Politics in Hong Kong
Do you hear the people sing?IN TWO days, Americans will unite and celebrate July 4th full of pride and with parades. Across the ocean, Hong Kongers commemorated July 1st, the city’s Establishment Day since the 1997 handover, in an entirely different fashion: divided, and for many, filled with anger and shame. On one end, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying stared onto China’s and (a much smaller) flag of Hong Kong, as the Chinese national anthem is played in the background, and will sure enjoy an extravagant firework display across the Victoria Harbour later that evening. For Leung, his bureaucrats, and no doubt many patriots, July 1st is of as great significance as the Independence Day to Americans. But for all that, Leung has distanced himself further away from people across the aisle, who has taken the streets of the city under an uncanny storm to show their discontent towards amongst all things, China’s vision for the city’s political future.
Songs of angry men
Tens of thousands of citizens went on a protest to support the pro-democracy call to make the next Chief Executive election in 2017 to meet international standards for democracy. The protest, in the form of a march through Hong Kong’s Central district, is an annual event to voice citizens’ mixed demands of democracy, universal suffrage, rights of racial and sexual minorities as well as to show resentment towards the administration in Hong Kong and the puppet masters in China.
The number of participants is expected to match or exceed the benchmark set in 2003 when a crowd of 500,000 marched in light of a proposed anti-subversion law, Article 23, combined with the fact that the government handled the SARS crisis poorly. Prior to that, 1.5 million gathered sympathising the victims of 1989 Tiananmen Square protests in China during its immediate aftermath.
Turnout this year is also proliferated by a recent white paper from China which said that Hong Kong’s autonomy under “one country, two systems” is restricted and is solely bestowed from the authorisation of the leadership in Beijing. This document exacerbated the effects of the city official’s misplaced economic priorities which are themselves shortcoming along with the repeated, bureaucratic call for ‘stability’ coupled with calls but not action of ‘trying hard’ to forge consensus.
Right to be free
Many citizens feel a long-term misrepresentation by the parliament of Hong Kong which, because nearly half its seats are only open to a small number of voters belonging to an assigned professional or special interest group, is largely occupied by pro-Beijing legislator. Though even the most outspoken patriot amongst these legislators remained silent tonight and refused to defend Leung’s unhurried political reform on television amidst strong opposition voice.
Leung’s legitimacy is no better than the parliament’s because he was elected by a 1200-small council which makes up for a pitiful 0.017% of Hong Kong’s population. This council is also largely occupied by special interest groups and thus, unlike the rest of Hong Kong, has a strong Beijing-bias. In the most recent 2012 vote Leung received a mere 689 votes because of infighting within the pro-Beijing representatives combined with infidelity reports of his opponent, not because there was genuine competition.
Protesters are numbed by the state’s failure to deliver change which had momentum back in 2012 but fell quickly on its feet due to officials’ successful delaying tactics. Many believe that the government is unable to deliver change. Consequently, their altitude has been radicalised in spite of the fact that Hong Kong is by tradition a socially conservative city and intolerant towards change, particularly among its large elder population.
Young student groups are among those which are radicalised. Scholarism, led by 17-year-old Joshua Wong, has emerged in 2011 when the group opposed a proposed scheme of Moral and National Education. That scheme aimed to elevate patriotism amongst youngsters but in its textbooks included bias and often fictitious language that favoured the China’s Communist Party and justified their repressive actions nationally and internationally.
When tomorrow comes
China’s stern measures on Hong Kong frightened the public and brought previously politically inexperienced students to the front stage of opposition through speeches and silent protests. Recently, when Beijing insisted that the next Chief Executive to be ‘patriotic’, fear of a Communist crackdown from the national education plot three years ago reignited. This time it is met with an increasingly aggressive crowd.
Growing in number and strength, strong believers of democracy such as professor Benny Tai sponsored a plan of civil disobedience as their last resort if they fail to achieve their democratic goals. Some ten thousand citizens are organising sit-in protest in Central which will cripple Hong Kong’s financial district. The student group Scholarism has planned for a trial run of such occupy movement after today’s protest and they fully expect to be arrested.
It will be a shame if government’s neglect is met with public violence and this violence is met with police arrests in order for progress to be made. The first of its kind, Hong Kong’s “one country, two systems” promised 50 years of autonomy and is designed to make the city flourish economically as well as socially and politically, and act as a shining example for Taiwan, where China wants to overpower under a similar system but has gotten nowhere, and to the world.
America will mark their 238th anniversary of independence on Friday. Hong Kong’s political system is only 17 years old—yet the city is already exceedingly divided and politicised, and a gloomy future seems set for the three decades ahead.