self-determination” advocates from sitting in Legco is without common sense.

If anything, the votes Nathan Law got in the 2016 Legco election (50,818, the second-highest in the HK Island constituency) have testified to their popularity, particular among the young generation. It is clear their advocacy for self-determination is not so much about a call for independence, but a demand for a say in their future and, also importantly, their voices be heard.

The Government’s failure to connect with them is one of the underlying factors of the Occupy Central movement and the prevailing divisiveness of the society in recent years.

Mrs Lam had campaigned on the slogan of “We Connect” in the CE election. She spoke in length of her initiatives to address young people’s livelihood concerns and connect with them in her maiden policy address in October.

But by first unseating six pan-democrat lawmakers including Nathan Law and then banning Chow, she has adopted the “friends-foes” mentality and approach in dealing with the student leaders and their supporters.

Not to mention the high cost of damages to the city’s sound systems, she will pay dearly for making enemies with a sizeable chunk of the populace, most of whom at young age.

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.

Photos: Alvin Lum, CitizenNews

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Teresa Cheng mired in credibility crisis http://www.vohk.hk/2018/01/07/teresa-cheng-mired-in-credibility-crisis/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss http://www.vohk.hk/2018/01/07/teresa-cheng-mired-in-credibility-crisis/#respond Sun, 07 Jan 2018 15:44:08 +0000 http://www.vohk.hk/?p=1891
Justice chief Teresa Cheng is sworn in on Saturday as a scandal over illegal structures found in her home erupts.By Chris Yeung – Less than one month after being given a pat on her back from President Xi Jiping for having made a good...
Justice chief Teresa Cheng is sworn in on Saturday as a scandal over illegal structures found in her home erupts.

By Chris Yeung –

Less than one month after being given a pat on her back from President Xi Jiping for having made a good start since taking office on July 1, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor is confronted with a serious political crisis erupted even before her newly-appointed justice chief was sworn in on Saturday.

Before Teresa Cheng Yuek-wah sat down in her office in the Justice Department on Saturday, she was struck by media reports about a scandal over illegal structures found in her house in Tuen Mun. Similar additional structures were identified by local media in a home next to hers. They include a basement, a rooftop glass house and a garden pool.

Cheng held a hastily-arranged press conference in the afternoon, offering an apology for “any inconvenience caused by this incident.” “I admit I could have done better in being alert in this respect.”

As if the saga has not been juicy enough, she revealed Otto Poon Lok-to, a leading engineer who owned the villa next to hers, is her husband. He has also admitted lack of vigilance over the additional structures in his home.

Cheng has kept mum after she apologised on Saturday. Mrs Lam, the Chief Executive, has issued a statement via her office on the same day, saying Cheng had informed her of the matter on Friday afternoon and that Cheng was advised to give an open account as soon as possible to allay public concern. Mrs Lam has sought to distance from the scandal over the weekend.

CS diverts attention

On Sunday, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung has pledged to review the effectiveness of integrity check system for principal officials. He called on the public to give Cheng more time to settle the matter.

Executive Council members and lawmakers from the pro-establishment camp made mild criticism against Cheng over her lack of political sensitivity.

Their attempts to shift public attention on Cheng’s lack of sensitivity and the effectiveness of integrity check, however, are not likely to put doubts on her credibility to rest in the wake of the scandal.

Serious questions have and will be asked about whether she was indeed aware of the existence of illegal structures in her home when she bought it in 2008.

Documents obtained by local media relating to the property deal showed she had either inspected or authorised other persons to inspect the home.

Cheng did not categorically say whether she was or was not aware of the additional structures when she signed the agreement.

With the string of controversies surrounding the illegal structures found in former chief executive Leung Chun-ying and some of his principal officials still vivid in the minds of people, revelation about illegal structures at Cheng’s home was greeted by disbelief.

It raises serious questions about the government’s integrity check system and the political sensitivity, or the lack of it, of the Carrie Lam team. The lack of vigilance, or perhaps more accurately, the failure of the new team to learn from the mistake of the Leung team is indefensible.

It is not difficult to understand why pro-establishment figures have moved to define Cheng’s problem as a case of lack of political sensitivity. Doing so could help defuse criticism on a far more important respect, namely credibility.

Credibility the burning issue

Nevertheless, her credibility has and will be mired in doubt if she fails to categorically deny she was aware of the additional structures when she bought the home.

Doubters and cynics have good reason to believe she knew her home has additional structures not found in the original house layout.

That she was not alert to the legal and political risk then is not difficult to understand. This is because of the simple truth that the additional structure would have been no big deal if she stays in private practice with limited public limelight caused by her public service.

It has become one now that she carries the official title, namely Secretary for Justice. That the government’s top lawyer is found to have breached the Building Ordinance is not just embarrassing, but dealing a body blow to her credibility and trustworthiness.

Insisting she has nothing more to add, Cheng is clearly hoping to cool down the row as soon as possible. While trying to divert public attention onto the issue of integrity check, top officials are anxiously keen to lower the political temperature to help ease the pressure on Cheng.

Coming in the midst of a bitter row over the joint checkpoint plan over the high-speed rail link, it looks certain the pro-democracy camp will give neither kindness nor benefit of doubt to Cheng. She looks set to face side attack on her credibility while defending the co-location arrangement when the bill goes to the Legislative Council.

Battered by the pro-establishment camp with the backing of the Government over the amendment of Legco’s Rules and Procedures, the pan-democrats will capitalise on the Cheng case to strike back.

Both Cheng and the Chief Executive are likely to have to pay dearly for their forgetfulness of the importance of being “whiter than white” for anyone who brave the heat to join the “hot kitchen.”

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: GIS picture


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After 106 years, HKU at juncture of change http://www.vohk.hk/2017/12/03/after-106-years-hku-at-juncture-of-change/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss http://www.vohk.hk/2017/12/03/after-106-years-hku-at-juncture-of-change/#respond Sun, 03 Dec 2017 14:19:24 +0000 http://www.vohk.hk/?p=1886
HKU enters uncharted waters with a change of helm.By Chris Yeung – Founded in 1911 and at least until, if not after, 1997, the University of Hong Kong has acted as a pillar...
HKU enters uncharted waters with a change of helm.

By Chris Yeung –

Founded in 1911 and at least until, if not after, 1997, the University of Hong Kong has acted as a pillar and a symbol of the British colonial rule. It has been and perhaps is still the major source of elites at the senior echelon of the Government and various professional sectors.

The cultures and values ingrained in them since they were brought up in local schools and their alma mater have helped create the uniqueness of the city. In the words of a retired Communist Party Politburo Standing Committee member Li Ruihuan, those are the tea residual left inside a Yixing teapot after years and years.

There are growing fears that it will not take long for HKU, perhaps the last symbol of the British colonial rule, to join the list of colonial relics to vanish. The “old” HKU Hongkongers are familiar with may only live in collective memory. The city’s oldest university looks set to find its new identity as it enters into the uncharted waters of a new phase of de facto colonisation, or, in a better-known term, mainlandisation.

Jitters among HKU staff, students and alumni turned into fears and anger last week after it was revealed that a mainland-born scholar, Professor Zhang Xiang, currently working at the University of California, Berkeley in the United States, has been chosen by HKU’s 11-member selection committee to become the next Vice-Chancellor.

A US national, Zhang is best known for his breakthrough research in metamaterials, a discovery that allows an engineered material to manipulate and bend light in unnatural ways. Time magazine called it one of the top 10 scientific discoveries of 2008. Zhang is one of the 90-odd foreign members of the Chinese Academy of Science.

Zhang Xiang, a professor at UC Berkeley, is tipped to become the next HKU head.

Zhang Xiang, a professor at UC Berkeley, is tipped to become the next HKU head.

His academic and management record may be a subject of different evaluation, varying in the eyes of beholders.

But his reported suggestion for HKU to embrace China and to seek funding from the Chinese Education Ministry for innovation and technology research has rubbed the sensitive nerves of Hong Kong people, in particular the HKU family. It fuelled fears about a change of direction of the 106-year-old institution.

From basing in Hong Kong with mainland on its back and facing the world since its inauguration, the change of helm at HKU may mark the beginning of a new era with internationalisation increasingly displaced by mainlandisation.

China dismay at colonial residual influence

If cynics deem the changeover as merely a matter of time, it is because the mainland authorities have made no secret their dismay with what they call residual influence of colonial rule in the city. More than 20 years after the reversion of sovereignty, they feel increasingly intolerant of the slow progress of “decolonisation.”

Speaking in Hong Kong in September 2015, a former senior mainland official in charge of Hong Kong affairs, Chen Zuoer has alleged Hong Kong has not completed “decolonisation” in accordance with the law. Conversely, he claimed activities that aimed to “discard China” have grown rampant, apparently referred to the growth of pro-Hong Kong independence activism in universities and society at large.

At least one HKU alumnus would not feel surprised. In a column published in the Chinese-language Ming Pao in October, 2015, Lo Chi-kin, a founding member of the Democratic Party and seasoned political analyst, said spate of controversies in HKU, in particular the Johannes Chan Man-mun case, reflected an intensified attempt by Beijing to rein in control over HKU.

Beijing had alleged interfered with the recommendation of Professor Chan, a prominent legal scholar, to become a Pro-Vice-Chancellor. Chan was alleged to be closely involved with the Occupy Central movement.

Lo wrote Beijing was determined to control HKU because of its vital role as an “ideological bastion.”

“If Beijing has to compile a list of targets that should be ‘decolonised,’ HKU is certainly high on the list,” he said.

Vowing to turn University of Hong Kong into Asia’s Global University, outgoing Vice-Chancellor Peter Mathieson has underscored the importance of internationalisation the leading institution should provide in the university’s strategic development plan.

“We will ensure that the education we provide is among the most international available anywhere in the world by further developing our curricula and our vibrant, cosmopolitan campus, nurturing globally-minded thinkers and leaders, and providing space and opportunity for students to gain exceptional learning experiences outside Hong Kong,” he said.

Formerly a HKU Pro-Vice-Chancellor and now President of the Baptist University, Roland Chin is even more direct when it comes to internationalisation of universities in Hong Kong.

In an interview with Master-Insight website, he said: “If we want to maintain our influence, the uniqueness of Hong Kong is no doubt internationalisation. This is something China lacks. It may take several generations for universities in mainland China to have what Hong Kong already has.”

Like Hong Kong, HKU is strategically best located to get the best of all worlds. All, HKU, Hong Kong and China are all losers if the city’s oldest university becomes just another Peking University, Tsinghua University or Fudan University.

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: VOHK picture and picture taken from UC Berkeley



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Lui leaps over an sexual abuse ordeal http://www.vohk.hk/2017/11/30/lui-leaps-over-an-sexual-abuse-ordeal/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss http://www.vohk.hk/2017/11/30/lui-leaps-over-an-sexual-abuse-ordeal/#respond Thu, 30 Nov 2017 15:02:42 +0000 http://www.vohk.hk/?p=1882
Star hurdler Vera Lui wins a golden medal in the Asian Indoor Games.By Chris Yeung – Star hurdler Vera Lui has crossed many hurdles on track and field in different parts of the world. She finished first...
Star hurdler Vera Lui wins a golden medal in the Asian Indoor Games.

By Chris Yeung –

Star hurdler Vera Lui has crossed many hurdles on track and field in different parts of the world. She finished first in the women’s 60-metre hurdles event in the Asian Indoor Games in September.

After more than 10 years, she today took the biggest leap in her life to tell a secret she had kept to herself except one close friend two years ago. In a post on her Facebook to celebrate her 23rd birthday, Lui claimed she was sexually assaulted by a coach ten years ago.

The city was shocked.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor lost no time to come out to say sorry for her ordeal, as many fellow Hongkongers feel. And like many others, she applauded her courageous move while pledging the Police will seriously investigate the case.

First inspired by the sexual assault case of Taiwanese author Elizabeth Lin Yi-han in summer, Lui said her impulse to reveal the unhappy experience turned into driving force when she read the story of McKayla Maroney, the American gymnast who won gold medals at the London Olympics a few months ago. Maroney revealed on social media that she was sexually assaulted by her team doctor.

Lui said she was coming forward for three reasons: to increase public awareness of sexual assault against children; to encourage victims to bravely speak up; and to let the public understand that sex was not an embarrassing, shameful or taboo subject.

It remains to be seen on whether similar victims would come forward to tell their plight. There is no doubt, nevertheless, Lui’s courage has marked a significant step forward not just to heightening public awareness of sexual assault against children, but breaking the taboo of sex in the society.

More importantly, it has given a big boost to the impulse of people taking the courage to come forward and speak up on what they believe to be right, not being deterred by the immense societal pressure stemmed from traditional values and culture.


As Lui plainly and aptly pointed out in her Facebook post, “In Chinese culture, sex has long been an embarrassing, shameful or taboo subject.” Traditional Chinese thinking has it been that families should keep scandals in wraps, not to make them public.

It is not difficult to understand why Lui had kept her unhappy experience for more than ten years in the face of the depth of traditional thinking prevalent in the society.

Time has changed. Signs are that some values and ideas deeply ingrained in the society are beginning to change. More people feel the impulse and the imperative of coming forward – and speaking up.

Cases are aplenty. Undaunted by the blistering attacks from the pro-Beijing, pro-establishment camp against their sons, the fathers of student leaders Alex Chow Yong-kang and Joshua Wong Chi-fung came out from their private worlds to defend their sons.

It may only sound natural for parents to be the first and the last to shield their children. But for the fathers of Chow and Wong, whose sons have been branded as the leading trouble-makers during the Occupy Central, they need tonnes of courage to come out to confront the barrage of verbal attacks.

Similarly, the experience of being confined to a cell without freedom and naked body search are the last thing people would like to share with others. Given, many would like to be forgotten and not be seen after having served jail term.

That the student trio, Alex Chow, Joshua Wong and Nathan Law, have come out to make allegations of inhumane treatment by correctional services staff during their imprisonment says something about the profound change of thinking about such once-taboo topics as imprisonment.

Taken together, those cases of people dare to come forward, stand up and speak out reflect cultural changes aggravated by factors including the growth of social media. Such global campaigns as “Me Too” hashtag campaign against sexual harassment have globalised values and thinking.

The culture of “coming forward” is set to grow further in the Hong Kong society, bringing about profound changes in the city.

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: Pictures taken from Lui’s Facebook


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What China’s rise means for world peace http://www.vohk.hk/2017/11/29/what-chinas-rise-means-for-world-peace/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss http://www.vohk.hk/2017/11/29/what-chinas-rise-means-for-world-peace/#respond Wed, 29 Nov 2017 01:31:01 +0000 http://www.vohk.hk/?p=1879
PICTiananmenBy Paddy Ashdown Peace in the Pacific Region, and very probably the wider world, will depend on two questions. How will the United States cope...

By Paddy Ashdown

Peace in the Pacific Region, and very probably the wider world, will depend on two questions.

How will the United States cope with decline?

And how will China fulfil her potential as a super power.

Not long after I returned from Bosnia in 2006, in the middle of the era of small wars, I was asked if great wars were now a thing of the past. I replied no; unhappily the habit of war, large and small, seems inextricably locked into the human gene. But I did not believe that, once we were passed the fossil fuel era, the most likely place for a great conflagration would be the Middle East. If we wanted to see where future great wars might occur, we should look to those regions where mercantilism was leading to an increase in nationalist sentiment and imperialist attitudes, as it did in Europe in the nineteenth century. The only region in the world, I concluded, which matched this description, was the Pacific basin. Nothing I have seen in the intervening decade alters this judgement.

We live in one of those periods of history where the structures of power in the world shift. These are almost always turbulent times and all too often, conflict ridden ones too. How new powers rise and old powers fall, is one of the prime determinants of peace in times like this. The Pacific basin is about to be the cockpit in which this drama is about to be played out.

The United States is the most powerful nation on earth and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. But the context in which she holds that power is completely different from what it was. Over the last hundred years or so – the American century – we have lived in a mono-polar world dominated by the American Colossus. This is no longer true. We live now in a multi polar-world – by the way very similar to Nineteenth century Europe where balance among the five powers – the so called Concert of Europe – meant peace and imbalance meant war.

We have seen this before. The end of the European empires after the Second World war led to great instability and much conflict, not least in this region. Britain, by and large, accepted her decline and, mostly, dealt with it in a measured and civilised fashion. We will come onto what that means for Hong Kong in a moment. France, by contrast lashed about soaking first Indo China and then North Africa in blood. The Belgians were even worse in the Belgian Congo.

US in relative decline

How the United States copes with her relative decline from the world’s only super power, to primus inter pares in a multi-polar world, is one of the great questions which will decide what happens in this region in the next decade. President Obama seemed to understand this. President Trump, it seems does not. His policies of isolationism, protectionism and confrontation towards China are foolish and dangerous. It is foolish because he is abandoning American leadership of the multilateral space and that will not strengthen America as he suggests, but hasten her decline. Its is dangerous because US isolationism will weaken multilateral instruments which are the only means of resolving conflicts and tackling global problems, such as climate change.

China’s position as a mercantile super-power is already established. It was inevitable that she should now seek to consolidate her trading strength by becoming a political and military super power, too. This is a perfectly natural ambition. It’s the way super powers behave – indeed it’s the way they have to behave to protect their position. This therefore, should not, in and of itself, be a matter of alarm or criticism.

It is natural too – and good – that China should seek to fill the vacuum of leadership in regional and global multilateral institutions left by President Trumps’ retreat from this space. It is far better for us all to have an engaged China, than an isolated one.

The last great strategic opportunity faced by the West was the fall of the Soviet Union. We should then have reached out to engage Russia, to draw her in, to help her re-build and reform. Instead we foolishly treated Moscow with triumphalism and humiliation, orchestrated largely by Washington. The result was inevitable and he’s called Vladimir Vladimirovic Putin.

Constructive relationship with China

We are now faced with a second equivalent opportunity. Can we reach out to build constructive relationships with a rising China?

On the face of it, the signs have been hopeful.

China has seemed keen to be a good world citizen. She has engaged constructively in multilateral institutions – look at the WTO as an example; look at her support for the UN Security Council resolution on sanctions for North Korea; look at her engagement with international forces to tackle the scourge of the Somali pirates around the Horn of Africa; look at her participation in international disaster relief – for instance in north east Pakistan; look at her involvement with UN peace keeping to which she has committed more troops under multi-national command than the United States and Europe combined. Yes, they are mostly in Africa where she has good reasons to want to keep the peace. But there is nothing new in that. Western nations too only send troops to keep the peace, where it is in their interests to do so.

Almost all the signs we have seen over the last two decades seem to indicate that China sees it as in her mercantilist interest to have a more rule based world order – and that is something we in the West should agree with too. It looks as though there could be much which is constructive to work on here.

Domestically too, the movement in China seemed to be in a hopeful direction. The Deng Xiaoping initiated process of economic liberalisation has been awe inspiring to watch. Many of us have taken comfort in what we saw as the inevitable fact that economic liberalisation must over time, lead to political liberalisation too. Anyone who understands China and Chinese history understands why this could not be too hasty; understands why Beijing is nervous about loosening the bonds too quickly. But the direction of travel seemed clear. After modernising her economy China would, over time modernise her political and governmental structures in favour of greater democracy – albeit democracy with a Chinese face, rather than a western one.

It was comfortable for those who observe and have an affection for China to believe that in a world almost overwhelmed by conflict, fracture and repression, China would continue steadily moving in the opposite direction; steadily using her power for stability against turbulence and for partnership, rather than raw power and going it alone. We even imagined that, in her ascent to greatness China might chose a trajectory different from that followed by previous super-powers; using her strength to lead internationally rather than succumbing to imperialist temptation.

I do not think China’s true long term interest lies in responding to Donald Trump’s invitation to a dog fight, albeit one which appears to have been postponed after Mr Trump’s effusive glad handing with Chairman Xi. China’s interest lies, rather in continuing to build her reputation as a good world citizen and in creating alliances – leading them if you like – in favour of the kind of rule based world which would benefit both her and us.

Return of old China

Does this sound naive? A little I confess. Yet it remains probably the only hope for avoiding what will otherwise I fear be an inevitable long term progress towards some kind of Pacific confrontation between a declining old power and a rising new one.

Naïve or not, if these were our hopes they have now come up against a jolting reality.

Judging from the iconography of the recent People’s Congress it is difficult not to conclude that what we were looking at was less the emergence of a new China, as the return of the old. A Red Emperor, centralised power, suppression of dissent. These were all – perhaps – necessary for Mao Tse-tung, who had to build a unified state from ashes and a nation which was respected abroad after a century of humiliation.

But the respect in which China is held abroad is not in question today. Nor is her unity and strength. To return to the ways of Mao sits uncomfortably with China’s ambition to be a modern state and can only serve to diminish her reputation abroad.

As for unity, well I know of no instance in history where the sustainable greatness of a nation has been built on a market that is free and a public voice which is suppressed. It is just not in human nature, whether Chinese or otherwise, to be content for long with glorious freedom in one aspect of your life and permanent voicelessness in the other. It is sad – more it is worrying – to note the recent rise in the curtailment of freedoms in the name of national security; the arrest of foreign NGO workers for expressing unwelcome views, the rising number of detentions of human rights activists, including even lawyers.

All this sits very strangely with promises to develop “advanced, extensive, multi-level… institutionalised … consultative democracy” and enhance China’s “soft power”, in the 3,000 word amendment incorporating Xi Jin Ping’s “socialism with Chinese characteristics”, which was unanimously passed at the recent Congress

Chinese yearn for freedom and rights

I do not believe that the Chinese people yearn for individual freedom and human rights any less than anyone else.

A state whose economy pioneers the future, but whose politics has reverted to the past, is a state founded on an irresolvable contradiction.

Maybe I have read the signals wrong. Foreigners, even those who have studied China for a long time, can easily do that. The proof of the pudding will come in the eating, as we say in English.

And the first slices of that pudding will be eaten – maybe have already been eaten – here in Hong Kong.

It is here, perhaps more than anywhere else, where we will come to know the true nature of Xi Jinping’s vision of “Socialism with a Chinese face”.

At this stage I must do a little mea culpa.

When Beijing says there is a degree of hypocrisy beneath British calls for more democracy in Hong Kong, they are right. Our hundred and more years of rule of Hong Kong as a colony was not notable for its democratic reforms. Learning Chinese here between 1967 and 1970 – a time of considerable public disturbance and bomb attacks, as some will remember – I did not find it easy to defend the British Administration here, let alone be proud of it. Of course we know now that Zhou En-lai threatened to re-possess the Colony by force if Britain introduced universal suffrage. Is it unworthy to think that this Beijing “prohibition” on full democracy was not very inconvenient to a British administration which didn’t have much enthusiasm for such things anyway? It would have been possible, even within the constraints set by Zhou, for the British to at least to set a direction of travel for Hong Kong by taking small steps towards democracy, even if they couldn’t take big ones. Is it fanciful to suggest that if they had done this, the democratic culture in Hong Kong would have had time to develop into something deeper, more embedded and more mature?

Hong Kong to be judged by the world

British rule in Hong Kong was economically successful. But politically it was shameful. Chris Patten tried to ensure that the last page of the history book covering British rule in Hong Kong would be different, so that the legacy we left would be truer to our values, than the record of our administration of the colony. Is there hypocrisy in that? yes – some. But to do the right thing in the end, is better than not to do it at all. As Rousseau said “Hypocrasie est le hommage que la vice rend a la virtue” – hypocrisy is the service that vice gives to virtue.

Whatever the motives however, the fact is that the Patten democratic reforms were locked into the Anglo-Chinese International Treaty which enables and protects the Basic Law.

And the heart of that Basic law, is the rule of law itself.

The Hong Kong judiciary is still intact and still independent. But it is coming under pressure. Justice must not only be done, it must also, to gain confidence among the people, to be seen to be done.

The abduction of Hong Kong booksellers into the mainland, simply for having published books critical of China’s leaders, undermines confidence both in the rule of law and in the principle of free speech.

The right to protest within defined limits is part of that law. The right to due process by a judicial system independent of political interference is part of it too. The right to be free from the hazard of double jeopardy if you choose to break the law is widely regarded as a fundamental principle of justice world-wide.

Of course it is the case that those who break the law should be judged. Though whether it was wise for the full might and majesty of a global super-power to come down on three young enthusiastic student demonstrators, one of whom a directly elected legislator who may have overstepped the limit, is a different matter.

But even the judged have rights and these must be protected too.

The effective, just, wise and legal administration of Hong Kong is not an easy matter for Beijing to deal with. One country two systems is far easier to have as a slogan, than it is to put into practice. We should appreciate that.

Nevertheless this is what Beijing has, formally – and by international treaty – put its hand to.

One country two systems is the slogan under which Beijing may want to draw others back to the fold. Honouring scrupulously the Anglo-Chinese deal in both letter and spirit will enhance that possibility. Any perceived failure to do so, will weaken it.

Britain, too laid its hand to that treaty. And with some fanfare.

At the time, Prime Minster John Major undertook that “If there were any suggestion of a breach of the Joint Declaration, we would have a duty to pursue every legal and other avenue available to us.” In words which would have reminded every Hong Konger of the famous declaration of President Kennedy that he would always stand by the endangered city of Berlin the British Prime Minister promised that Hong Kong                                                        “will never have to walk alone”. This is not a promise that can be lightly broken because it proves inconvenient to a British Government obsessed with finding trade deals because it wishes to be outside Europe. As Chris Patten has said, Britain risks selling its honour here.

The new mood places new responsibilities on the SAR government, too. If things are to move in a more regressive direction on the mainland then SAR government has an even greater duty to show that it will stand up and defend Hong Kong’s special status and its core values; that it will be an effective voice-piece for your genuine concerns, for example over the co-location of the high-speed rail link.

What happens next here in Hong Kong will be judged by a watching world.

For it will tell us whether the rise and rise of Xi Jin Ping is taking us forwards to a new more modern China, or back to an old one.

This is the full speech given by Paddy Ashdown at Foreign Correspondents Club in Hong Kong on November 28.

Paddy Ashdown is a member of the UK House of Lords, a former leader of the Liberal Democrats and was the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina and the European Union Special Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Ashdown served as a Royal Marines Officer in Belfast, Borneo and the Persian Gulf. After leaving the armed forces he joined the UK Foreign Office and later entered parliament. He is the author of seven books and is a frequent commentator on UK and international affairs.)

Photo: VOHK picture


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Inside a writer’s struggle with fear http://www.vohk.hk/2017/11/13/inside-a-writers-struggle-with-fear/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss http://www.vohk.hk/2017/11/13/inside-a-writers-struggle-with-fear/#respond Mon, 13 Nov 2017 15:33:30 +0000 http://www.vohk.hk/?p=1875
A selfie of the authorBy Wu Ruoqi – Even though it was an undertaking that would have placed him a hair’s breath away from accidentally killing his favorite daughter,...
A selfie of the author

By Wu Ruoqi –

Even though it was an undertaking that would have placed him a hair’s breath away from accidentally killing his favorite daughter, Harvey Cushing decided to rise to the challenge anyway: his fifteen-year-old had a lump on her neck that was dangerously close to a crucial set of veins, and Cushing – by then he had become America’s preeminent brain surgeon – charged himself with the responsibility of removing it. In the operating theater, he pricked a vein by mistake, but “cold as ice” he carried on with excising the tumour, recounted his granddaughter. The incision was so sewn up with such skill that when the skin healed, no scar was visible.

If only I could induce myself into the mental state of being “cold as ice” as I go about writing – my life would be so much easier.

Writing is hard under ordinary circumstances. To keep readers eager to read one paragraph after another, you need to anticipate and manipulate their reaction; to check your stage effects you have to will yourself to pretend you’re reading your copy for the first time. But impersonate your reader enough times, and it’s easy to lose grip on how things really are: as your piece edges its way towards completion, you may find yourself torn between allowing yourself to believe that it works, and fearing you’ve merely successfully deluded yourself into thinking that it works.

To non-writers, the sight of a solitary writer at work may be a picture of quietude, but the Cushing story shows there is more than what meets the eye: either the writer is able to, like Cushing, block out her anxieties and focus on her work, or she is held captive by them and stunned into inaction.

And then, as if the burden of second-guessing yourself weren’t trying enough, there’s an added complication if you, like me, are one of those who write about Chinese culture in English. You do so because you think you owe it to the larger humanity to make known to them aspects of your ancestral heritage you find riveting. But your sense of mission weighs you down by setting the bar high. Every now and then, you need to somehow summon the kind of wizardry that normally only belongs to people like Ferran Adria, frequently named the world’s greatest chef. To overcome western diners’ reluctance to suck juice straight out of a shrimp’s head – Adria thinks there’s no better way to “taste the Mediterranean” than this – he would secretly poured the elixir over his food in his kitchen. “I’ve changed the context. I can do this and people will eat it,” he explains. Likewise, to make Chinese culture palatable to westerners, you need to line it up with associations that provide such readers with just the degree of familiarity they need to feast upon it with gusto. This kind of strategic know-how doesn’t come out of nowhere: you develop it over time by shifting between the western and Chinese points of view and cracking the code they share. But this means that as you wrestle with copy, in addition to role-playing the reader, you also need to adopt – on cue – either the Western or Chinese perspective. Is it any surprise, therefore, that when others assure you your work hit the right notes, you don’t believe them? By then, all the hat-changing you’ve put yourself through has left you, for all practical purposes, drained and disoriented.

It took another surgeon to help me to get inside Cushing’s head as he cut open his child’s throat. This surgeon confessed in jest to researchers who had interviewed him for a survey that to him a patient’s body is mere “human material…we could be woodworkers and make a chair that holds up, it’s the same thing. The patient thinks we’re taking care of him but actually we’re enjoying ourselves, more than anything.” With just that, he unraveled for me the mystery of how Cushing was able to carry on operating on his daughter despite an inauspicious start: Cushing had long accepted that the very calling that gave him gratification he couldn’t find elsewhere would always afflict him with self-doubts as well. Over time, he became so adept at putting his fears at a distance that on the day of his daughter’s operation, she simply assumed for him the guise of human material. The implication for me is enormous, for my hang-ups about writing will miraculously vanish when I’m polishing someone else’s piece: paradoxically, it is by not expecting my fears to ever go away that I can keep a lid on them, and reach the juncture where working on my copy becomes as painless as editing another person’s work!

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

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


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