Hu Jintao

Inaction speaks louder than words

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 09 July, 2012, 12:00am


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In journalism, if something big doesn't happen, that may be news, too.

An expected scene during the recent visit of President Hu Jintao was to have the leader hugging children, and chatting with an ordinary Hong Kong family.

Instead, four days after Hu left, the official Xinhua agency reported that Peng Qinghua, the director of the central government's liaison office, visited a family in Ma On Shan on behalf of the president, the same family Hu visited five years ago.

Though Hu's itinerary was not announced or confirmed by the government, it was unusual for a state leader not to conduct such a visit, since it has been regarded as a tradition.

Of course, we cannot conclude that the 'cancellation' was the result of fears over potential demonstrations. But many believe that the family 'no-show' and the tightened security around the leader, suggested Hu was all too aware of the severe absence of 'harmony' in Hong Kong.

No wonder the president repeatedly called for 'unity' and put 'social harmony' as the top priority among the four tasks he laid down for the new government in Hong Kong.

Hu's first call for 'unity' came during a meeting with representatives from various sectors, including our major tycoons. For the past 15 years, Beijing has heavily relied on them as a mechanism for maintaining social stability. And they were still atop Hu's VIP list, despite Beijing's selection of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying not being popular within the business ranks.

After meeting the president, the tycoons were doorstepped by reporters who asked the same question: will you support the new chief executive?

Answers were divided: some gave a definite 'yes'; some were vague and others refused to reply.

Of course, when reporters are free to ask whatever they like, those being questioned are free to answer or not. But their attitudes reveal a lot.

Hu later made more calls for 'unity', and a closer reading of his July 1 speech reveals a clearer message: Hong Kong needs to create more 'fair opportunities' for its people.

Hong Kong is facing increasing public anger over issues of social injustice. How will these issues be dealt with fairly? We are all familiar with the saying, 'justice must be seen to be done', which means the process is sometimes more important than the result. Fairness and equal opportunity for people relies not only on government policies, but also on a high degree of transparency through policymaking procedures, which the new government must keep in mind. Go to the streets is the first step, but making swift and efficient policies based on people's views are more important.

President Hu might have had a different personal experience during his short stay in Hong Kong compared to previous visits. Was he affected by seeing and feeling the intensified social conflict and the public's discontent 15 years after the handover? We don't know. Did he regret not being able to revisit that Ma On Shan family? We can only imagine.

After the massive rally in 2003, Beijing readjusted its policies towards Hong Kong from a hands-off to a more hands-on approach, but economically, Beijing offered Hong Kong 'gifts' to help boost the city's economy. Will there be any new changes now and what will they be? We don't know because no one has a crystal ball, but changes are expected, sooner or later.

Was he affected by seeing intensified social conflict and public discontent 15 years after the handover?