Unacceptable to invoke Maoist dogma in today's Hong Kong

Frank Ching says today’s Hong Kong has no place for talk of Maoist class struggle when even the mainland has largely moved on

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 January, 2013, 4:25am

It comes as something of a shock to learn that there are political leaders in our midst whose minds are still mired in the Maoist ideological dogmas of the 1950s, who do not seem to be aware of the great strides made by China in the past few decades.

Lew Mon-hung, a Hong Kong delegate to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, China's highest advisory body, has made grave allegations against Leung Chun-ying. Among these is the claim that the chief executive said at a dinner last May that, while differences between his supporters and those of former chief secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen are "non-antagonistic contradictions among the people", the contradictions with the pan-democratic camp are those between the people and the enemy. Leung has denied having made these remarks.

Regardless of who said what, there is no reason for politicians to apply outmoded Maoist theories to the political situation in Hong Kong today. After all, the Basic Law says, "the socialist system and policies shall not be practised" here.

Just what is the socialist system and what are socialist policies? There was a time when people thought they knew, but not any more. Since the 1980s, mainland China has embraced the market system. Deng Xiaoping , in an interview with Time magazine in 1985, insisted that there was "no fundamental contradiction between socialism and a market economy".

China uses theory to justify abandoning Mao Zedong's class struggles in favour of Deng's vision of a modern society.

In its constitution, China defines itself as being in the "primary stage of socialism", which will last at least a century. It says that, at this time, "the principal contradiction in Chinese society is one between the ever-growing material and cultural needs of the people and the low level of production".

Mao, in his well-known 1957 essay, "On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People", discussed "the question of eliminating counter-revolutionaries", who were considered enemies of the people. But, in 1997, China abolished laws against "counter-revolutionaries". Two years later, the constitution was amended to remove mention of "counter-revolutionary activities".

Meanwhile, the Communist Party has changed from calling itself a revolutionary party to become the "ruling" party. China is in a post-revolutionary mode.

There is no reason why, as China focuses on economic development, Hong Kong should shift its attention to Maoist theories on class struggle. Language such as "enemy of the people" is outmoded even on the mainland.

At the core of China's basic policies towards Hong Kong was the resumption of the exercise of sovereignty while leaving the former British colony unchanged as much as possible.

It is a great irony that while the mainland looks to the future, Hong Kong politicians apply discredited Maoist theories to 21st-century situations. Let's have no further talk of "contradictions" or "class enemies". Such jargon is simply inappropriate for Hong Kong.

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