Donald Tsang

Get smart

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2012, 11:03pm


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It's hard to wrap our heads around the political hysteria that seems to be taking over this city. It's also hard to understand how we've come to this. Blaming the upcoming Legislative Council election can only go so far.

Take the most recent scandal to hit a high-ranking official. This time, it concerns former legislator and new secretary for development - Hong Kong's second in the month since the new administration has taken over - Paul Chan Mo-po. News of his wife's illegally subdivided properties isn't going down very well with the public. Should he have known that it would cause a ruckus? Absolutely. Having been a legislator himself, he should have had more political sensitivity.

After all, he was in the chamber last year when former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen had to deal with the political havoc caused by his glass-enclosed balcony. And for someone who was so involved in the current chief executive's campaign for the city's top seat, Chan should have known that anything related to meddling with living space - enlarging it or subdividing it - would spell political disaster.

It's not just living space that Hongkongers are hypersensitive about. We are also hypersensitive about our identity. Whether over 30,000 or 90,000 people took to the streets to protest against the introduction of national education does not change the fact that if the government does not do something soon, Hong Kong may implode in this political pressure cooker.

There is nothing wrong with national or civic education, but if the idea of it causes that much angst, here and now, then just scrap it. It makes no political sense to sit on it longer than the government already has.

The point certainly is not to argue over whether the accusation - that national education is brainwashing - is fair. Perhaps it isn't. Besides, if we feel that our children can be brainwashed so easily, what does it say about how we view our children? Do we think they are incapable of thinking for themselves?

But the opposition is really an expression of complex sentiments, and there is no right or wrong for people's feelings.

This is yet another test of our now semi-new government. Does the government have enough sense to smell the smoke before it sees the fire? In this case, it seems the government is still hoping for a political miracle. Reason does not always prevail. For issues that tug at deeply entrenched sentiments, it is best not to wave the flag of reason. It only fans the fire.

Ironically enough, this debate recalls the words of Deng Xiaoping on the territorial dispute over the Diaoyu Islands: 'Our generation is not wise enough to find common language on this question. Our next generation will certainly be wiser. They will certainly find a solution acceptable to all.'

When something hits a raw nerve, our leaders should have enough political character to defer it and leave it for the wisdom of future generations. This national education debate is a test not of political prowess, but of political sense and sensitivity.

Alice Wu is a political consultant and a former associate director of the Asia Pacific Media Network at UCLA