PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 April, 2014, 6:44pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 April, 2014, 2:07am

Legislators should keep focus on universal suffrage fight

Michael Chugani says some legislators appear to be confusing the fight for universal suffrage in Hong Kong with one to change China


Michael Chugani is a Hong Kong-born American citizen who has worked for many years as a journalist in Hong Kong, the USA and London. Aside from being a South China Morning Post columnist he also hosts TVB’s Straight Talk show, a radio show and writes for two Chinese-language publications. He has published a number of books on politics which contain English and Chinese versions.

Am I missing something? I thought our fight was to change Hong Kong's political system, not change China. But judging from the behaviour of some democracy legislators last weekend, you would have thought it was the other way round.

The agenda for the Shanghai talks with mainland officials was clear: universal suffrage for Hong Kong. But "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung went wearing a Tiananmen crackdown-related T-shirt and a suitcase stuffed with June 4 leaflets, T-shirts, and a banned book.

What was he going to do with them? Hand them out on a Shanghai street corner? Present them to mainland officials? Rather than surrender the items to mainland airport officials, he turned around and flew back to Hong Kong. The Labour Party's Cyd Ho Sau-lan and Peter Cheung Kwok-che returned in a huff too, in solidarity with Leung. Civic Party leader Alan Leong Kah-kit aborted plans to fly to Shanghai for the talks. Only 14 of the 27 pan-democrat legislators had agreed to attend the talks but just 10 ended up doing so.

What should Hongkongers make of this? That the democrats aren't serious about dialogue with mainland leaders? That they see their fight for democracy as also a fight to change communist China? That they feel they have a right to bring June 4 material into the mainland and are willing to sacrifice talks on the political future of Hong Kong if denied this right?

Mainland leaders need to come clean on the June 4 crackdown. Few would argue with that. But how wise is it to bundle that thorny issue with our own thorny issue of universal suffrage, especially when so little time is left to reach a deal? Leung knew full well mainland officials would want to confiscate the June 4 material he had. If he never intended to surrender it, why then did he bother to fly to Shanghai at taxpayers' expense? To put on a show?

Were Ho, Cheung, and Leong saying that the mainland should adopt Hong Kong's free-expression standards when they boycotted the talks in protest against Leung's treatment? If they did, then they need a lesson or two about realpolitik.

When you are a guest in someone's home, you follow their rules. If our legislators should be allowed to bring June 4 material to the mainland for distribution, then legislators from the National People's Congress should also be allowed to distribute Communist Party material in Hong Kong. But we all know what would happen if they did that. The outcry about interference would be deafening.

We're seeing that now, with some pan-democrats accusing central government liaison office boss Zhang Xiaoming of meddling in local affairs by raising funds for the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong at its anniversary dinner.

Let's not make changing China our fight. It is for mainlanders themselves to do that. Our fight is to democratise Hong Kong. Using our values to challenge mainland leaders with things like June 4 material only strengthens their suspicion that some Hongkongers want to undermine China. That suspicion has already delayed our democracy.

Michael Chugani is a columnist and TV show host.


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