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CommentInsight & Opinion

Hong Kong people can't just wait around for democracy; they must act

Martin Lee says Hong Kong people now realise it's no use just expecting democracy to arrive one day soon. With universal suffrage being redefined, it's time for them to do something

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 May, 2013, 2:32am

My story begins with the appearance of the pro-democracy legislators on the balcony of the former Legislative Council building at midnight on June 30, 1997. We said something very simple: "We shall return." We knew we would be thrown out of the Legislative Council by what was called the Provisional Legislative Council. As it was a provisional council, members did not have to be elected.

Articles 45 and 68 of the Basic Law say that the ultimate aim is the election of the chief executive and all members of Legco by universal suffrage. The Law's annex effectively said that, by the 10th year, Hong Kong could - unfortunately, not must - have genuine democracy.

I was very angry that night, but we did return. I asked why we had to wait 10 years; are we not ready? Doubters should look at any nation or territory with democratic institutions to compare their conditions when they started out with those of Hong Kong in 1997. Hong Kong was more ready, so why should we have to wait?

But, as I look towards the future, I can't even tell you when we will have democracy. I don't think anyone in Hong Kong knows. Maybe the leaders in Beijing know. I believe they may have a date in mind.

One person, one vote, according to international standards, will come when leaders in Beijing are assured that Hong Kong people will elect whomever Beijing wants to be the chief executive and Hong Kong people vote for the pro-Beijing parties to form the majority in Legco. When they are assured that Hong Kong people are ready to elect their "puppets", they will let Hong Kong people have "genuine democracy".

That day may never come because Hong Kong people treasure their core values and the pillars that keep our systems going. The core values are obstacles to Beijing, as it wants to control Hong Kong just as they control the mainland. It wants to see the core values - press freedom, for example - go. Without press freedom, the government will have better support. People won't know the "funny things" the government has been doing.

Getting rid of the core values will be a problem. I have always said that unless we can export our rule of law to mainland China, they will export their corruption to Hong Kong. This is happening. There are allegations that our last ICAC commissioner used government money to fund his own dinners with friends from Beijing or provincial governments of China. The legislator who reported it to the Independent Commission Against Corruption should have reported it to the police.

What are we going to do? In the past, Hong Kong people, including me, had been happy to wait. Ten years after 1997 came and went. Nothing happened because Beijing was worried about July 1, 2003, when half a million took to the streets to protest against Article 23. If the bill had been passed in its original form, it would have impinged on our freedom of religion, of the press and of association.

In June that year, I received a letter from Condoleezza Rice, then the US national security adviser, who thanked me for bringing to her attention the debate in Hong Kong. The letter said the US government was against the passage of the law and called on the SAR government to establish democracy as soon as possible. A few days later, a press release from the White House contained word for word what was said to me in the letter.

A number of foreign governments followed suit, calling on the SAR government to introduce democracy. But it was the US government and not the British government, the contractual party of the Joint Declaration, that made the first move. Why should other governments get involved? In 1984, many governments supported the Joint Declaration as they saw the possibility that Hong Kong could function under the principle of "one country, two systems", and Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong with a high degree of autonomy. If these governments still support the Joint Declaration, can they really sit quietly and watch Beijing break its promise towards Hong Kong?

Ten years after 1997 have gone by, and now the promise of 2017 is being postponed again. Promises were not just made to the people of Hong Kong, but to the international community as well. If a government were allowed to break an international obligation in relation to Britain, one would be encouraging the same country to break other treaties.

I say to all governments who supported and still support "one country, two systems", they owe Hong Kong people a moral obligation to support Hong Kong's fight for democracy.

We are not asking for anything that has not been promised. We are not asking for new things. We are asking for promises to be kept. If the free world were to allow the Chinese government to break those promises, the Joint Declaration would become a litany of broken promises. And then it may become a big lie.

The people of Hong Kong now realise that the days of waiting for democracy to descend upon us are over. They must do something about it, otherwise that day will never come. Will it come in my lifetime? Why must I see democracy before I close my eyes and go to heaven? I want to make sure democracy will arrive.

In the short term, I am pessimistic as democracy is being redefined. One person, one vote may be allowed, but the nomination process will be controlled through a committee that will only nominate two or three "puppets" selected by Beijing. More than half of the population, who have voted for pro-democracy candidates [in the past], will be shut out. That is equal to disenfranchising the majority of the people of Hong Kong.

In the longer term, I am optimistic as the whole world is marching towards democracy and the rule of law. Even if China were to be the last to get there, it will still get there. I also hope that the international community will at least honour their moral obligation to Hong Kong.

Martin Lee is the founding chairman of the Democratic Party. This is an edited version of a speech he made at a luncheon organised by the Hong Kong Democratic Foundation on March 25


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Thank you, mail delivery sub (2nd May 1:15pm)
I’m much impressed by your altruistic heuristics
offering your mother whom we all respect
to illustrate your amusing analogy
“democracy is democracy just like 'my mother is a woman'”
[democracy = democracy] : : [my mother = a woman]
Let’s overlook your embarrassing equation
[my mother = a woman] 有奶就是娘
[democracy = democracy] is tautologically axiomatic but empirically problematic
democracy in Alexis de Tocqueville’s America isn’t democracy in Barack Obama’s America
Here lies the moral: Democracy is a variable and not a constant
Here I postulate a logically and empirically true statement:
Some people who speak and write English don’t know how to think
My personal opinion is, in HK we have a very significant number of those
In the kind of democracy craved by the moron you just mocked, he would be arrested for voter fraud. His illiterate fingerprints are all over the fake ballots cast here. In a court of law, this is way beyond prima facie.
BTW, I love your Chinese diction.
Do you think Benny Tai might give him a customized dunce cap for the 走狗大出洋相 gig in the upcoming Occupy Central?
I may be unsalvageable, but please try to forgive me
Honestly when I read 走狗大出洋相
I have in my mind, a picture of the regalia
HK’s legal year commencement parade
the incongruence of Asian faces donning blonde horsehair scalps
mea maxima culpa
PRC Election Law: Article 3 All citizens of the People's Republic of China who have reached the age of 18 shall have the right to vote and stand for election, regardless of ethnic status, race, sex, occupation, family background, religious belief, education, property status or length of residence.
Persons who have been deprived of political rights according to law shall not have the right to vote and stand for election.
A learned friend forwarded me Martin's prayer
which I had intentionally skipped
knowing that I won’t have the stomach for his religiosity
A party follower of his
once told me that Martin is like a fairy
disconnected and disinterested about secular matters
I have doubts about saints
and wanted to give this one the benefit
Although 150% exhausted after an overworked day
I braved the soapy propaganda
but being feeble-minded
I only managed to cover half of St Martin’s Nicene Creed
Having traded my soul to Mephisto long time ago
in insufferable boredom I turned to whymak
to entertain myself with his wisdom
I’m sure whymak has eaten more than his fair share of the forbidden fruits
from the tree of good and evil
If I were in the academia
I should collate his works for students’ reading assignment
Would any wigged rent seeker pro bono
and tell me whether scmp could demand loyalties
the sun also rises
Martin Lee should be pessimistic in the short term of our democratic political development as in the upcoming election of our chief executive in 2017----so called a universal suffrage one but according to the plan of Beijing and disclosed by its local loyalists in recent months: the Nominating Committee might only choose two to three 'puppet candidates' controlled by Beijing to let Hongkong qualified voters to cast their votes on---------so-called,'one man,one vote':a universal suffrage in the eyes of Chinese Communist government ! What a farce it will be and how disappointing we Hongkongers will be ! the majority of the people just can not pick their leader in 2017 ! No wonder Martin is not so optimistic in the short term but we can fight and strive for a geniune universal suffrage according to our Basic Law and the UN's International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights article 25(b) which states that all people should enjoy the right to vote and to be voted in a universal suffrage or that universal suffrage is a faked one and our civil-disobedience movement,;Occupy Central' will definitely take place even facing the machine-guns of the stationed PLAs or their special squads !
the sun also rises
YEAH ! We Hong Kong can't wait for the democracy to come /bestow by the authorites in the North but must act as our respected and trusted experienced barrister,Martin Lee said.Let us act together ! Comrades ! Those that don't want to be slaves or slave-servants, act now and arise ! Tomorrow is in our hands and only we can determine our future through a geniune universal suffrage of our chief executive who will be accountable and responsible to his/her voters instead of now just being accountable to those who elected him ! Act now ! No more hesitation or even be misled by that malicious guy named, 'whymak'---a team(member) sent here to monitor our postings on the internet and mislead innocent readers. How evil-minded this nastiest guy(s) is !Shame on him/them !
the sun also rises
Bravo ! I highly appreciate the last paragraph of our 'Father of Democracy of Hong Kong', experienced barrister (in fact the No.1 on the list of experienced barristers in town),Mr.Martin Lee Chu-ming's ARTICLE here----------'in the longer term, I am optimistic as the whole world (except Cuba, N.Korea and Mainland China) is marching towards democracy and the rule of law (contrary to' ruled by law 'as on Mainland China). Even if China were to be the last to get there (probably it will be as it finally finds herself surrouned by the vast sea of democratic countries and become the lone orphan in the arena of the world) it will still get there as time passes by due to the 'Open Policy of Deng Xiao-ping and Economic Reform which bury the geniune communism in China which is now just a capitalist country of the powerful and rich, no more ideals of the communism at all ! As people's edcuational standard raises and more contacts with outside democratic countries,they will finally realize that democracy is a good thing though it has faults---to elect someone who is incapable or corrupted but he/she can be changed without bloody revolutions ! Right ?
Were it not for the financial crisis, John McCain, who graduated bottom 6th out of 899 in his Naval Academy class, and Sarah Palin, who took 6 years and a tour through 7 no-name schools 野雞大學 to get a fluffy bachelor's degree, could have been a heart beat away from another 16 years of GOP presidency. King George the Moron, who initiated 2 foreign wars and presided over two recessions and destroyed 70 trillion dollars of global wealth, was elected by Americans for two 4-year terms.
Could lowly Hong Kong with a measly 7 million people afford this kind of stupidity?
So you think voters are free from brainwashing. Walter Lippmann remarkable insight of media manufactured consent is now a century old. Year after year, elections in the US and UK have validated his prophesy. The latest expose of UK politics featured Rupert Murdoch as the kingpin to whom Tories and Whigs pay homage. Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron all answer to his beck and call.
Of course, even real royals like Murdoch could lose their mandate when the tide turns. Then lapdogs like Blair and Cameron, the fresh elects, all of a sudden are turned into 3-minute heroes.
It is a pity dumb yellow people never see through this Democracy façade.
Democracy, Democracy on the wall, who is biggest fraud of them all?
the sun also rises
7 million people will bear the results of their choices once they choose a bad leader who is found to be corrupted and incapable as either Taiwan's Chan Shui-bien or Ma Ying-jeou.Most Hongkongers would rather have the political system as now in Taiwan which all leaders in every level: down from the President to a village head is elected by'one man, one vote' by the qualified voters.Of course, the consequence has to be borne by the voters once they choose a bad leader.Yet it is much better to an autocratic government of which the leaders are not chosen but appointed by the Party itself which can only create rampant corruptions and abuse of power and brutal and inhumane governance plus strict monitoring of people's lives through censorship on the internet,monitoring of religions,gatherings,setting up of societies, schools and other organisations plus cyberattacks against any dissidents/activits just like here in this Comment column where its frequent contributor:pflim040 has been cyberhacked for 8 weeks ever since he posted two pieces here supporting a geniune universal suffrage in 2017 !
1.I don't believe in "God of Abraham",I don't even believe in the very existence of hel and heaven.Most cultures have their superstitions.I had attended a Catholic secondary school for seven years but I still don't buy it:that Jesus was the only son of god and he was sent to redeem the sins of mankind.Afterall he died for over 2000 years how many more redemptions should to save this evil world?
2.Is Christianity an essential prerequisite for democracy?Many including me would not agree.Is democracy and Christianlty a prerequisite for better moral living,lower crime rate?I don't think so.It is human that shapes mankind,not the "god"
3.There is no sectarian war here.The fight for democracy is an ideological one,and it will never be started with and ended in bloodshed;this is not the norm of HKers.Ask Cardinal Zen to pray:in the fight use less foul languages.Ask him to pray for himself:in the whole dam world there is no such clergy so involved in politics in a such a high profile.
My friend, failing to define non-contradictory democracy attributes is a dogma no different from virgin birth and Blessed Trinity. If you have a reasonable mind for logic and the mathematical method, which is the only gold standard to test the ultimate correctness of arguments, I urge you to read the six conditions (independent axioms) of Kenneth Arrow's Impossibility Theorem, which proves that the exclusion of dictatorship and a subset of democratic principles cannot exist side by side. (He couched them in terms of social choices.)
Which means Democracy is absurd. I hope you have learned from your high school geometry that the proof with reduction ad absurdum is golden. My slothful SJC Form 5 math teacher, slow as molasses in January, really shed the light on me with this one.
Then why are so many people clinging to the Democracy superstition?
Opiate for tribalism and for the mind, says Karl Marx.
This rabble rouser is wrong about many things, but he did nail this one.
No sectarian war? How about obstructionism and gridlock that cause crisis after crisis in Euroland and the US? In Western politics, you must obstruct and make others fail before you could gain power. Emily Lau is doing that to Martin Lee. The only thing Western powers can agree to is wage foreign wars and kill people of lower races. That's the only time the US government could gain unanimous support.
When you aspire to Democracy, which sect are you referring to?
the sun also rises
democracy is democracy just like 'my mother is a woman' and 'my dad is Li Gang'---a male not a female ! Everyone with sense well knows that up till now ,the best political system in the whole world is democracy since a democratic government comes from the majority of the voters who have the power to monitor the elected government they choose.Once the government fails to perform satisfactorily,it has to go through votes and not revolutions or civil wars as during 1946-1949 in China ! Right ?
"...civil wars as during 1946-1949 in China !" The more you spill your beans, the more you demonstrate ignorance and illiteracy. Kuomintang and Communists split in 1927, which was then followed by the Northern Expedition. Every Hong Kong Chinese schoolboy knows this piece of our history. I guess you're probably just as 目不識丁 in Chinese.
Like Martin Lee, you stoop to smell white men's rear ends and come to the conclusion that 洋人臭屁 (white man Democracy farts) 最香 (smells better than Chanel No. 5).
This is what I gather from your column, Mr. Lee. God of Abraham's Kingdom is at hand. As you ascend past the pearly gate and take a seat behind white folks' rear ends, you will have your final laugh. Democracy will triumph over despicable corrupt Chinese, opium addicts, communist tyrants, Mao Zedong and Fu Manchu. End of History as you imply should make all arguments superfluous. Then why all these unnecessary disputations?
For sure, your vision is derived from your twin religious faiths, Catholicism and Democracy, but not Hegelian dialectic.
Perhaps it's not too late for us atheistic Chinese start loving Jesus and Winston Churchill, since slave traders, opium peddlers, mass ****s of Vietnamese, Iraqis, Indians and Chinese, who were all Christians or Democrats, or both, are already in Heaven. While your shared twin faith with them has guaranteed a reservation there, atheists and meritocratic authoritarians are likely to roast in Dante's Inferno.
But I am still skeptical about the company you keep. Among them one deceased US senator who once swore that he “won’t be out-niggered” by political adversaries, and another one, a principal architect of foreign and sectarian wars that have already killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans.
I sincerely hope Hong Kong upcoming Democracy’s sectarian war that you so devoutly wish for will be less bloody. Please ask Cardinal Zen to pray for us.
the sun also rises
This 'whymak' will never become a Catholic nor a democrat since we can never expect a Marxism believer or a devout communist to believe in God (as communsits used to say that religion is the opium of people, no doubt there is no freedom of religion on Mainland China---to protect her poeple from drugs maybe !) or democracy (which originated in ancient Greek state:Athens 2000 years ago !) as communists or their slave-servants have to embrace or safeguard autocratic rule---------so-called one-party rule to keep their power of rule so as to grab more wealth and other material comforts plus beauties. Right ? ha ! ha ! Yet these hired 'writers' here represented by 'whymak' are nothing but miserable elements only which will be eliminated by the current of history in the end. Just wait and see !

1.I don't believe in "God of Abraham",I don't even believe in the very existence of hel and heaven.Most cultures have their superstitions.I had attended a Catholic secondary school for seven years but I still don't buy it:that Jesus was the only son of god and he was sent to redeem the sins of mankind.Afterall he died for over 2000 years how many more redemptions should to save this evil world?
2.Is Christianity an essential prerequisite for democracy?Many including me would not agree.Is democracy and Christianlty a prerequisite for better moral living,lower crime rate?I don't think so.It is human that shapes mankind,not the "god"
3.There is no sectarian war here.The fight for democracy is an ideological one,and it will never be started with and ended in bloodshed;this is not the norm of HKers.Ask Cardinal Zen to pray:in the fight use less foul languages.Ask him to pray for himself:in the whole dam world there is no such clergy so involved in politics in a such a high profile.
The word democracy derives from the ancient Greek "demos" (the people) and "kratia" (power or rule). At the heart of this concept are the principles that government is elected by THE people, not SOME people, that government should rule as the servant of the people, not the other way round, freedom of choice, freedom of expression, freedom of the media, civil liberties and lawful rights safeguarded by an independent judiciary and the freedom to vote out of office a bad government. China is, predictably, perverting the meaning of the word to perpetuate in power an unrepresentative, corrupt elite which is undermining the rule of law, integrity in public office and social justice in Hong Kong.
China has indeed exported its corruption to Hong Kong. If the democracies were to falter, the corruption and evil their enemies represent would plunge the world into the dark age with which mankind was threatened in the 1930's and 1940's.
the sun also rises
This Old Hong Kong firmly believe that one day, our mother country will become a democratic one which the leaders and leading officials of every province,perfecture,town and village will be elected through 'one man, one vote' ------ a fair and open election.Of course it may take time to accomplish this ideal---------a democratic China and no more so-called 'one-party rule' which can only produce corrupted cadres and brutal and lawless governance since the power is not monitored by the press or the media or the people themselves. Of course, we can be optimistic that the whole world is moving towards democracy.Take Burma (now Mynamar) as an example.In the past ,it was ruled by an autocratic military regime, but now it has become a democratic country which attracts many businessmen to invest there and tourists flock there too.
"One person, one vote, according to international standards, will come when leaders in Beijing are assured that Hong Kong people will elect whomever Beijing wants to be the chief executive and Hong Kong people vote for the pro-Beijing parties to form the majority in Legco. When they are assured that Hong Kong people are ready to elect their "puppets", they will let Hong Kong people have "genuine democracy"." Days are counting as HK is relying more and more on China on its economy. On the contrary China relying less and less in attracting international investment or moving forward as being a superpower, why would China want to give democracy to HK? What is the pressing issue for China? If I'm China, I will wait for the end of 50 years and decide what to do.
Martin Lee has been brained-washed by the West. He won't even examine or consider Western style (parliamentary or congressional) democracy's not inconsiderable failings. Witness the many basket case nations of Africa ( now free of the "tyranny" of colonization for nearly five decades) or look at ungovernable Europe, now with almost a full 40% of its youth unemployed, an imbalance just waiting explode.
And the ever-trumpeted 'Rule of Law' ? Excuse me? Why do Britain and USA still conspire to detain people they don't like, without trial or have them murdered by drone-dropped bombs. The USA still has it 'off shore' prison cells to avoid constitutional jurisdiction and Britain still detains prisoners without trial and, believe it or not, has three of these who, collectively, have been detained for a total of 42 years without ever having been tried and convicted of any crimes.
The pan-democrats here are not only delinquent in their political and economically destructive behavior, but are blind to reality.
Good point. Weaknesses in the system mean that the system is fatally flawed and HK and Chinese people must be controlled as they are not capable of thinking for themselves. The Communist party will take care of the thinking. The fact that there are flaws in other systems means that we must stick with the repressive regime for the good of all. How can we think that HK people could possibly think for themselves. They might challenge the decisions of the Tai-Pans and the Communist Party. What a joke, Captain, but at least the Masters in Beijing have a good servant in you.
Western democracy has its flaws but at least the people can change it. I have just one simple question for you - How many people emmigrated to China last year compared with UK or USA? If China system was so great, surely more people would want to go there?
With regard to immigration and emigration. You are out of date. The mass desire for many of China’s population to ‘escape to better shores’ has been falling dramatically over the past two decades. Many of those that did leave now regret it and many, indeed, have gone back. The immigration flow is now the other way with huge numbers of non-Chinese nationals trying their luck as economic migrants in China. Official figures suggest that, overall, some 2.85 million of the 26.11 million foreigners who entered China in 2007 came for employment purposes. China now ranks as a major destination for international students, with an estimated 238,184 foreign students in 2009, ahead of both Australia and Canada. (mpi data).
@ 'Western democracy has its flaws but at least the people can change it'.. No they can’t unless they mount a revolution and overthrow their constitutions. And this seldom occurs until the next ‘world war’ (probably coming soon to a continent near you) All they can do, every time a parliament falls, is elect another bunch of incompetent leaders nominated from the same old ruling parties ( too well funded by major interest groups to be dislodged) and making undeliverable promises. With a one party system the leaders are also changed periodically through the equivalent of elections, held at local, regional and central congresses. These congresses are composed of those chosen from grass root levels from all over the country and there has to be overall consensus with the direction of political aim and travel to been accepted. Some representatives indeed may be ‘bought’ at these lower levels but there are checks and balances to ultimately bring down the corrupted. This is accomplished through Confucian-style self-examination... “are we doing the right thing? ;are we governing badly or reasonably well given the circumstances?; have we become too far removed from our own people?; do they hate us?. Very few Western politicians are able to self-examine like this. They believe that all they have to do is keep repeating the same untruths to ensure their re-election. And once elected they have their collective snouts in the feeding troughs but are unable to rule and govern effectively.
the sun also rises
Captain has been brainwashed by the autocratic ruling regime.Right ? What is wrong with 'rule of law' which our beloved Hong Kong practises ? May I ask ?
Many Hong Kong people think Martin Lee was a grovellling creep and pathetic when he ran to the United States to cling to the skirts/trousers of 'Massa (Master) whenever he had difficulties here. He revelled in being seen with the US President or Secretary of State.They listened politely gave him a pat on the back for being a good boy to report to 'Massa, and sent him home. Cite me a tangible result of these visits. Why? Is Lee in their pay or the US keeper of his political soul? Does US have control over China?
Things took their own course and pace and they will continue to do so.
Many people feel we have a good life and can live with the system and expect change with time. We oppose being forced to accept the aims, pace and tactics of politicians led by radicals. We hear little moderation and reason but a lot of outright abusive condemnation of anything they do not like. You cannot bang the table and demand that all your demands are met and call it democracy. It is trying to bully the opponent and arrogating the rights of the silent minority.It is street and political hooliganism.
We want support for the government to get on with the job and no corruption or abuse of power. The government should be able to deal directly and in a friendly way with Beijing.We object to paying big wages to Legco members just for them to waste even more money by obstructing the government at every turn to get their way which is a gross abuse of power and democratic instruments.
the sun also rises
this Old Hong Kong thinks that many Hong Kong people think that instead of Martin Lee (our father of democracy here ),the old guy (so-called patriotic one)Ng Hon-man should be called a grovelling creep.Martin Lee went to the United States after the June 4th crackdown of democratic movement around Tinanmun Square to ask for a sanction of the brutal Chinese Communist government. What was wrong with his act ? He loved his compatriots and his country(as our National father,Dr.Sun Yet-sin did ) but not an autocratic brutal and corrupted ruling regime ! Without a democatic political system,how can Hongkongers live a good life ? Only when the chief executive is elected through'one man, one vote'then he/she has to be responsible towards his/her people ! Right ? You are trying to mislead the readers of this Comment column, shame on you and your mailicious words !
Mr.Martin Lee should define what is genuine democracy.
One person one vote?That has been done in the 2012 district Legco election.
Cancell primary election?In militants-controlled states,ther are no primary elections.They are not within the systems but within the hearts of the people.
So,what kind of democracy Mr.Lee wants?
Democracy stamps on corruption?It is generally believed that Japan has clean bureaucrats but with colluding politicians.
So,what kind of democracy Mr.Lee wants?
Martin Lee really knows how to be a drama queen. This is the guy who a few weeks ago was willing to accept a screening mechanism and then back peddled a few days later when the other pan-dems did not like it.
You may not agree with Martin Lee but at least you can talk about it freely in Hong Kong without being put in Jail or disappearing.


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