Voice of Hong Kong http://www.vohk.hk One Hong Kong, Many Voices Sun, 03 Dec 2017 14:19:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.5.12 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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Lam urged to offer olive branch on anthem consultation http://www.vohk.hk/2017/11/12/lam-urged-to-offer-olive-branch-on-anthem-consultation/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss http://www.vohk.hk/2017/11/12/lam-urged-to-offer-olive-branch-on-anthem-consultation/#respond Sun, 12 Nov 2017 14:17:16 +0000 http://www.vohk.hk/?p=1869
TanyaChanBy Tanya Chan – With the approval of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) last weekend, China’s national anthem law has been added to...

By Tanya Chan –

With the approval of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) last weekend, China’s national anthem law has been added to Annex III to the Basic Law, and will be enforced in Hong Kong once local legislative process is complete. Given that the last time that law added to Annex III was applied to Hong Kong through local legislation was in 1997 for the national flag and emblem laws, I think Hong Kongers are rightfully concerned about the proposed national anthem law, especially considering how times have changed since 1997. In addition, in the recently concluded 19th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, Xi Jinping stressed the melding of Beijing’s “comprehensive jurisdiction” over the city with its “high degree of autonomy”, and commentaries in state media have echoed such language, calling the legislation of the national anthem law in Hong Kong as “exemplifying” this principle.

Unlike the proposed West Kowloon co-location arrangement, which clearly violates multiple statutes of the Basic Law and has no international precedent, the proposed national anthem law is in accordance with the procedure set out in Art.18 of the Basic Law, and various countries such as France and Germany have laws criminalizing the desecration of national symbols, including the national anthem. However, I do have a number of issues on the law included in Annex III, and would like to see the government take steps to alleviate these concerns, by making sure that the legislation will be in line with local legal practices and by conducting a public consultation.

As demonstrated in the recent protests by athletes during the national anthem in the United States, protest during the national anthem is not always an act of disrespect or an attack toward the people or the nation; it is also an avenue of political expression. While there are countries that criminalize the desecration of national symbols, countries such as the U.S. and Canada do not. In the U.S. legal code, there are statutes that provide guidelines on etiquette during the performance of the national anthem; there is no language that makes it a criminal offense if it were not followed. In Canada, there is no law governing the playing of the national anthem.

Yet, with the authoritarian government in China, not only is the goal to prohibit protesting against the national anthem in order to protect national dignity, but they also seek to use the national anthem to “cultivate and practice socialist core values … and urge Chinese citizens of all ethnic groups to strive for the achievement of the Chinese dream of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,” according to the official description of the law. Therefore, I hope to see that Mrs Carrie Lam and relevant officials will protect Hong Kong’s way of life, and recognize the right to freedom of expression, which is protected in Hong Kong under Art.39 of the Basic Law and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and leave space for limited political expression, such as not criminalizing the act of not standing in attention during the performance of the national anthem.

In fact, the above recommendation is not without history or support. During the local legislation process for the National Flag and National Emblem Ordinance back in 1997, various clauses were removed from the mainland law, the Law of the People’s Republic of China on the National Flag. Article 1 in the Chinese law stipulates that the law is enacted “with a view to defending the dignity of the National Flag, enhancing citizens’ consciousness of the State and promoting the spirit of patriotism.” This clause is not seen in the Hong Kong legislation. Article 13 in the mainland law requires people present at a flag-hoisting ceremony to face and stand at attention to salute the flag, and that secondary schools and primary schools are required to hold a flag-hoisting ceremony once a week; this clause is not seen in the Hong Kong law. Article 19, which orders the punishment for desecrating the flag, includes the clause for a 15 days administrative detention in accordance with mainland public security regulations; once again this is removed in the Hong Kong version.

Follow the flag, emblem model

Similar clauses, which go against the legal practice of Hong Kong, are also present in the Chinese national anthem law in Articles 1, 7, 11 and 15. It is the responsibility of the Hong Kong government to ensure that these contentious clauses are removed from the local legislation. The fact that the local anthem ordinance does not require people to stand in attention to the flag makes it possible for limited political expression, such as in 2014, when Scholarism protested against the Chinese government during the annual flag-raising ceremony by solemnly standing with their backs toward the flag. However, recent comments by mainland officials have cast doubt on whether the Hong Kong government can and will follow the norm set during the flag and emblem law. Most notably, Basic Law Committee chairman Li Fei has reportedly said that requiring people to stand in attention when the national anthem is performed, and the compulsory education on national anthem in middle and primary schools, are seen as two of the five “core elements” of applying the national anthem law in Hong Kong. I sincerely hope that these are merely isolated comments, and will not guide the legislation of the law locally.

Moreover, the government needs to be particularly careful with the national anthem law since it will be much more intrusive to the daily lives of Hong Kongers. There are many more opportunities for individuals to potentially be in violation of the national anthem law. While the criminal offense for desecrating the national flag requires physically manipulating the national flag, desecrating the national anthem does not. The wording of Article 15 of the Chinese law states that any act that is considered to be “insulting the national anthem” is considered a criminal offense. There is no exhaustive definition of what is considered “insulting the national anthem,” and if such wording is kept in the local legislation, it will be up to the courts to decide. One can avoid being subjected to the national flag law simply by not handling the flag, but with the national anthem being played during sporting events and even weekly horse races, many people will be subjected to the parameters of the law, willingly or not. On this basis, I would like to call for the government to not only consult the relevant Legislative Council committees, but to also conduct a public consultation, especially targeting people who intend to attend events where the anthem is played.

In a recent interview on RTHK, Mrs Carrie Lam lamented that the start of her chief executive term has been mired in “fundamentally contentious” issues, such as the disqualification of legislators and the West Kowloon co-location issue, and that it is difficult to improve the current political climate no matter how many olive branches that she extends toward the pan-democratic side. I believe this is one such opportunity where she could extend an olive branch that is meaningful and relevant.

Delaying the application of the national anthem law by a few months to conduct a public consultation in order to ensure that the law will conform to local legal practices is not an unreasonable request. It will also show to Hong Kong people that her government will not simply execute the political agenda of the central government as quickly as possible, but instead will try to do it in a way that takes into account the concerns of Hong Kongers.

Tanya Chan is a legislator representing the Hong Kong Island geographical constituency. This is her speech given on RTHK’s Letter of Hong Kong programme broadcast on November 12.

Photo: Picture taken from RTHK website



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

By Chris Yeung –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: CitizenNews pictures and picture taken from RTHK website

This article also appears on CitizenNews website.


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

By Chris Yeung –

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

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

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

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

Chris Patten-20170919181943_f6a1_large

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

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

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

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

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

They cannot be more wrong.

HK has ‘as much Chinese values as British values’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: CitizenNews pictures

This article also appears on CitizenNews website.







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

By Chris Yeung –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Act of defiance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: CitizenNews pictures

This article also appears on CitizenNews website.


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

By Chris Yeung –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: CitizenNews pictures

This article also appears on CitizenNews website.



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

By John Tsang Chun-wah –

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what’s wrong with the populist initiatives?

Nothing at all

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Populists not known as ideologues

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was pro-establishment

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photos: CitizenNews pictures



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