Some reflective thoughts
I’ve just returned from my old ‘home-town’ of Hong Kong, bringing with me some vivid impressions of what is going on, in what has been the world’s most civilised city.
Here are some notes for my on-going Hong Kong files (including some interesting feedback below).
There is mounting concern amongst Hong Kong citizens about China’s desire to abolish the light-handed rule of law, enjoyed for so many years, bringing with it a level of prosperity envied by so many other international cities.
Is street protesting the most effective way of preserving Hong Kong’s freedoms?
Over many centuries it has been seen that there are four main ways to fight and maintain freedoms:
Create the impression that you have the biggest gang. But sometimes this leads to democracy degenerating into mob-rule, bringing with it, the temptation to ‘vote for a living’.
The slow but sure method of giving people confidence in their own abilities to prosper by releasing their own human creative energy, to embrace individual responsibility, opening up opportunities to ‘work for a living’.
Peaceful Protests & Civil Disobedience
To draw attention to concerns about changes and long-term dangers.
War and Violence
The downside being the devastating loss of lives, sometimes with both sides classified as losers.
Which of these four ways is on display currently in Hong Kong?
After spending a Sunday ‘hanging out’ with Hong Kong youth leaders, street protesters and several wise observers, I would allocate percentages to these four activities as follows:
|Peaceful Protests & Civil Disobedience
|War & Violence
There is clearly a conflict on display in Hong Kong and it is difficult, for those of us not living there to gather a detailed picture of what is at stake and what the objectives are for the protestors and their strategies. More importantly, when will they know if they have ‘won’ or ‘lost’.
Two things are for certain. One is that Hong Kong is under China’s rule and no longer a British Colony. This fact is not up for debate.
The second is that China has gone too far by authorising ‘live ammunition’, resulting in a student being shot in the chest. Rubber bullets are the accepted convention for ‘government vs the people’ situations. Caution should be used before we see a Ukraine style situation where 100 young people were shot and killed, in 2013, by their own government.
International media observers appear to concentrate on only one issue as the cause for the protests, that being:
- Complete withdrawal of the Extradition Bill.
However, there are four additional demands, clearly stated on the many placards on the walls of Hong Kong, they are:
- Establish an independent Commission of Inquiry to investigate police misconduct and brutality.
- Drop all charges, and free arrested protestors.
- Total recall of any characterisation of the protests as ‘riots’.
- Genuine universal suffrage.
Who are the protestors?
A wide range of students, teachers, small business owners, with many older people lending a hand by providing vehicles, gas masks and goggles.
How many protestors have an understanding of how Hong Kong’s limited government, property rights and the rule of law have brought prosperity to Hong Kong?
Impossible to know as I didn’t find evidence that this question is being asked.
I could imagine about 10% would fit that category which would be similar to any Australian youth gathering where I’m constantly amazed at the perception that our quality of life ‘just happened’.
As is always the case, with protests (now a wide-spread phenomenon around the world), there is always a ‘bogan element’ (an Australian term for irresponsible hoodlums with nothing better to do than vandalise other people’s [sometimes government] property). All they achieve is to devalue the efforts of the ‘thinking protestors’ and reduce their chances of success.
Beijing had a huge choice to make, at midnight June 30th, 1997 when they took control of Hong Kong. They could continue the very subtle but successful ‘light hand of government’ over Hong Kong and its territory or they could do what we see so often done during corporate takeovers where the incoming management can’t resist the temptation of bringing a heavy foot down on the delicate flower of freedom.
Beijing did not get off to a good start by marching in the armed troops as a sign of strength at midnight.
My thoughts and support are very much with the dedicated young people who are reminding China of the promised ‘one country, two systems’ framework that gives Hong Kong freedoms and rights not enjoyed on the mainland. This system was implemented when the former British Colony returned to Chinese rule on June 30th, 1997 and guaranteed by China to run right through to 2047.
Submitted by J.G.:
On the contents of your article, I think there is too much of “China does this in HK…” or “China wants that…” which gives the impression that mainlanders are running Hong Kong. They are not. It is Hong Kong people running Hong Kong. To my knowledge there are no mainlanders in any HK government positions.
Also, if you read the Basic Law — HK’s constitution — a simple document which is well worth reading, it is my view that the only major thing that Beijing has reneged on is Article 45 relating to the selection/election of the Chief Executive, but the language is hedged. This is the main focus of the demand for universal suffrage, although it is also true that Chris Patten foolishly created a number of rotten boroughs in the Legislature so small numbers of the professions — engineers, lawyers, architects, doctors and nurses etc — get to select their own representatives in addition to voting on a geographic basis for a local representative.
If you google the Basic Law you will find it has lots of amendments or rulings at the end by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress in Beijing which have delayed the implementation of universal suffrage e.g. Instrument 24.
Other accusations are made against Beijing, but this is not the place to counter them. By and large I would say that except in this area of political development China has stood by its word and not interfered in HK. The HKMA has never had any instructions from Beijing, and I believe this to be true for almost all other areas of government.
I think it needs to be said that HK people are to a degree victims of HK’s success as a global financial centre. Among other things the sky-high price of property has made apartment ownership unattainable for a lot of middle and lower income, ordinary HK folk, and the demonstrations are a way of venting these kinds of frustrations.
Response by R.B.M.
Thanks J.G., you make some excellent points that are easily overlooked by visitors.
Further Response from J.G.:
I think your key point about the four main ways to maintain freedom is excellent. Otherwise I would just make two additional points:
On the role of China you say “China has gone too far by authorising ‘live ammunition’, resulting in a student being shot in the chest. Rubber bullets are the accepted convention for ‘government vs the people’ situations.”
My question: How do you know it is China that authorised live ammunition? More likely the HK authorities. Police in HK have carried weapons with live ammunition for many years.
In your conclusion you say “they [Beijing] could continue the very subtle but successful ‘light hand of government’ over Hong Kong and its territory or they could do what we see so often done during corporate takeovers where the incoming management can’t resist the temptation of bringing a heavy foot down on the delicate flower of freedom.”
This is correct. There is certainly a threat to HK’s freedoms in numerous ways.
From my contact on the ground in Hong Kong ‘abc-abc’
“I suggest further explanation can be added to explain why there are four more demands instead of the first demand only (the withdrawal of the bill).
“1. After the large scale protests on 9/6, the government still ignored the people’s demand, and continue to proceed the legislative process of the bill on 12/6.
“2. The police brutality since 12/6, using unnecessary force. Numerous protestors were seriously injured, being raped, or even being killed, while there is no way to make complaints as the police start hiding their warranty cards. The police disguised into protestors too, and to initiate riot acts, so that they can have a reason to arrest the protestors.
“Now, the police escalate their violence to a new high level. shot directly into the chest of a 17 years old boy intentionally on 1/10 and shot directly into the upper leg of a 14 years old boy on 4/10.
“3. After 31/8, an extreme high ratios of commit suicide cases / dead bodies being found on sea, around 3 to 4 deaths per day, most are teenagers. their arms were being wrapped by ropes, or being beaten to dark. No parents went to the place of death, no big sound, no blood.
“The only possible thing is, those who being beaten to death, the police will release their bodies quietly and no one will find the evidence, just like things happened on 31/8 at Prince Edward mtr station. The police refuse the first aiders and the reporters to enter the station. three people who were serious injured, were missing, and the mtr refused to disclose the cctvs to the public.
“4. Reporters from foreign countries may think that the protestors are more violent now, beating people, destroying the shops and mtr stations. However, we have to find out the cause.
“Why the people were being beaten? It’s because they beat the teenagers first or even use knife to threaten their lives. The protestors then beat him for the purpose of self-defense.
“Why the shops were being destroyed?
It’s because most of them are pro-Beijing companies. Also, some of these companies even disclose the cctvs to the police, and helping them caught the protestors easily. The worst thing is, these companies sent triads to use long knives to chop the teenagers’ arm/foot making them can’t walk or move permanently.
“Why the mtr stations and mtr’s properties were being destroyed ?
It’s because the mtr closed most of the stations, and to serve the police for transportation use, to enhance their arresting efficiency, and making the people can’t go home safely.
“5. Anti-mask law has just implemented. this make the situation even worse. I am not going to explain here. Please stay tuned.
Tim Wilson MP:
“I caught the ferry over from the Kowloon side over to the Hong Kong island side and I saw some kids with masks who obviously were protestors. There was this point where somebody shouted something out in Cantonese – I don’t what it was – but then the whole ferry just responded in unision with the response consistent with the protester’s messages and you realised this is history being made.”
A Perspective on Hong Kong for the Liberty Movement – Mencius