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  • Dec 29, 2014
  • Updated: 2:26am
My Take
PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 June, 2013, 2:32am

'Beautiful souls' blinkered to reality

A distinctive Hong Kong identity politics is emerging. As it is still developing, it is hard to pin down and put your finger on. But one important aspect seems clear enough: demonise China, idealise Hong Kong. Yes, yes, I know. How can that be when the city is part of China? But it's that very inclusion since the handover that is being called into question.

At its most obvious, this involves accentuating the negatives on the mainland while ignoring the positives. And doing the reverse when it comes to Hong Kong. So there is this uncritical celebration of local culture and so-called core values, which can mean anything depending on who you ask: Cantonese language, rule of law, open economy, tolerance (unless you are a Filipino maid or a South Asian) and what not.

Hong Kong is the fountain of goodness, our young activists think. Across the border, it's bad land. And it is leaking badness and contaminating Hong Kong with corrupt officials and "locust" visitors, sometimes literally, like urinating and defecating in public, or spreading a potential flu pandemic.

An expat critic of mine thinks Hongkongers have a bad - and accurate - impression of the mainland because of hands-on experience - by making regular visits there. This elderly retiree has obviously not kept up with current surveys such as those by his former Baptist University colleague Michael DeGolyer, who finds that younger people - incidentally those most prone to identity politics - rarely visit the mainland, if at all. They do, however, read the corrosive, rabble-rousing Apple Daily.

For these people, the state power of the central government is incurably corrupt and dirty. Hong Kong is that little island of light and goodness constantly under threat from that monster. I am not defending Beijing, but we are getting a tad paranoid. You try governing 1.3 billion people with dozens of different ethnic groups. Or at least imagine the immense challenge that it entails.

"Beautiful souls", Hegel calls them, those good and pure critics of power, idealists who play an easy moralistic game. They represent a type that recurs in politics everywhere. For the Hong Kong variety, the Chinese state is pure evil. The mainland is another country; we certainly don't want to dirty ourselves with it.


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This article is now closed to comments

Reader whymak seems to make the curious assumption everybody in China knows each other. Would he care to elaborate on his basis for this?

His 'model' is a great example of a GIGO system.

Also, he confuses scale with complexity. I suppose he would also argue that a chicken factory with lots of chickens is much harder to govern than a small-scale farm with just a dozen of them. Unless of course you impose authoritarian rule with no freedom. Oh hang on...
hard times !
our youngsters are right in thinking that their
beloved Hong Kong is a fountain of goodness.
While across the border, it is bad land polluted
by autocratic rule and rampant with corruption
and pollution as well.
Speaking Cantonese instead of so-called phutonghua (or Mandarin)
rule of law, civilized manners and cleanliness plus
pursuit of democracy.
Safeguard and practise all types of freedoms;speech,press,
religion,marches, gatherings and ...
Is our beloved Hong Kong a rosaryhill in the eyes of our activists ?
Of course it is !
And so is it in the eyes of most youngsters here
except those so-called Youth of the DAB represented by
that shameless Chow Ho-ting who dared not
emerge in the latest City Forum debating on June 4th.
Shame on these slave-servants of the autocratic regime.
Shame on them !
See you all tonight at Victoria Park
let us pray for the rest of the souls of the killed
on June 4 early hours in 1989
near Tiananmen Square and Chang An Avenue.
See you tonight !
Don't miss it.
Okay ?
Whymak, first of all, you can't count. A billion has nine zeros. Using two hands, you should be able to just about manage to count that far by using your fingers. Let me know if you need help on that too. Multiply it by 4,950, and you run out of fingers, but you certainly still don't get anywhere near the galactic scale you arrived at. But let's assume you were speaking figuratively.

Secondly, and much more importantly, your argument is complete rubbish. I am perplexed that anyone who does appear to have basic literacy skills (I'll give you that much) is able to actually believe this. Where could have possibly found this strange idea that the size of a country (or rather: its population) must be inversely correlated to the degree of freedom its citizens can enjoy? Do you have any empirical proof for this? Or even just a half-plausible theory that could possibly link these two variables?

Is North Korea better suited to allow freedom for its 25m people than South Korea with double the population? Should the 80m German citizens enjoy only 1/10th of the freedom their 8m Austrian neighbours have? And the elephant in the room - how come that the 1.2bn people in India, while certainly still facing many challenges, can enjoy a free press, a democratically elected government and full freedom of religion, while no-one in China can? And all that in a country of which the ethnic diversity makes China's 8% non-Han, geographically very contained minorities seem like child's play.
hard times !
the most ideological wrongheaded argument that appears in this Comment column is no one's except this so-called'whymak'--- a hired so-called 'writer' sent here from the North to monitor and attack our pan-democarts in town and their supporters (including those writers here). Right ? Shame on you and your 'words' uttered ! A self-proclaimed short-time teacher and a scientist (political science maybe at a university on Mainland ?) The number of political prisoners jailed by the Chinese Communist authorities is far more than America and elsewhere,except North Korea of course ! You are shamelessly misleading our innocent writers and readers ! Shame on you again ! a so-called intellectual or 'literrate' ! Shame on you !!
Alex is ‘not defending Beijing’…… mmmm, sounds like exactly what he is doing, especially when the ‘try governing 1.3billion people’ card is dealt. The key to governing 1.3billion people is to first understand human beings and to not treat everyone as children to be conditioned and ruled with an authoritarian fist (which the Communist Party State is still doing through fear). The ‘reality’ is that, although China is becoming wealthier, its culture, morality, social etiquette, education, and global experience is still at a relatively low and developmental level which is causing conflict, not just with Hong Kong, but with the rest of the world. This is a reality that has not been addressed, and the Communist State should take responsibility for such a state of its citizens. Reforms would be a start; also, allow people more freedom to develop, learn and express themselves without fear would also help. One has to question if this is actually happening, or on the contrary…?
hard times !
a spade is a spade and a demon is a demon.It is common sense.If the present Communist ruling regime is a demon-typed government in the eyes of most people in Hong Kong and elsewhere,then there is no need to demonize China ---the People's Republic of China and not the Republic of China where its leaders in every level is elected through' one man, one vote' and have to be responsible towards its voters and people as a whole and be monitored by them as well. The Republic of China is now the most democratic place (or province in Beijing authorities' eyes) in the whole of China and her people enjoy freedoms that our countrymen on Mainland can never imagine. Besides, Taiwan (like Hong Kong) practises rule of law (law is to protect people's rights instead of using as an instrument/tool to oppress its people like the Mainland authorities) and respect towards human rights and animal rights as well. The PRC needs not to be demonized since its government is itself a demon---a corrupted and autocratic demon ! Right ?
I think the contrast of ‘Beautiful souls’ in this case would be ‘ugly creatures’ because the Communist Party State is atheist/materialistic in nature and does not believe in anything spiritual (hence, the lack of compassion, human rights, ethics, and comprehension of a deeper interconnected relationship with one another).
Reader Johnyuan: You have to understand what Einstein actually meant by this. Without doubt, he knows that without counting no human civilization exists as we all know it.
Even infinite quantities can be counted in a manner of speaking. Georg Cantor showed us the way. There are denumerable infinities and non-countable ones. Among infinities, some are greater (denser) than others.
The Bose-Einstein statistics that we use to count states in quantum physics is an example of denumerables. Superfluids, superconducting magnets and COUNTLESS examples of critical phenomenon originate from the way we count phonons, photons and particles of even spin -- not to be confused with claptrap of English speaking spinmeisters and charlatans.
Now you know that it's hard to stop this 腐儒 once you get him started.
Thanks for informing me the scientific root of the quote. It is even greater than I thought.
I am glad you do like Einstein, a wise man who fled his homeland in 1933, then ruled by an increasingly oppressive regime, in search of a free society.




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