To say that tomorrow (Sunday, 4 September 2016) may prove to be a watershed in the life of the SAR is to underplay the moment in time. The elections for the Legislative Council will set the scene for what is a vulnerable time, as Hong Kong moves from its teenage years and into adulthood. But, will its parent allow its charge to make its own way or will it seek to retain control over the choices it makes for that adulthood?
With both unsubstantiated and also flagrant influential factors being bandied around in the media, in the hustings, on the campuses and streets – the sap is high in the SAR. The memories of the yellow umbrellas in 2014 and hushed (and, sometimes, shouted) references not to an autonomous Hong Kong but rather to an “independent” Hong Kong abound. Beijing describes the murmurings of cessation as “poisonous” and as the Hong Kong-based publisher and political commentator, Bao Pu, observes the stark and hopeless route to independence being:
“To gain independence, the only way is for Hong Kong to have an independent army and fight with the People’s Liberation Army and win. I think that scenario is non-existent,”
So, those murmurings of teachers being asked to prevent subversive questions in the classroom, allegations of Guangdong-based “relatives” of HongKongers strong-arming the right way to vote, the spate of non-party line publisher “extended visits” to the Mainland, attacks on editors, purchase of media by Mainland loyalist corporates (like Alibaba and SCMP), questions over the HK Police’s “protect and serve” post-2014 pepper-spraying still lingering, ICAC’s independence being probed, gathering clouds circling the ever-more marooned independent judiciary, Hong Kong University’s objectivity queried in terms of student council nominees, ballot box tampering risks, mobilization of elderly HongKongers to the pro-establishment camps, polarization in society between youth and elderly, all betraying underlying cultural frictional tectonics – it may be an earthquake is coming?
I hope not. I love Hong Kong and feel privileged to be a resident here. After the Joint Declaration and the return to Chinese sovereignty under “one country, two systems” model in 1997, a permanent new dawn was set for the SAR. The majority of HongKongers wanted that and still do. Some form of suffrage came with that dawn which eclipsed the British colonial governance. Young KongKongers require a re-boot of the model to make it accessible to them. Suppression requires huge effort and resource. Why not channel that energy into looking after and nourishing the communities of Hong Kong.
I attended an insightful lunchtime speech given by former Chief Secretary, Anson Chan, last Tuesday at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club – she discussed much of the above.
The much-bandied “on a journey” descriptor is oft rolled out. But that boils it down nicely. Both China and its Hong Kong SAR are on journeys – both separately and jointly. For me, the common ground between parent and child is what should be emphasized and form the focus – with a priority being the well-being and welfare of the citizens of Hong Kong. The cost of living crisis, environmental and sustainability issues, need for consensus on social and health care infrastructure and access to the same, celebrating diversity, maintaining the “Asia’s World City” epithet, remaining truly open for business on a transparent basis, and, seeking to enjoy the journey.
Whatever the outcome, following tomorrow, unity and a focus on the welfare of the people of Hong Kong should be fundamental to all concerned.
Salus populi suprema lex esto.