Friday, October 18, 2019

[EJinsight] Hong Kong people must persevere in their fight

On Wednesday, amid protests mounted by pan-democratic lawmakers inside the Legislative Council chamber, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor was unable to deliver her annual Policy Address in person before Legco members.

Retreating from the House, she gave her speech through video instead.

Meanwhile, the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act was passed by unanimous voice vote in the United States House of Representatives on Tuesday US time.

To officially become a law, the bill will have to pass the Senate as well, and then be endorsed by President Donald Trump.

Shortly after a massive rally at Chater Garden in Central on Monday night calling for the passage of the proposed act by the US Congress, a spokesman for the Hong Kong government “expressed regret” over the demand, reiterating that “foreign legislatures should not interfere in any form in the internal affairs of the HKSAR.”

The remark may seem logical, but has Lam ever reflected on the fact that it was her own governance failure, her repeated mistakes, her continued refusal to meet public demands, the injustice in society, and the escalating brutality of her regime, that left Hong Kong citizens with no option but to look to the internationally community for help?

With a popularity rating of just 22.3 points out of 100, Lam should have stepped down a long time ago. What makes her think she is still “qualified" to criticize others?

Over the past weekend, US Republican Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley paid a visit to Hong Kong to experience the anti-government movement here at first hand, and to meet with local pro-democracy figures and social activists.

While the American lawmakers showed readiness to travel halfway across the world from the US to our city to find out what is happening here, all our chief executive does is stay in her air-conditioned office and watch TV but never reach out to any protester in person and understand their views.

Initially, a meeting had been arranged between Cruz and the chief executive, but the appointment was canceled at the last minute on Lam’s order.

Shortly after the senators had left the city, Lam told media that the US lawmakers had “very preconceived views” about the state of affairs in Hong Kong and that she denounces the remarks they made during their trip.

The way Lam behaved towards the senators was not only rude, it also points to the cowardice and evasiveness of her government.

Hawley went to Mong Kok over the weekend while protests and clashes were underway, and later  referred to Hong Kong as being “in danger of sliding towards a police state”, as AFP reported.

Perhaps Hawley’s remarks hit Lam where it hurt, prompting her to quickly lash out at him and dismiss his comments as “totally irresponsible and unfounded” during a press briefing before an  Executive Council meeting on Tuesday.

Hawley later tweeted again to rebut Lam, saying that he "chose the words 'police state' purposely - because that is exactly what Hong Kong is becoming. I saw it myself. If Carrie Lam wants to demonstrate otherwise, here’s an idea: resign".

Apart from Cruz and Hawley, another Republican Senator Rick Scott paid a visit to Hong Kong earlier, saying clearly that he will stand with the people of Hong Kong in their fight for freedom.

Based on my observation, I can say that the reason why the people of Hong Kong are able to win international public opinion is because throughout the entire anti-extradition bill movement, we have demonstrated to the entire world our tremendous unity, our immense capacity for taking actions, our remarkable flexibility, and our accuracy in getting our message across.

Nonetheless, at this point, there are still uncertainties over the passage of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act in Senate, and we must also never underestimate the influence of pro-Beijing lobbyists in Washington.

Let me conclude with these words: the people of Hong Kong must stick together and persevere with their cause because there is still a very long way to go before we can declare victory.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct 16 2019

Translation by Alan Lee

Thursday, October 17, 2019

[EJinisght] We must prevent Hong Kong from becoming another Belfast

 It is very important to learn the lesson of history, because only by doing so can we avoid repeating the same mistakes made by people in earlier times.

Recently, at a press conference, when asked about the consequences of Ukraine's enactment of an anti-mask law, Hong Kong's leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said she is unable to provide an answer as she is not too familiar with the situation in that country.

I was shocked by her ignorance, incompetence and recklessness.

It is because as the chief executive, Lam should have at least studied the resistance movement that followed the ban on facial covering, which came as part of an anti-protest law, in Ukraine five years ago before she decided to invoke the Emergency Regulations Ordinance and introduce the same law here in Hong Kong

If Lam didn’t know anything about Ukraine, nor did she ever watch any documentary on the Ukrainian revolution, I guess she must at least have heard about the three-decade-long Northern Ireland conflict, also known as the Troubles, right? After all, she used to be a top student studying social sciences at the University of Hong Kong.

Mike Chinoy, a veteran former CNN correspondent who had once been stationed in Northern Ireland and also reported on the June 4, 1989 incident in Beijing, recently published an article on YaleGlobal Online comparing the ongoing social unrest in Hong Kong with the situation in Belfast during the Troubles era.

Anyone who has read Chinoy’s article would probably begin to worry that those in power Hong Kong right now could be repeating the history seen between the 1960s and 1990s in Northern Ireland.

Despite the fact that the resistance movements in Hong Kong and in Northern Ireland have different historical context and “targets”, there is one thing in common between them: the issue of national identity was the driving force behind both movements.

For example, in Northern Ireland, the entire conflict was feeding on the different senses of national and religious identity among the local population: are you a British and a Protestant, or are you an Irish and a Roman Catholic?

Likewise, in Hong Kong, the conflicting sense of identity as to whether you are a Hongkonger or a Chinese is at the center stage of the ongoing protest movement.

While the Northern Irish people were demanding secession from the United Kingdom, the people of Hong Kong are fighting to get back the “one country, two systems” and "a high degree of autonomy", concepts of which are enshrined in the Basic Law, and genuine democracy, but on which Beijing has gone back on its word.

Sadly, the demands of both the Northern Irish and Hong Kong people were met with hostility and suppression by the authorities.

And there is one more thing in common between the ongoing resistance movement in Hong Kong and the Troubles: both were triggered by public grievances against a single policy issue. While it was the extradition bill that sparked the saga in Hong Kong, in Northern Ireland it was the fight for basic human rights under British rule that eventually gave rise to the secession push.

And when authorities responded to the people’s demands for freedom and civil rights with teargas and rubber bullets, the result would be, as Chinoy puts it in his article, citing the words written by a journalist in Belfast in 1971, teargas having "enormous power to wield a crowd together in common sympathy and common hatred for the men who gassed them."

Almost 50 years on, the same description pretty much applies to what is going on in Hong Kong.

In fact there is a universal pattern in human history: when an authoritarian regime refuses to face people’s basic demands, people tend to have more and more demands. Likewise, the more heavy-handed the regime becomes in trying to end the violence and chaos arising from people’s resistance, the more fierce the people will turn in mounting their stand against oppression.

The escalating resistance among protesters in Hong Kong after the introduction of the anti-mask law is evidence of that historical truth.

If our senior government officials and civil servants still have a shred of conscience and rationality, they should put an end to their tactics immediately and shed their totalitarian power.

To mend rifts in society, the government should allow an independent and impartial probe into all the recent events for the sake of Hong Kong's future.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct 8, 2019

Translation by Alan Lee

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

[EJinsight] Time for authorities to shed their stubbornness

In recent years, there has been growing concern among the international community as to whether the “one country, two systems” in Hong Kong is deviating from its original path as laid down in the Basic Law.

Amid this, the foreign relations panels of the US Senate and the House of Representatives have pushed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, and the bill is scheduled to be put to vote in Congress sometime this week.

Once passed by the Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump, the legislation will provide legal basis for the US government to impose sanctions on people who are deemed violating basic freedoms and human rights in Hong Kong.

In my view, if the Hong Kong administration really wants to reverse the prevailing impression among the international community that the territory is gradually becoming no different from just another city in mainland China, and restore public faith, what it needs to do is undertake concrete actions, rather than embark on publicity stunts, such as running a promotional short video urging Hongkongers to treasure the city, as it is doing now.

Unfortunately, all that the authorities did in recent months was take steps that further undermined international confidence in the “one country, two systems”.

For example, before the government invoked the colonial-era Emergency Regulations Ordinance to pass the anti-mask law, it denied American academic Dan Garrett entry to the city on Sept. 26.

Earlier in September, Garrett had testified at a hearing on Hong Kong affairs held by the Congressional-Executive Commission on China.

I believe what the international community wants to see is Hong Kong maintaining its status as a special administrative region that is different from the rest of the mainland, and where people are entitled to human rights protection and freedom of expression.

Sadly, the Hong Kong government and the police seem to be doing the opposite thing, as they take on Hongkongers and treat those with opposing views like they are enemies.

If Hong Kong is to have a chance, those in power must stop acting stubbornly and start facing the reality immediately by responding to the demands among the society with solid actions.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Sept 30 2019

Translation by Alan Lee