• Tue
  • Dec 23, 2014
  • Updated: 6:13am
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 September, 2013, 3:27am

Hong Kong's road to universal suffrage is paved with contradictions

Frank Ching says the uproar over British official's comment shows the complexity of Hong Kong's political development, now and in the past

British Minister of State for Asia Hugo Swire set off a firestorm with his article voicing support for universal suffrage. On one level, it does seem hypocritical for a British official to say that "Britain stands ready to support" Hong Kong's move towards universal suffrage when, in fact, Britain obstructed democratic development when Hong Kong was its colony.

Indeed, until Britain agreed to return Hong Kong to China, there were no elections to the Legislative Council. So it is somewhat contradictory for Britain today to depict itself as a champion of democracy. But then Hong Kong is full of contradictions.

In fact, China itself is on rather delicate ground when its foreign ministry, in response to Swire's article, asserted that "Hong Kong once suffered under colonial rule for a long time".

It is unclear to what period of time the ministry was referring. Historically, the British colony provided safety for Chinese fleeing political turmoil or tyrannical rule on the Chinese mainland for over a century. Revolutionaries like Dr Sun Yat-sen, wanted by the Manchu government for attempting to overthrow the dynasty and establish a republic, were safe in Hong Kong, precisely because it was under British administration.

Even communist agents made use of the British presence to operate in the colony, where they were beyond the reach of the Kuomintang government.

And just as British Hong Kong provided refuge to communists before 1949, after the establishment of the People's Republic it offered a haven to those who wished to flee communist rule.

Many of the people now praised as patriots by the communist government are in Hong Kong because their parents fled from the communists. The shipowner Y.K. Pao moved from Shanghai to Hong Kong on the eve of the communist takeover and, ironically, subsequently forged a special bond with Deng Xiaoping . Another shipping magnate, C.Y. Tung, the father of Hong Kong's first chief executive, Tung Chee-hwa, was also a refugee from the Chinese communists.

The list is long. In fact, the majority of the residents of the special administrative region are here because their parents or grandparents couldn't stand the idea of living under communist rule. Suffering "under colonial rule" was evidently considered a much better alternative to life in the communist paradise being created by the party.

Last year, a boatful of Hong Kong political activists landed on the Japanese-administered Diaoyu Islands to assert Chinese sovereignty. The Japanese media depicted them as pro-China activists but many are not even allowed to visit the mainland because, in Beijing's eyes, they are not patriots.

But, of course, it is possible to be a Chinese patriot as well as anti-Communist at the same time. It is important to keep this in mind, at a time when Beijing is insisting that any chief executive hopeful must be a patriot. Let's also remember that Hong Kong's democrats, often accused of being unpatriotic, were the first to welcome the return of the British colony to Chinese sovereignty.

Hong Kong is a bundle of contradictions, almost as contradictory as "one country, two systems".

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


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This article is now closed to comments

Dude, what are you talking about?
Chinese revolutionaries were safe in HK at the time precisely because of British rule, since it shielded them from Chinese tyrants of the time. THere is no requirement that the Brits were in HK exclusively to provide protection for Chinese revolutionaries. Those two statements you made in an lame attempt at an argument are total non-sequiturs.
" he irrelevantly asserted “it is possible to be a Chinese patriot as well as anti-Communist""
---if you found his assertion to be irrelevant, then it appears you've completely missed his point. Now, I wouldn't characterize the CCP as "communist" (even though it's still in the name). But one can absolutely be a Chinese patriot while being anti-CCP. Patriotism is towards a country, and CCP is not the country. Love for one definitely does not require love for the other. In fact, it is also possible for CCP-lovers to be unpatriotic - that's quite prevalent, in fact.
"Is it impossible to be communist and patriotic?"
---no, it is possible. But this does not logically disprove FC's assertion either.
"If so, why were “Hong Kong's democrats the FIRST to WELCOME the return of the British colony to Chinese SOVEREIGNTY” ?"
---for the simple fact that you can welcome Chinese national sovereignty while having no love for the CCP.
"What’s patriotism in HK if it can be both communist and anti-communist?"
---I don't think patriotism in HK is like that. You certainly haven't established it.
would some "investigative" journalist do a piece on Basic Laws' language, if any, on universal suffrage for hongkong? this is the big elephant in the room nobody talk about...
Thanks to your clarifications which help focus our discussion
gods’ words, quran and bible, are subject to interpretations
adversarial common law courts need opposite arguments
the significance of the same tree varies in different forests
If FC’s statement about anti-communist democrats
being the first to welcome HK’s reunion is true,
“delicate ground” and “legless” argument must fall
Alasdair MacIntyre’s words:
“To live a life is to enact a narrative quest
that aspires to a certain unity or coherence”
That’s why we need the kidnap metaphor
to reconcile of the contradictions
The same coherent picture should also appear
if we bring FC’s high-sounding words down to earth
If you’re over in England
a nice dream emancipated from HK the ex colony
According to Wiki:
An ad hominem is
(1) an argument against a person and not against the person’s argument
(2) an irrelevance
I have revisited my two comments you referenced and CF’s article.
My comments contained specific counter-arguments
based on which I also expressed my personal experiences and opinions.
They are relevant counter-arguments against opinions and not the person
Let’s consider FC’s comment on China’s view about HK suffering under colonial rule
“delicate ground” - what is meant by delicate ground?
what kind of person would voice opinions on “delicate ground”?
Could China, reading FC’c comment as a hypothetical person complain ad hom
despite FC’s list of his “reasons” which of course can be countered with opposites?
My principle is not to impede the forage of a family’s provider 阻人搵食
as long as the forager not to act like the estates owner
That’s partly why I’ve taken the time to clarify
what’s already adequately argued in my comments
My participation in his discussion lacks the strong feelings
that are so evident in your involvement
FC is very lucky to have a reader with your kind of loyalty
In the spirit of our ex-President Hu’s counsel - harmony
if you have any further comments
I’d be, as before, all ears
I agree with friends who reminds me from time to time
about my sometimes disagreeable style
and kindly advise moderation
I have a NS file for comments and letters written but not sent
How busy I’d be if they were sent?
How much readers have missed?
Would anyone care?
For myself?
All too ephemeral
Life is so wonderfully full of interesting things
May I just pick a neutral topic
“… who would characterize that fish proverb as a cliche,
… among those who speak English with some degree of proficiency “
I bet many who rap downside up and backside forward
in downtown Detroit would ask “What a cliché the heck fish proverb”
English indeed a lingua franca!
Broken record shouldn’t repeat FC that’s already been overplayed
If you could pick out reasonably where you find illogical and ad hom
that I haven’t explained why it means not what you misconstrue
then I may elaborate
Ad hom is intellectual poison
a must to avoid for this Confucian disciple wanna be
Absorbed by linguistics, one of my favorites
I neglected my manners for which I apologize
I must thank you for your loyal readership
“focusing capably” on every alphabet
replaying this broken record till after 2 in the morning
to analyze nuances and appreciate the ambiences
and follow up 9 in the morning
Perhaps broken record materials willingly or not
may have to enjoy your continued loyalty in coming days
for nostalgic sound bites appreciation
for your asset protection
and for all sorts of reasons
Have fun
Thank you and have a good holiday.
Sept 26, 846AM and Sept 27, 1006AM of this comment thread are, IMO, the most egregious examples where you besmirch the messenger without identifying the flaws in the message (other than the apparent fact that you disagree with said message).
The vehicle for exchange here is words. It seems reasonable to me that people be expected to use them with precision and accuracy. Also, brevity is something that is clearly underrated in some quarters.
And pslhk, since you've embarked on this journey of personal growth in an effort to avoid logical fallacies in general, and ad hominems in particular, perhaps you can extend yourself further still and share some substantive criticisms of what FC wrote here, the better to serve as a contrast to the stuff you wrote earlier. Hope that's not too much to ask.
Congratulations, pslhk. No ad hominems there. I should therefore rephrase it thus: "the logical fallacy you commit ALMOST every single time you open your mouth is called an ad hominem". And it seems you can in fact learn from your history of mistakes. Oh happy day. Keep up the good work. I think my updated statement squares with reality such that no one will be in danger of being further misled about you.
As for the word salad, I guess obfuscation is your middle name. Sure, certain things can represent different things to different people. But I suspect you'll be hard-pressed to find anyone who would characterize that fish proverb as a "cliche", at least among those who speak English with some degree of proficiency. Though one can probably never say never, as I've learned, for you are quite possibly truly one of a kind. Note the avoidance of superlatives and absolutes there. I guess I really should know my audience. And I've definitely done some learning when it comes to your unique and endearing "debating" style, such as it were.
I’d be charitable on first Oct morning, so
knock and door will be open
“Proverb and cliché aren't synonyms”
just like child and man aren’t synonyms
Like many, I find Wordsworth inspiring
“a child is the father of man”
The “girl” who is your daughter could be someone’s
girlfriend or teacher or mother or …
Girl, daughter, girlfriend, teacher, mother aren’t synonyms
If only this were a forum for Wittgenstein, Levi-Strauss, Barthes, Searle, …
“No word names pain”? Need I continue to elaborate?
Check out Michael Marks and Hercules to see how
I aim’t referring to the cliché when I ask
“What’s in a name?”
With your intellectual rigor and capability to focus on the subject matter
You may copy two equations from dictionaries for proverb and cliché
Some simple verbal substitution will show that proverb = cliché
Please let me know if you find above any logical fallacy
which, if any, to me is something to learn and not to fear or evade
What no one would want to see is that some might be misled
by your illogical and factually incorrect utterance
to wrongly believe that “the logical fallacy you commit every single time
you open your mouth is called an ad hominem”




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