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