Ho Lok-sang calls for ef­forts to en­gage with the youth as naive stu­dents main­tain their ‘in­de­pen­dence’ dream

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

On July 1, the 20th an­niver­sary of the es­tab­lish­ment of Hong Kong Spe­cial Ad­min­is­tra­tive Re­gion, stu­dent groups with del­e­gates from al­most all ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions in Hong Kong as­sem­bled at the Univer­sity of Hong Kong to dis­cuss their dream of Hong Kong’s in­de­pen­dence from China. To those of us with any his­tor­i­cal and po­lit­i­cal sense, the stu­dents’ dream to break away from China is naive and goes counter to the in­ter­ests and wishes of the vast ma­jor­ity of Chi­nese peo­ple across the world. Po­lit­i­cally and legally it con­tra­venes the spirit of “one coun­try, two sys­tems” and breaches the premise of the Ba­sic Law. The Ba­sic Law guar­an­tees Hong Kong peo­ple’s rights to free­dom of speech but the quest for in­de­pen­dence does breach the bot­tom line of the cen­tral govern­ment. Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping put it clearly: Any of the ac­tiv­i­ties that en­dan­ger the na­tional sovereignty, chal­lenge the author­ity of the cen­tral govern­ment and the Ba­sic Law of the HKSAR, and use Hong Kong to pen­e­trate and sab­o­tage the Chi­nese main­land rep­re­sent an af­front to the bot­tom line of Bei­jing and will not be tol­er­ated. The young­sters voiced pes­simism over the prospect of their dream. But their pes­simism is all be­cause they started from a wrong premise. If only they amend this premise, the world they face will be to­tally dif­fer­ent. There will be chal­lenges but they will have the op­por­tu­nity to face these chal­lenges with hard work and de­ter­mi­na­tion, and will cer­tainly have a bright future.

I do not want to put the blame squarely on these young­sters who have clearly lost their sense of di­rec­tion. We all could have done bet­ter in many ways and those naive thoughts would have been put to rest be­fore they sprouted. My friend Mathias Woo, in a re­cent ar­ti­cle, gave an ex­am­ple. The way the M+ mu­seum for vis­ual cul­ture in the West Kowloon Cul­tural Dis­trict is run means the lo­cal Hong Kong peo­ple are rarely given an op­por­tu­nity to show their tal- The author is dean of business at Chu Hai Col­lege of Higher Ed­u­ca­tion. ents and de­velop their ca­reers in the project and may feel short­changed. Then there are many opin­ion lead­ers — who may come from dif­fer­ent sec­tors in­clud­ing ed­u­ca­tion, pro­fes­sions, me­dia, art and cul­ture, etc — who com­pletely miss out on the big pic­ture of de­vel­op­ments on the main­land, and who keep por­tray­ing China as an au­thor­i­tar­ian state al­low­ing lit­tle per­sonal free­dom. These opin­ion lead­ers are very in­flu­en­tial be­cause of their stature in their re­spec­tive pro­fes­sions but they com­pletely ig­nore the fact that to­day main­lan­ders are en­joy­ing the great­est de­gree of per­sonal free­dom in history. Main­lan­ders rou­tinely travel not just all over China, but also set foot on lands from the Amer­i­cas to Europe, from South­east Asia to Ice­land. Many stu­dents from the main­land in Hong Kong or over­seas choose to re­turn to the main­land. If the main­land were the hor­ri­ble place these opin­ion lead­ers make out to be, main­lan­ders would not have re­turned.

The spirit of the “one coun­try, two sys­tems” is mu­tual re­spect. Hong Kong peo­ple must re­spect the po­lit­i­cal regime on the main­land and must op­er­ate within the frame­work of the Ba­sic Law and the laws in Hong Kong. With­out this ba­sic re­spect, all trust would be lost. Bei­jing of course is risk-averse. The re­quire­ment in the Ba­sic Law for a Nom­i­nat­ing Com­mit­tee to nom­i­nate as­pir­ing chief ex­ec­u­tive can­di­dates re­flects this cau­tion. But many opin­ion lead­ers who oc­cupy highly re­spected places in so­ci­ety chose to chal­lenge the “red line”. Quite a few even ex­plic­itly state they want to end the po­lit­i­cal sys­tem on the main­land. This would un­der­mine trust and clearly de­vi­ates from the spirit of “one coun­try, two sys­tems”.

Xi puts par­tic­u­lar em­pha­sis on our young peo­ple, and calls them the future of the na­tion. That is China wants to be in­clu­sive and take our young peo­ple as its sons and daugh­ters. But this must be pred­i­cated on a cor­rect un­der­stand­ing of the re­la­tion­ship be­tween “one coun­try” and “two sys­tems” and act­ing in ac­cor­dance with the na­tional Con­sti­tu­tion and the Ba­sic Law of Hong Kong. In or­der to “not miss the boat” Hong Kong peo­ple need to fo­cus on development, and must work to­gether with a united mind. For this to hap­pen, it will take ev­ery­one to work to­gether to en­sure a har­mo­nious and sta­ble so­cial en­vi­ron­ment. Only in this way, there will be a future for our young­sters. Oth­er­wise, our young­sters would be marginal­iz­ing them­selves. They would lose out in the global com­pe­ti­tion and their future would be bleak.

Of course things on the main­land are not per­fect. Food safety is still a prob­lem; pol­lu­tion is still a prob­lem; cor­rup­tion is still an on­go­ing prob­lem and so on. But we must re­mem­ber the an­cient Chi­nese adage: “Whether a na­tion pros­pers or de­clines, each mem­ber of the na­tion must shoul­der his share of re­spon­si­bil­ity.” We must also re­mem­ber that de­spite all the dif­fi­cul­ties and chal­lenges that the coun­try faced, China has ad­vanced on many fronts. We must re­mem­ber that to­gether we are strong, di­vided we are weak. The words of Xi re­flect his deep un­der­stand­ing, and his con­cern for the well-be­ing of our young­sters and the future of this great city.

We must re­mem­ber that to­gether we are strong, di­vided we are weak. The words of Xi re­flect his deep un­der­stand­ing, and his con­cern for the well­be­ing of our young­sters and the future of this great city.

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