Not our way

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 July, 2012, 12:00am


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In his first question-and-answer session in the Legislative Council, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying refused to take a position on the death of mainland dissident Li Wangyang , saying that because of 'one country, two systems', it is inappropriate for him to comment.

At the same session, he reiterated his determination to uphold Hong Kong's core values. Unfortunately, he missed a chance to stake out a strong position on press freedom and freedom of expression when an opportunity was handed to him on a silver platter by legislator Ronny Tong Ka-wah, who asked a question about police behaviour during visits by state leaders to Hong Kong.

While on the whole it may be true that the police exercise restraint, it seems that when people such as Vice-Premier Li Keqiang and President Hu Jintao set foot in Hong Kong, the police are suddenly transformed so that they are little different from their mainland counterparts.

During the Li visit, men in black suits took away Wong Kin, who was walking near his home in Laguna City and who had committed no known offence, except that he had the effrontery to wear a T-shirt condemning the military crackdown in Tiananmen Square in 1989. The reason for his temporary 'disappearance' was that the vice-premier was in the vicinity.

In addition, three students were confined to a stairwell at the University of Hong Kong during the vice-premier's visit to prevent them from protesting.

Then, when Hu came to mark the 15th anniversary of Hong Kong as a special administrative region, the police hustled away an Apple Daily reporter after he shouted a question at the president about Tiananmen Square while he was visiting the cruise pier in East Kowloon.

A clear pattern has now emerged, which is extremely worrisome.

It is the job of the police to protect visiting dignitaries, including those from the mainland. However, it is not their job to shield Chinese leaders from troublesome reporters or students who wish to stage a protest.

When the police behave this way, they are undermining 'one country, two systems'.

When a state leader comes to Hong Kong, he is not bringing the mainland system with him. He is entering a region with a different system. There is no reason the Hong Kong system should be changed for the duration of the state leader's visit so as to make him feel comfortable.

It is not the job of the police to keep Chinese leaders from seeing or hearing Hong Kong protesters. It is certainly not the job of the police to decide which questions the press should be allowed to ask and which ones should be banned.

When the Hong Kong police take on the role of censoring the press and shutting up protesters, things have gone too far.

It is the job of the new administration to make sure that 'one country, two systems' is a reality, even when there is a representative of the mainland system visiting us.

Frank Ching is a Hong Kong-based writer and commentator. Follow him on Twitter: @FrankChing1