Wednesday, June 22, 2016

[EJinsight] Silence is no longer an option in the face of Beijing's tyranny

New revelations in the bookseller abduction saga serve as a wake-up call for the people of Hong Kong and a stark reminder that freedom of expression, rule of law and even our personal safety, which we all have taken for granted for so long, are indeed much more fragile than we think.

The events pertaining to the people from Causeway Bay Bookstore over the past 12 months makes good material for a Hollywood action thriller, given that we have all these elements: cross-border abduction, solitary confinement, repeated interrogation, forced confession and conditional release.

Overall, the events point to one inconvenient truth: "One Country Two Systems" is virtually dead.

Even though many people have succumbed, either by choice or though force, in face of the intimidation of a brutal Chinese regime, there are still some who dare to defy tyranny, stand by their convictions and speak their mind despite all the ordeals they have gone through and the apprehensions about further persecution.

Lam Wing-kee, one of the owners of the Causeway Bay Bookstore, is definitely one of these people.

On Friday afternoon last week, I bumped into Lam at the Legco building and used the opportunity to have a short conversation with him.

What I saw was an exhausted but determined man who has nothing to lose, whose gloves are off, and who has refused to resign himself to fate.

Like what we saw on TV, Lam was telling us the entire truth and was warning everyone in this city that what happened to him could happen to anyone else here.

If we don’t stand up to oppression and defend our rights, there will just be more cases like what happened to Lam and his associates such as Lee Bo.

After Lam had spoken up in front of the camera and revealed how Beijing had once again trampled under foot the principle of "One Country Two Systems", the pro-Beijing propaganda mouthpieces in Hong Kong immediately mounted an all-out smear campaign against Lam and accused him of lying.

However, the mudslinging was an insult to our intelligence, because it is just a no-brainer as to who is actually lying here.

Over the past four years, Hong Kong people have witnessed a series of unjust deeds committed in the name of "common good" and "preserving social harmony".

Now, the booksellers' saga is testing the limits of our tolerance.

Hong Kong people are being pushed to the cliff, as the core values that we treasure so much are under unprecedented threat. Backing down or making concessions are no options because tyrants are like extortionists: the more you give, the more they take.

The entire world is witnessing Beijing’s oppressiveness, but no one is going to give us a hand. It is up to us to help ourselves.

If we want our children to continue to live in a free society, now’s the time for us to break our silence and defend what belongs to us. This is the harsh reality that is facing every single citizen in this city.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 20 2016

Translation by Alan Lee

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

[EJinsight] When will our govt officials learn to move with the times?

The government recently made our city the laughing stock of the world by "reminding" electric car maker Tesla to remove the calendar app from the dashboard display of its vehicles sold in Hong Kong.

The reason for the request, according to the Transport Department, is because the app might distract motorists and endanger other road users.

Besides, under the existing Road Traffic (Construction and Maintenance of Vehicles) Ordinance, all built-in displays in cars driven in Hong Kong are only allowed to show data related to the current mechanical state of the vehicle, images from the rear parking video camera, and GPS and other navigation data.

The calendar app obviously doesn't fall into these categories.

The mind-boggling instruction has caught Tesla completely off guard and also raised a lot of eyebrows among local Tesla owners.

They find it surprising as to why our supposedly very intelligent and well-read government decision-makers won't allow the use of a highly popular electronic feature that has been widely used in almost every major city across the globe.

In fact the incident is just another example of how the mindset of our bureaucrats hasn't kept pace with the technological advancements in the 21st century.

During a meeting with Tesla owners and members from two electric car owners clubs recently, Transport Department officials came under severe criticism, with one motorist saying that the officials seem to be living in the Stone Age.

Calls were made for a review of the laws regulating built-in dashboard displays, as the motorists argued that the laws are completely outdated.

The car owners indeed have every reason to feel upset.

As vehicles rolling off production lines these days are fitted with an ever-growing variety of electronic equipment and displays, outdated rules in Hong Kong will mean that car owners in the city won't be able to enjoy the fancy new features.

Looking at the future of the auto industry globally, it will just be a matter of time before smart cars or even self-driving cars will rule the roads.

Governments in almost every developed country -- including the UK, New Zealand, Germany and France -- are working aggressively to review their traffic laws in order to adapt to the new changes. Even Singapore is already seriously studying the opportunities and challenges posed by self-driving cars.

But what has the Hong Kong government done in this regard?

Absolutely nothing!

At a Legco meeting in 2014, I raised a question with government officials over the timetable on reviewing laws regulating dashboard displays.

The officials' then gave this answer: "We will make sure we keep abreast of the latest developments in car technologies."

Two years on, where is the progress?

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 13 2016

Translation by Alan Lee