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  • Nov 24, 2014
  • Updated: 10:47am
Column
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 February, 2013, 3:16am

Sad awakening as one man sees communists everywhere

Question about Financial Services Development Council reveals deep generational divide over engagement between Hong Kong and China

I had a chat with a young editor recently. It was a sad awakening. The chat started with a question about the overwhelmingly hostile media coverage on the establishment of the Financial Services Development Council last month.

The council has been called the "invaded" zone or a "princelings' club". Council members have had their doorbells rung on Sunday mornings by inquisitive journalists. Why has a "financial" issue become a political fiasco?

George, a very intelligent and passionate editor working for a major newspaper in town, had a quick response.

He said: "They are communists."

What communists? "It's no secret that one has to be a member of the Chinese Communist Party to head a state-owned enterprise. The five (appointed to the council) must be communists, right?" he said.

I didn't have an answer. One, party affiliation is never the question in my mind when reading an appointment list. I never ask if an appointee from Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley is a Republican or Democrat. Neither will I ask if one is a communist. Their expertise is my only concern.

Two, I have spoken to hundreds of mainlanders - managers and bureaucrats - throughout my career. With little exception, they speak for their personal and business interests.

Three, it is true that only party members will be allowed to be the chief executive or chairman of a state-owned enterprise. Yet, I doubt if all the five mainlanders, including three who are heads of overseas subsidiaries, are party members.

Seeing that I didn't quite get it, George said: "To allow them in the council is to bring in the communists to our government. That's an outright infringement of the 'one country, two systems' principle. We cannot possibly tolerate that."

I was speechless. Between me and the thirty-something is not a generation gap but a fundamental difference in our perception of what China and Hong Kong is.

As a financial journalist, I see corruption but also reforms up north every day. I see a new window for the city. As a journalist on political and general news, he sees only corruption and tightening. To him, the city's future is dim.

I spent my first salary cheque visiting Beijing and made sure my little one walked the Great Wall. George has probably been warned against visiting the country because of the poisonous food and killings talked about by his parents.

Some of my most insightful chats are with my Putonghua-speaking friends and classmates. I am sure he reads lots of intelligent pieces by mainland authors. Yet, rude mainland tourists and jargon-speaking mainland bureaucrats make a deeper mark. He is among the generation that sees nothing else but threat from the Hong Kong-China engagement.

I could have told him that Hong Kong doesn't stand a chance without China's economic liberalisations; and a joint effort to prepare the city for that has long been delayed.

I could have told him that the mainlanders account for only five of 20 non-official members; and that we have to learn to make good use of the connections and knowledge of mainlanders no matter how little trust we have in them.

I could have told him that the council's British peer launched an initiative in London last April to become a centre for yuan trade. It has set up offices in Shanghai and Beijing, built a simplified Chinese version of its website and compiled a yuan business resource pack with case studies for different industries.

I could have told him that the City of London has established an Advisory Council for China to guide it in the engagement with China. Eight of its nine members are mainlanders.

Among them are senior officials of the country's sovereign fund the China Investment Corp, major investment bank China International Capital Corp, the Shanghai Stock Exchange and China Merchants Bank. There is no doubt, they are all party members.

Yet, it is not going to make a difference.

This is a guy who has endured long working hours and low pay because he believes that he is crusading for the interests of Hong Kong. And he is not alone in the media.

Beijing has referred to political chaos as a result of meddling by foreign interests. The remarks by this young editor tell me this "us versus them" mentality is something very internal.

That's very worrying.

shirley.yam@scmp.com

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This article is now closed to comments

chinaradioint
To the first two comments: as a mainlander, I wonder how much they know about the country? For many of us in the mainland, we see many Hong Kongers so self-important, so arrogant and surprisingly ignorant. Personally, i'd rather like Beijing to have no ties at all with Hong Kong. You want nothing to do with the mainland? Fine, then live or die on yourself!
John Adams
Shirley : contrary to some opinions expressed below, I agree with you completely .
I have worked in China for 25 years. All our company's staff in China are of course Mainland Chinese and doubtless a handful are party members. 25 years ago when recruiting staff in China we did ask if they had party affiliation, but then we later dropped the issue because it was so irrelevant.
I read every day about "corrupt party members" but I have personally never met one. I also read every day about corrupt US and UK politicians, but I also have never met one .
I think that the "Georges" of this world are the ones who have the least to do with the real China of today and are the most out of touch with the real China of today
So they think the same was as did the waves of immigrants for China in the 1950's who were fleeing communism as it was "then" .
Times have changed George !
pslhk
I knew a George like yours
single-mindedly mono-vision
with a stiff neck fixing the head in one direction
until one day he met a group of fellow chauvinists
White but with necks redder than the PRC flag
and mindset in water-tight right and wrong compartments
-
They challenge him for calling himself George
As he isn’t related to KGV, he must be a jerk
-
These Chinese georges are contradictory fools
They support but disagree with their alien counterparts
Bigots who see all Chinese in the same category
Chinese george must be a commie
attempts to prove otherwise only show that
Chinese george is greasy
-
The George I knew now calls himself something else
But chauvinists hold the fort and keep firing shots
You can see from how they post their anencephalic comments:
human rights, rule of law, respect for the individual …;
shitload of tiresome and misleading slogans
norodnik
Shirley, you are either naive or a red Fifth Columnist.
ykbc
Hong Kong was handed over by its colonial master in 1997 to its current communist master. If Hong Kong people had been given a chance to express their genuine desire through a referendum back then, Hong Kong would have been a totally different city now.
mymak
A few years ago there was a huge scandal involving the corruption of British Members of Parliament in claiming (stealing) money for their own personal use, to feather their nests. Some Members of Parliament lost their positions.
On the Mainland over the last few years we have witnessed some huge scandals involving Government officials stealing money. These officials have lost their positions.
What's the difference George?
In Hong Kong in recent times we have been assailed with almost daily reports of rude mainlanders, making too much noise and changing our culture.
On Spanish beaches in the summer there are numerous reports of British tourists getting drunk, having sex in public, making too much noise and creating a Little Britain culture.
What's tjhe difference George?
ianson
Yes, the article elucidates the obvious naivety it takes not to see the plain mainland Communist Party foothold in the FSDC and not to be alarmed at what it tells about the propensity of C Y Leung's government to allow Beijing's encroachment on our independence and freedoms. A little Party influence in any of our organs of government is an unmitigated disaster for Hong Kong. Anyone who cares for human rights, rule of law, respect for the individual, protection of the environment will not stand for any participation whatsoever from our corrupt, immoral, rapacious neighbours.
waynewing
look forward to your insightful & reasonable comment instead of a brute rebuke.
In fact, I'm looking forward for quite a lot HKers to do so.
marcomaurizio
I agree 100% with Ms Shirley: it is too early to see communist everywhere. I guess Hong kong should wait until 2017, to have a real test and measure. Problem is: so many people from Hong Kong still do not like the idea to be re-educated, poor souls, they are too used to the fact that they are (were?) part of a city with an international flair, with an international education and open to the world. Tsk tsk... hardliners, is it?
 
 
 
 
 

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