Voice of Hong Kong http://www.vohk.hk One Hong Kong, Many Voices Sun, 18 Jun 2017 02:04:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.5.9 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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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.”

PICFlags

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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Promises in 1997 versus realities in 2017 http://www.vohk.hk/2017/05/29/promises-in-1997-versus-realities-in-2017/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss http://www.vohk.hk/2017/05/29/promises-in-1997-versus-realities-in-2017/#respond Mon, 29 May 2017 00:10:17 +0000 http://www.vohk.hk/?p=1755
A symposium on the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the implementation of the Basic Law is held in Beijing on Saturday.By Chris Yeung – It was billed as a symposium aimed to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the implementation of the Basic Law. But coming...
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A symposium on the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the implementation of the Basic Law is held in Beijing on Saturday.

By Chris Yeung –

It was billed as a symposium aimed to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the implementation of the Basic Law. But coming just about one month before the 20th anniversary of the July 1 changeover, the event held at the Great Hall of the People on Saturday was anything but a discussion.

Attended by a team of top Beijing officials involved with Hong Kong affairs and a group top Hong Kong officials led by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and a bunch of elites Beijing most trusted, the symposium featured a 50-minute address by Zhang Dejiang, China’s top official in charge of Hong Kong policy on Beijing’s latest policy statement on Hong Kong.

Zhang, the Number Three at the ruling Communist Party’s Politburo and chairman of the National People’s Congress, laid down Beijing’s plan to tighten its grip on Hong Kong affairs.

He has also set out a list of key tasks for the new administration led by Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor. They include the enactment of a law on national security, which was shelved indefinitely after the July 1 rally in 2003.

In his speech, Zhang has urged the Hong Kong Government to fulfil their constitutional obligation to enact a law to safeguard national security to curb acts that endanger national unification. Though without naming Basic Law Article 23, it is the clearest signal from Beijing for an early enactment of the anti-subversion law.

Zhang’s reminder of a resumption of Article 23 legislation is one of the set of detailed tasks he set out on Beijing’s agenda for Hong Kong. They are aimed to restore what Beijing deems as the proper balance between the principle of upholding “one country” and the promise of keeping Hong Kong’s system intact in the “one country, two systems” constitutional framework.

Based on the overriding principle that Beijing holds “comprehensive powers of governance” over Hong Kong, he reiterated that the relationship between the central government and SAR government is not a case of power-sharing, but delegation of powers.

Under no circumstances, he said, that Hong Kong is allowed to “confront” the exercise of powers by the central government “in the name of high degree of autonomy.”

Zhang has specifically named activities that advocated “power of self-autonomy, and even self-determination and Hong Kong independence” as acts that were aimed to deny Beijing’s powers over Hong Kong.

“(This is something that) absolutely cannot be ignored,” said.

Call for enactment of Article 23

While it remains to be seen whether the Carrie Lam administration would dust off the Article 23 legislative work, Zhang has made clear Beijing would formulate in detail the list of powers of the central authorities over Hong Kong. Beijing would also detail an operational mechanism of the implementation of the Basic Law.

On his list of powers include the power to examine laws enacted by the SAR on whether they contravene the Basic law, the power of decision on political development of Hong Kong, the power of the central government to issue directives to the Chief Executive and the power to require the Chief Executive to report his work.

The “to-do” tasks laid down by Zhang in his speech are areas that Beijing feels adamant that they had ignored since the handover and should now be re-asserted.

They should therefore not be interpreted as attempts by Beijing to negate their promise of high degree of  autonomy to Hong Kong. Beijing insisted those powers Beijing are entitled are legitimate under the “one country, two systems” policy and implicitly enshrined in the Basic Law provisions.

Doubters and cynics, however, have good reason to argue Beijing has moved to put more curbs on the autonomous powers of the SAR.

The truth is that the notions of “power to review” the legality of laws passed by the Hong Kong legislature and “power to issue directives to the Chief Executive” are not spelled out in the Basic Law. Nor they seem to have been discussed in detail during the drafting of the Basic Law, judging from publicly available information about the drafting work.

As Hong Kong’s “one country, two systems” journey is near to enters its 21st year, Beijing is anxious to serve early notices to citizens on their plans to exercise their “comprehensive powers” over the city, some of which they deem had been left unused in the past 20 years.

Those notices, however, are grim, also shock, reminders to Hong Kong people about the widening gulf between the promises made in 1997 and the realities unfolded in 2017.

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: Picture taken from RTHK website

 

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Chow’s ‘Holden-gate’ damages HK values http://www.vohk.hk/2017/05/28/chows-holden-gate-damages-hk-values/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss http://www.vohk.hk/2017/05/28/chows-holden-gate-damages-hk-values/#respond Sun, 28 May 2017 15:49:31 +0000 http://www.vohk.hk/?p=1752
郭榮鏗-眾新聞-20170403165825_2806By Dennis Kwok – CY Leung’s term of office as Chief Executive is ending in less than two months, yet he has managed to cause...
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郭榮鏗-眾新聞-20170403165825_2806

By Dennis Kwok –

CY Leung’s term of office as Chief Executive is ending in less than two months, yet he has managed to cause even more controversies by conspiring with Holden Chow Ho-ding to interfere with the proceedings of the LegCo Select Committee appointed to inquire into the controversial UGL agreement. Holden Chow, through his stupidity and underhanded conduct, has allowed the scandal to come to light. If Holden Chow had not been so indolent to create a new document to include alterations made by Leung, nobody would have known that one of our legislators, who happened to be the Deputy Chairman of the Select Committee, has already become a puppet of the Chief Executive.

Despite Holden Chow’s apology for lacking “political sensitivity” in handling the incident, he maintained that he didn’t conceal anything. Yet, his assertions are utterly implausible when all evidence presented, including the mark-up comments made by ‘CEO- CE’ on the leaked document, points to the fact that it is indeed CY Leung himself who secretly made the modifications with the intent of steering the investigation process in his favor.

Chow’s conduct was totally unacceptable: not only did he make false representations in relation to the origin of his amendments, he has also failed to meet the public expectation that he will dutifully perform his tasks in his capacity as a independent member of the Select Committee and LegCo. Being the Deputy Chairman of the Select Committee, it goes without saying that Chow plays an important role in conducting the investigation and ensuring that it is done so fairly and justly to account to the public.

Disappointingly, Chow has on the contrary assisted CY Leung, the subject of inquiry, to directly make amendments on proposed major areas of study of the Select Committee without going through the proper procedures. Whether the purpose is to mislead the Select Committee or to make the inquiry “fairer” as they claimed, nothing can justify such interference to the Select Committee while the investigation is still underway. As we all know, the credibility of the Select Committee is premised on its independence in public perception. Any acts undermining its independence will inevitably lead to the loss of integrity of the Select Committee and LegCo.

The Legislative Council, as stipulated in Article 74 of the Basic Law, serves an indispensable role in inquiring, debating, legislating and monitoring the executive branch. Through placing checks and balances on the executive branch, the LegCo is the embodiment of the cardinal spirit of separation of powers. It is outrageous that a member of the supposedly independent LegCo would secretly cooperate with the subject of inquiry, allowing the latter to secretly modify, influence or even mislead the direction of the Select Committee investigation.

Such is a serious offence tantamount to the long established common law offence, contempt of parliament. In fact, such an offence is not uncommon in other common law jurisdictions, such as the United Kingdom and Australia. As Erskine May writes in Parliamentary Practice, authority on British parliamentary procedure, contempt of parliament is defined as “any act or omission which obstructs or impedes House of Parliament in the performance of its functions, or which has a tendency, directly or indirectly, to produce such results.”

Chow’s conduct clearly amounted to obstructing and perverting the course of a public inquiry carried out by the Select Committee which was appointed for in-depth consideration of matters referred by the Council, hence constituting contempt of the LegCo. Such outrageous behavior of a member of LegCo to engage in underhanded dealings with the subject of inquiry of a LegCo investigation cannot be tolerated, and we, the pan-democrats would not hesitate to fulfill our obligation to censor Holden Chow for his contempt of LegCo with the power granted under Article 79(7) of the Basic Law.

Chris Patten, the former Governor of Hong Kong, delivered a well-known speech expressing his worries towards the future of Hong Kong in his last Policy Address: “[m]y anxiety is not that this community’s autonomy would be usurped by Peking, but that it could be given away bit by bit by some people in Hong Kong.” His warning is not only applicable to the autonomy of the city under “One Country, Two Systems”, but also to all of our core values in Hong Kong. Procedural justice, due process, independence of LegCo and separation of powers are the cornerstones of our society.

We cannot allow a member of the LegCo to erode the impartiality and credibility of the Council which Hong Kong had worked so hard to build up. As a lawmaker representing legal profession in LegCo, I promised to stand for and defend these values. We will fight to safeguard the values we believe in and to continue to uphold them for Hong Kong.

Dennis Kwok is a Legislative Council member representing the legal functional constituency. This is the full text of his Letter to Hong Kong broadcast on RTHK 3 on May 28.

Photo: CitizenNews picture

 

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Thanks to C Y Leung, UGL saga goes on and on http://www.vohk.hk/2017/05/22/thanks-to-c-y-leung-ugl-saga-goes-on-and-on/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss http://www.vohk.hk/2017/05/22/thanks-to-c-y-leung-ugl-saga-goes-on-and-on/#respond Mon, 22 May 2017 17:26:32 +0000 http://www.vohk.hk/?p=1747
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying defends his deal with UGL... at all cost.By Chris Yeung – First came to light in a report published in an Australian newspaper in October 2014, the controversy over Chief Executive Leung...
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Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying defends his deal with UGL... at all cost.

By Chris Yeung –

First came to light in a report published in an Australian newspaper in October 2014, the controversy over Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s receipt of HK$50 million from Australian firm UGL has refused to go away. It is back to headline news laden with more surprises and absurdities.

Thanks to an alleged attempt by Leung to meddle with a Legco select committee’s probe, it was given new life, re-energizing the anti-Leung sentiments and bringing trouble, or embarrassment, to say the least, to the Beijing leadership.

It came just about two months after the ruling Communist Party installed Leung to the rank of state leader, in his capacity as vice-chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, China’s united front body, at its annual plenum in March.

Dubbed by some media as “Holden-gate,” the latest episode of the UGL serial drama erupted after it was revealed that an amended paper about the scope of the Legco probe submitted by DAB’s Holden Chow Ho-ding was indeed penned by Leung. Leung’s changes made to the document surfaced after Legco secretariat staff found the previous versions kept in the document.

Leung confirmed he personally made the changes, but insisted there was nothing wrong and that he, as the person being probed, should have the right to express his views. He did not directly comment on whether it was right for him to talk to Chow, who was vice-chairman of the committee.

Chow had originally insisted he had done nothing seriously wrong, but later admitted shortcomings and quit the Legco select committee.

‘Holden-gate’ gives new life to UGL row

If Chow had already shut down the “Holden-gate.” Leung has kept it alive – even more lively by fingering at Kenneth Leung, a legislator representing the accounting functional constituency. Leung has launched vociferous attack against Leung for role conflict in the Legco fee probe.

Leung sits on the Legco select committee and is being sued by Leung Chun-ying for having made libelous statements on Leung relating to the UGL case.

In a lengthy open letter published on his official website on Sunday, Leung Chun-ying said Kenneth Leung’s role in the committee investigation was “a concrete case of poor-quality Hong Kong politics.” He alleged the pan-democrats of manipulating the judicial and law enforcement institutions to attack government officials.

Flanked by his pan-democrat Legco colleagues, Kenneth Leung refused to step down, but said he would stop making public comment on the UGL case.

Pan-democrat legislators stand united to defend Kenneth Leung, who faces calls by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying for him to quit a Legco probe into the UGL case.

Pan-democrat legislators stand united to defend Kenneth Leung, who faces calls by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying for him to quit a Legco probe into the UGL case.

Just about three hours after he and the pan-democrats spoke, Leung Chun-ying issued another statement, blasting Kenneth Leung for failing to answer his questions raised in the Sunday statement.

Although Leung is already been known for his belligerent approach in the game of politics, his combative tactic in seeking to silence doubters and critics has ironically served to deepen suspicion among his opponents and ordinary people.

The more he sought to dismiss the UGL case as a non-starter the more doubters believe there is something wrong in it. And the more he tried to influence the probe by the legislators the deeper the suspicion among the people about his deal with UGL.

In view of the sea of distrust, verging on hostilities, towards him in the society, it is a case of political naivety for him to try to fight for his innocence on his own. Like it or not, he has already slipped into a political swamp. The more he struggles to get out of it, the deeper he is mired in the mud.

He needs a panel of independent figures with high credibility and public trust to help dispel doubts about his deal through a thorough investigation.

In a note to Leung on his Facebook, University of Hong Kong law professor Eric Cheung Tat-ming has proposed a similar idea.

“If Mr Leung thinks certain members of the Legco committee have had preconceived views and stance and therefore would not able to conduct the probe fairly, are you willing to set up an independent commission chaired by retired for serving judge in accordance with the law to conduct a fair inquiry to clear people’s doubts?”

In his 13-point attack against Kenneth Leung on Sunday, the Chief Executive has lambasted the legislator’s allegation against him as a “concrete case of poor-quality politics” in Hong Kong.

There are far more things he could and should do to showcase the play of decent politics in putting the UGL row to an end than to throw mud onto his opponents.

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

 

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Lam urged to build trust with lawmakers http://www.vohk.hk/2017/05/15/lam-urged-to-build-trust-with-lawmakers/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss http://www.vohk.hk/2017/05/15/lam-urged-to-build-trust-with-lawmakers/#respond Mon, 15 May 2017 02:23:15 +0000 http://www.vohk.hk/?p=1742
Ip Kin-kuen, third from left, and Professional Guild legislators, meet with Chief Executive-elect Carrie Lam.By Ip Kin-kuen – In less than 50 days, the new government will take office. The community is full of expectations tinged with doubts as...
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Ip Kin-kuen, third from left, and Professional Guild legislators, meet with Chief Executive-elect Carrie Lam.

By Ip Kin-kuen –

In less than 50 days, the new government will take office. The community is full of expectations tinged with doubts as to whether the new Government will be able to improve relations between the executive authority and the legislature.

Together with six other Legislative Council Members of The Professionals Guild, I had a meeting last Monday with Chief Executive-elect, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, for an exchange of views on the new Government’s guiding principles and concrete policies.

One of the main topics discussed was the improvement of relations between the executive authority and the legislature. Right at the outset, Mrs Lam made it clear that it was her wish to improve these relations. While there were no pleasant surprises in significant issues like re-launching the political reform, she did demonstrate a rather forthcoming and positive attitude in such areas as implementation of education policies, introduction of legislation on archives, and changing the roles of the Central Policy Unit. I think it was a good start.

Ip Kin-kuen at RTHK.

Ip Kin-kuen at RTHK.

Over the past five years, Leung Chun-ying’s Administration was characterized by political struggles, poor governance, prevalence of problems and extremely awful relations between the authorities and the legislature. Now with Carrie Lam as Chief Executive-elect, some of the officials have become relatively more relaxed and the atmosphere in political circles has also changed. However, the outgoing Leung Chun-ying remains ruthless, and there have been a succession of lawsuits targeted at Legislative Council members. He is also deliberately antagonistic even in non-political issues like Primary 3 TSA/BCA, sternly rejecting Mrs Lam’s call to shelve Primary 3 TSA this year and disdaining a joint signature appeal made by 36 cross-party Legislative Council members. Whatever the subjective intents of Leung Chun-ying are, the objective effects of his actions are nothing but the continuation of antagonism, difficult to fade.

To improve relations between the executive and the legislature requires the enhancement of mutual trust, which, in turn, necessitates the existence of an objective basis. Whether Mrs Lam and her team can achieve a breakthrough depends on whether they will be able to meet the three challenges set out below.

Respect core values

First, the new Government must respect society’s established core values and normal systems and procedures. People’s lack of trust in Leung’s Administration over the past five years has arisen from the Government ignoring established core values, excessively exerting its power and allowing, from time to time, the wishes of the Chief Executive to override normal systems and procedures. Incidents involving Hong Kong Television and the selection of a Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the University of Hong Kong are obvious examples. Advocating the rule of law and freedom and respecting systems and procedures are the cornerstones of Hong Kong’s society. They are indispensable

Mrs Carrie Lam herself should also draw lessons from the incident involving the construction of the Hong Kong Palace Museum, and attach importance to conducting consultations and being transparent. Only when the new team displays, once again, a proper governance style and exercise self-restraint can it gradually rebuild people’s trust and the Legislative Council’s trust in the Government.

Respect different political views

Secondly, the new Government must respect different political views and different camps in the Legislative Council. In fact, different camps and different political parties reflect the existence in society of a wide political spectrum. Respecting the views of different camps is, in practical terms, respecting the views of various quarters of society. Therefore, when members bring different voices and aspirations to the Legislative Council, the new Government should actively listen, respond quickly, and discuss with members how problems could be solved, instead of, as in the past, adopting an evasive, contemptuous or antagonistic attitude and even going so far as to seek, through judicial reviews, to abolish the seats of publicly elected Legislative Council members. Such a change will be a major step towards remedying the relations between the executive and the legislature.

Improve transparency

Thirdly, the new Government must improve its transparency, be willing to accept public scrutiny and conduct public consultations when formulating policies. In the past five years serving as a Legislative Council member, I often felt that the Government refused to provide detailed data and materials in respect of a number of policies, thus undermining members’ role in monitoring the work of the Government. Even if questions were raised at Legislative Council meetings, we still had officials giving irrelevant replies or ‘beating around the bush’.

For example, when I was earlier reviewing the budget, I asked Education Bureau to, as in the past, provide detailed information on vacant school premises. Much to my dismay, the authorities were deliberately evasive and refused to provide relevant information despite repeated requests. When it is difficult for Legislative Council members to obtain relevant information at Legislative Council formal meetings, you can easily appreciate the difficulties encountered by members of the public in their requests for information. At our meeting with Mrs Lam, she also agreed that being forthcoming with data and information has become an international trend and that the Government has a responsibility to enhance transparency and allow the public to have adequate information so that the public can meaningfully discuss with the Government the contents and directions of various policy issues. Not only will this enhance the participation of the public, it will also enable the Government to take on board their views when formulating policies and to establish amiable relations with the public.

Trust can only be established gradually. If Mrs Carrie Lam’s team can meet the three challenges mentioned above, relations between the executive authority and the legislature may thaw. One of the strategies adopted by Mrs Lam before taking office was choosing education, an area already enjoying the greatest amount of consensus, and attempting to break the impasse between the executive and the legislature by pledging to ask the Legislative Council to grant an extra HK$5 billion as recurrent expenditure on education. Undoubtedly, this is an astute move. In any case, improving relations between the executive and the legislature is not something that can be achieved overnight. In the 5-year team of the new Government, controversial issues are bound to come up sooner or later. Real improvement in relations between the executive and the legislature depends on whether both sides will be able to, amidst impassioned arguments, show mutual respect and refrain from casting doubts on each other’s motives.

The key lies, therefore, in the establishment of trust, and trust must have an objective basis. Only through really advocating Hong Kong’s established core values, upholding systems and procedures, respecting different camps in the Legislative Council, enhancing transparency and responding to people’s concerns would it be possible to restore people’s trust in the Government and to re-establish people’s confidence in the future of Hong Kong.

Ip Kin-kuen is legislator representing education functional constituency. This is his Letter to Hong Kong broadcast on RTHK 3 on May 14.

Photo: Pictures taken from Ip Kin-kuen and The Professional Guild Facebook

 

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Swire keeps the past for the future http://www.vohk.hk/2017/05/08/swire-keeps-the-past-for-the-future/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss http://www.vohk.hk/2017/05/08/swire-keeps-the-past-for-the-future/#respond Mon, 08 May 2017 00:45:58 +0000 http://www.vohk.hk/?p=1730
Bonnie Sze, head of Swire HK Archive Service, at its office in Quarry Bay.By Chris Yeung – Every face tells a story, so does a company. The story of Swire, officially John Swire & Sons, is more than...
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Bonnie Sze, head of Swire HK Archive Service, at its office in Quarry Bay.

By Chris Yeung –

Every face tells a story, so does a company. The story of Swire, officially John Swire & Sons, is more than that. Founded by John Swire in 1816, the British company moved to China in 1866, set afoot in Hong Kong in 1870, 28 years after the British colony was open to trade. First started with trade, shipping and sugar, the evolution of one of the oldest British hongs into a giant of property, shopping mall and aviation businesses has testified to the breath-taking changes of Hong Kong. First started with secretarial and corporate communication work, Bonnie Sze was given a new task in 2011 – collecting the past of Swire as a record for the future. She is now head of the Swire HK Archive Service, located at an industrial building in Quarry Bay, where Swire’s Hong Kong story began one and a half century ago.

Sze said in an interview with CitizenNews, an online media outlet: “Archives are the corporate memory of a company. It documents the successes and failures, opportunities and challenges in the past, which are valuable assets for the future. We have to keep them for the future generations and access by the public.

“We grow in tandem with Hong Kong. We have social responsibility of keeping our records well to return to the society.”

The idea of setting up an archives office was broached in 2011 when the company began to contemplate celebrations of their 200th birthday and the anniversary of their 150 years in Asia. Comprised of a long list of companies, it also makes sense from the administrative point of view to centralise the management of records.

Swire’s headquarters in London began keeping records systematically from 1970s. The School of Oriental and African Studies in University of London has set up an archives for Swire, which are accessible to the public.

While managing records for their own purpose, Swire Hong Kong is also making their archival service open to the public. There are more than 1,000 visits to their office last year, including students, academics and ordinary citizens. Some were conducting research on the city’s history ranging from sugar industry, shipping development to historical buildings.

 

Map of the area in Quarry Bay under a water supply agreement between the colonial government and Swire.

Map of the area in Quarry Bay under a water supply agreement between the colonial government and Swire.

With an office space of about 4,000 feet and six staff, the Swire archives keep minutes of meetings of executives and a list of interesting items about its colonial past. It contains old pictures of the then Swire shipyard, which is now home of Tai Koo Shing residents and a sketch of the areas under an agreement between Swire and the then colonial government on water supply. Under the agreement, Swire was held responsible for managing several reservoirs to supply water to their staff and residents in the area.

The Cathay Pacific story

Swire made a milestone decision in 1948 taking up 45 per cent of Cathay Pacific, now the city’ flag-carrier. The name of Cathay Pacific’s first plan, Betsy, is now name of the airline’s brand beer, launched in March. Back then, Betsy was a warplane during World War ll. An American and an Australian bought the plane in 1946 and registered Cathay as an airline for HK$2. The collections include a lane ticket to Sydney in 1948 at a price of HK$2,200, which was a lot in those days. The Swire archives also have a logbook of a Cathay pilot named Vic Leslie. Based on further research and confirmation work, records on his logbook show he flew some of Gandhi’s ashes to Singapore via Rangoon and Bangkok on March 15 1948.

 

A Swire pennant kept at Archives Office.

A Swire pennant kept at Archive Service.

Among the collections is a pennant of Swire in its three brand colours: white, red and blue, which tells the story of a tradition of the British hong. Traditionally, the pennant is being kept by the longest-serving staff. The task of finding out when exactly the tradition began is still a case of work in progress. The “retired” pennant contained in the archives office was transferred by the then Staff Director, Hunter Crawford, in 2012 when a new pennant was produced. According to Crawford, “the oldest, longest serving member of House Staff in employment in the Far East has throughout Swire history been given the honorary title of “Commodore” and is permitted to display the Commodore’s pennant in his office. At his retirement ceremony in 2015, Crawford handed over the pennant to Swire Pacific chairman John Slosar, who is now keeping the new pennant.

Sze said staff were supportive of the idea of keeping records, but some with mixed feelings. “Some may have a feeling of loss when they have to hand over their records and things to our office. We therefore have to explain clearly what we want and how the system works.

“We have hit a snag when trying to get the things we want. Staff of some of our own companies had seen us as an outsider (trying to take away things from them)…. It is important that the policy decision was made by the board and explained top-down.”

A newcomer to the world of knowledge about archives, Sze is taking a distance learning course on archives. She said his exploration into archives since 2011 has been a learning process about her own company and the importance of the value of records. “Records not just need to be kept. We need to know how to make good use of them.”

Photo: CitizenNews pictures

For enquiries about Swire HK Archive Service, you may write to archiveservice@jsshk.com

 

 

 

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“I am sorry for failure in pension fight” http://www.vohk.hk/2017/05/07/i-am-sorry-for-failure-in-pension-fight/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss http://www.vohk.hk/2017/05/07/i-am-sorry-for-failure-in-pension-fight/#respond Sun, 07 May 2017 08:20:47 +0000 http://www.vohk.hk/?p=1735
Leung Kwok-hung apologise for his failure to fight for an universal pension system in the past five years.by Leung Kwok-hung – May is an eventful month full of important historical meanings. Just last week during a May Day memorial I shouted slogans...
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Leung Kwok-hung apologise for his failure to fight for an universal pension system in the past five years.

by Leung Kwok-hung –

May is an eventful month full of important historical meanings. Just last week during a May Day memorial I shouted slogans in the face of CY Leung, the host. They were: “Workers need standard working hours”, “Senior citizens need provident fund” and “Hong Kong needs genuine universal suffrage”.

The guests celebrated. But I am sure they didn’t have a clue what they were toasting for. The host Chief Executive gave a speech. But I wonder why he didn’t say a word about the origin of May Day. It is just like a funeral speech without telling the life of the deceased. Wouldn’t you feel strange? But every CE every year did the same.

I am sure it is not because they don’t know. They just choose to forget. How else would they feel at ease facing the true historical meaning? The May 1st International Labour Day grew out of a labour movement in the middle of the 20th century in the West. People were fighting for an eight-hour working day. To show an international solidarity, workers from Austria to Australia with those in the UK and the US held a general strike on the same day demanding “to work eight hours, rest for eight hours and have leisure for eight hours.

On the 4th of May 1886, workers in Chicago held a peaceful demonstration in the Hay Market to remember their fellow men killed a day before. Again they were brutally attacked by the police. There were casualties on both sides. But seven labour leaders were sentenced to death. This sparked a world wide protest. And in 1889 the Second International pronounced the 1st of May to be the International Labour Day. It called on labourers all over the world to strike on this day to fight for the eight-hour working day.

Ironically, over a century later workers in Hong Kong still cannot enjoy the benefit of an eight-hour standard working day nor a five-day working week. We have to work up to 50 hours a week on average which is the longest among developed economies. Without a cap on maximum working hours most are degraded to cheap labourers, forced to work over-time without reasonable pay.

Moreover, unlike other countries, those who are forced to long work hours and fall sick or even die suddenly, do not have the right to claim compensations from their employers. Yes, we have Statuary Minimum Wage since 2011 but it is shamefully low. It started at HK$28 an hour and even now it is only HK$34.5. Our disgraceful Statuary Minimum Wage was commenced on May the first, the very day we called the Labour’s day. How sarcastic!

Workers facing low income and long working hours find it hard to make ends meet. At the end, they are left with little else to save for retirement for themselves and their mates. The meager Mandatory Provident Fund offers little help. Once they step down from production lines they fall into poverty rapidly. Housewives excluded from the Fund are the poorest among the poor. Elderly women collecting card board paper on the street are daily reminders of their plight. There is no doubt that senior citizens in Hong Kong need Universal Provident Scheme. For the last five years I fought for this cause, filibustering in the Legislative Council. Year after year the Scheme was denied by the Government with “rubber stamps” in hand. In this month of May I must apologise for my failure.

In 2014 during the Umbrella Movement CY Leung said, Hong Kong cannot have universal suffrage. He said we must screen the candidates. If we allow low income voters, those monthly income lower than HK$14,000, to vote for CE there will be a policy bias towards the poor, he said.

I do not wonder why as a legislator I got thrown out every time I demonstrate to CEs. After all this is the last chapter of Animal Farm by George Orwell. Familiar?

Leung Kwok-hung is a legislator representing the New Territories East geographical constituency. This is his Letter to Hong Kong broadcast on RTHK 3 on May 5.

Photo: Picture taken from Leung’s Facebook

 

 

 

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‘Will I see democracy at the age of 79?’ http://www.vohk.hk/2017/05/04/will-i-see-democracy-at-the-age-of-79/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss http://www.vohk.hk/2017/05/04/will-i-see-democracy-at-the-age-of-79/#respond Thu, 04 May 2017 15:03:13 +0000 http://www.vohk.hk/?p=1727
Joshua Wong Chi-fung testifies at a US congressional hearing on Hong Kong.By Joshua Wong – You may have known about Hong Kong’s political arrangement as “One Country, Two Systems.” But it has now become “One Country,...
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Joshua Wong Chi-fung testifies at a US congressional hearing on Hong Kong.

By Joshua Wong –

You may have known about Hong Kong’s political arrangement as “One Country, Two Systems.” But it has now become “One Country, One-and-a-Half Systems,” and potentially “One Country, One System” in the future if conditions continue to worsen.

I was born less than a year before the handover of Hong Kong from the United Kingdom to China in 1997. I am 20 years old now. At the same time, the Hong Kong government is preparing its 20th handover anniversary celebration. July 1 will be the first time Xi Jinping visits Hong Kong as the Chinese President.

To pave the way for that, we now face massive political prosecution, while the government intends to disqualify democratically-elected lawmakers in the opposition camp, including the core Umbrella Movement student leader Nathan Law, who was elected last year as the youngest ever legislator at age 23. Unfortunately, Hong Kong remains far from a democracy after the Umbrella Movement.

Some people may think it is failure because we can’t achieve the goal of universal suffrage but I am here to tell you today that the spirit of the movement is in the heart of Hong Kong people. That’s why I have been trying to gather more support at the international level by strengthening our collaboration around the world.

I am glad to see the reintroduction of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act by Senators Rubio, Cotton and Cardin. Bipartisan support for the bill proves that protecting Hong Kong’s freedoms and autonomy can be, and ought to be, a consensus across the political spectrum. The legislation ensures those who have participated in non-violent assembly in Hong Kong would not be denied American visas on the basis of their criminal records.

Alex Chow, who is in the audience this morning, is another core Umbrella Movement student leader. He was found guilty last July for participating in unlawful assembly, sentenced to three weeks of imprisonment with one year of suspension. Because of Alex’s criminal record, he has faced significant barrier in obtaining a British student visa last year for his master’s studies in London. He was recently accepted for Ph.D. studies at U.C. Berkeley this coming August, which means he will soon apply for a U.S. student visa. I cannot stress the importance of this legislation for many of those like Alex, who may potentially face difficulties entering free countries.

China’s suppression against us is helped by its growing regional domination. Last year, I was invited by top Thai universities, but was not allowed to enter the country and locked up for 12 hours in a detention cell. My requests to contact a lawyer or at least notify my family in Hong Kong were both rejected. I was very worried to be the next Gui Minhai, one of the five booksellers abducted from Thailand to China. Luckily I was finally released, but the Thai government later said that I would be forever banned to enter the country, as requested by China.

If passed, the proposed legislation will place human rights and democracy at the center of future American policy toward Hong Kong. It will send a strong signal to Beijing that as a world leader, the U.S. believes it is just as important to protect political freedom in Hong Kong as it is to protect economic freedom.

Proposed HK act in US interests

The support of the proposed legislation is also in the American interests. Hong Kong is home to around 85,000 U.S. citizens and 1,400 U.S. companies. Two-way U.S.-Hong Kong trade was around $42 billion last year. Most American media outlets, including CNN, the Wall Street Journal, and TIME Magazine establish their Asian offices in Hong Kong. These are all evidence that despite all the difficulties it is facing, Hong Kong remains the freest city under Chinese administration.

In conclusion, I hope democrats and republicans alike can work together to defend the fundamental human rights values they share, which Hong Kongers will continue to fight hard against Communist Regime for the day will come for us with democracy and exercise our right of self-determination.

I started my fight for democracy six years ago when I was 14. The Father of Hong Kong’s Democracy, Martin Lee, is turning 79 years old this year, after four decades of struggle. I wonder, if I come to the age of 79, will I be able to see democracy?

My aspiration, and our generations challenge is to ensure that Hong Kong continues as a beacon of human right and freedom for China and the world. To sum up, today the authoritarian regime are dominating our future, but the day will come when we decide the future of Hong Kong.

No matter what happens to the protest movement, we will reclaim the democracy that belongs to us, because time is on our side.

This is the testimony given by Occupy Central student leader, Joshua Wong Chi-fung, at a US congressional hearing on Hong Kong at Wednesday night. The speech was carried on his Facebook.

Photo: Picture provided by Yeung Ching-yin for CitizenNews

 

 

 

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