HK-main­land re­la­tions de­pend on di­a­logue and un­der­stand­ing

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT - H O L O K- S A N G

Iam very disappointed by the re­ac­tion of some “pan-democrats” over the cen­tral gov­ern­ment’s ex­pres­sion of will­ing­ness to ac­cept ap­pli­ca­tions for Home Re­turn Per­mits from those who had been de­nied these for years. I have been hop­ing for this to hap­pen for a long time, be­liev­ing that open di­a­logue and bet­ter un­der­stand­ing are the only way to im­prove re­la­tions be­tween the “pan-democrats” and the cen­tral gov­ern­ment. I ex­pected the “pan-democrats”, who are self-pro­fessed lib­er­als, to be open-minded. They should to be ready to visit the main­land and talk to those liv­ing there, so they can have a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of de­vel­op­ments there. This will cul­ti­vate trust and lay the ground­work for progress in po­lit­i­cal re­form and other ar­eas in­clud­ing so­cial, eco­nomic, and cultural ones. Hong Kong badly needs this mu­tual trust.

This idyllic pic­ture, un­for­tu­nately, has yet to take place. Upon hear­ing the news, some of the op­po­si­tion mem­bers queried the tim­ing and mo­tives be­hind the move. Some wor­ried they might not have free­dom of move­ment once they crossed the bor­der or would be un­der sur­veil­lance.

Oth­ers are un­happy with the fact that the an­nounce­ment was first done un­of­fi­cially through Silent Ma­jor­ity for Hong Kong, which sent a del­e­ga­tion to Beijing and was re­ceived by Zhang De­jiang, chair­man of the Stand­ing Com­mit­tee of the Na­tional Peo­ple’s Congress (NPCSC). They ques­tion why Silent Ma­jor­ity was given the priv­i­lege of get­ting the news even ahead of the SAR gov­ern­ment and the Demo­cratic Al­liance for the Bet­ter­ment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB). There is lit­tle doubt the cen­tral gov­ern­ment greatly ap­pre­ci­ates the work of Silent Ma­jor­ity, which was first started to voice ob­jec­tions to “Oc­cupy Cen­tral” — an en­tirely coun­ter­pro­duc­tive move­ment in terms of ad­vanc­ing po­lit­i­cal re­form which dis­rupted Hong Kong peo­ple’s liveli­hoods and hurt the city’s im­age as so­cially sta­ble and highly liv­able. But why should it mat­ter that Silent Ma­jor­ity got the news ahead of the oth­ers? If we are lib­eral-minded we will not think too much of it. In par­tic­u­lar, I would not spec­u­late on the mo­tives be­hind it. I just be­lieve that al­low­ing “pan-democrats” to get their Home Re­turn Per­mits is the right thing to do.

Prac­ti­cally all the “pan-democrats” say that as Chi­nese na­tion­als they should have the right to visit the main­land. Ob­vi­ously there was a lack of trust and a sus­pi­cion that those de­nied the per­mits might cause trou­ble by link­ing up with anti-es­tab­lish­ment forces on the main­land. “Pan-democrats” should of course be able to travel around freely just like other Chi­nese na­tion­als. But they should stay within the law as it is un­der­stood and up­held on the main- The au­thor is dean of busi­ness at the Chu Hai Col­lege of Higher Education.

I ex­pected the ‘pan­democrats’, who are self-pro­fessed lib­er­als, to be open-minded. They should to be ready to visit the main­land and talk to those liv­ing there, so they can have a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of de­vel­op­ments there.”

land. I think this is com­mon sense.

It is high time “pan-democrats” and the SAR gov­ern­ment came to a truce. For the sake of all Hong Kong peo­ple, we need to move on. So far, “pan-democrats” have been read­ing too much into ev­ery move taken by the cen­tral gov­ern­ment. As far as I can see, there has never been any at­tempt to un­der­mine the rule of law and in par­tic­u­lar the in­de­pen­dence of Hong Kong’s courts. The white pa­per on the prac­tice of “One Coun­try, Two Sys­tems”, is­sued by the State Coun­cil in June 2014, stressed the in­de­pen­dence of our courts, but this was wrongly mis­con­strued as jeop­ar­diz­ing this very in­de­pen­dence.

The lat­est NPCSC in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Ar­ti­cle 104 of the Ba­sic Law only stressed that any legally ef­fec­tive oath has to be taken re­spect­fully and solemnly. This is as it should be. That the NPCSC found it nec­es­sary to step in was a re­sult of in­ci­dents where the Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil pres­i­dent al­lowed those who in­ten­tion­ally tried to dis­tort or even ridicule the oath to re­take it. Ac­tu­ally there is no law that gives the LegCo pres­i­dent or any­one else the author­ity to de­vi­ate from the re­quire­ments of the Oaths and Dec­la­ra­tions Or­di­nance and al­low a sec­ond oath-tak­ing once a can­di­date has lost of­fice by virtue of de­clin­ing to take the oath solemnly.

Now that a court has ruled to up­hold the law, we should all move on. We should work to­gether in the best in­ter­ests of Hong Kong within the “One Coun­try, Two Sys­tems” frame­work.

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