• Sat
  • Nov 1, 2014
  • Updated: 3:40pm
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

“It’s in the system”
That’s John Lee’s standard reply
to follow-ups on letters
that scmp has acknowledged receipt
Web comments supposedly more responsive
are not necessarily so
The website acknowledges comments posted
then keep them incommunicado
They’re certainly in the system
But which section,
The reply to 321manu I posted this morning (>hr ago) is in the system
Let’s see when or if it may eventually emerge
"censorship"? pslhk, you doth whine too much.
I sometimes bounce ideas with an avid reader
who however has limits, refusing some writers
to avoid the risk of humanoid cjd
Now I’d better keep this counsel
but for your tenacious pursuit for enlightenment
I’d do you this last favor
It all began with Tyler Brock whom FC was keen to defend
from the fact "Hong Kong once suffered under colonial rule"
by cutting the whole fact into pieces of which he begs focus on
anecdotes such as British accommodated refugees
and revolutionaries like Dr Sun
Slow thinkers need metaphors, so here is another one for you
FC dwelled on meals that a kidnapper gave a victim
but I don’t have FC’s appetite for what the kidnapper served
and would rather look at the whole picture
how the kidnapper killed and drugged for the abduction
and the consquential harms social and individual
Benevolence and malevolence are in different kinds and degrees
For Africa, Dambisa Moyo offers some interesting ideas
Didactic aptly describes my opinion on FC’s tiresome phrasal openers
If you have a better suggestion, I’m all ears
Otherwise, this is it
please don’t come back for more on FC’s unworthy gibberish
321 manu
British hypocrisy is blatant and significant
that Dr Sun was sheltered as a “troublemakers” to the Chinese government
but forbidden to practice medicine to alleviate people’s ailments
Where innate and cultural hypocrisy is part of a people’s milieu
prejudice becomes “normalized” as the way of world and life
That could be why you fail to see the relevance of British hypocrisy
looking one-sidedly at incidental or affected “benevolence”, ignoring its ulterior motives
Intelligent deficiency could also be a cause besides prejudice and hypocrisy
“I wouldn't characterize the CCP that way, but FC did”
Now which way is yours, which his and what about other ways?
“Addicted to misunderstood BIG words, FC irrelevantly asserted
“it is possible to be a Chinese patriot as well as anti-Communist”
as if everybody shares his misunderstandings about “patriot” and “communist”
I have no time for this kind of hotpot style “discussion” that's neither here nor there
FC’s didactic “it is important”, “don’t forget” and “in Beijing’s eyes”
have sufficiently widened the intellectual gulf between thinkers and utterers.
and I’d consider I’ve more than enough for you to day.
Good night.
"British hypocrisy is blatant and significant"
---well, that's certainly in the eye of the beholder. But even if true, your observation has no bearing on the author's initial observation that the Brits provided safe harbour to Dr. Sun. Their motivation for doing so makes no difference to the author's point. I've already explained this out to you.
"That could be why you fail to see the relevance of British hypocrisy looking one-sidedly at incidental or affected “benevolence”, ignoring its ulterior motives"
---actually, presence or absence of British hypocrisy had nothing to do with it. I have simply pointed out that this has no relevance to the author's initlal observation. BTW, if you think that nations/states act merely out of benevolence and with no ulterior motives, then I've got a bridge you would love to buy. You could actually begin by looking at just about anything China does in Africa, for starters. Criticizing nations simply because of the possible presence ulterior motives is for simpletons.
"Now which way is yours, which his and what about other ways?"
---my way is as I've stated. "his" way is as he stated. I'll leave you to re-read them at your leisure. As for the others, I leave that to your ample imagination.
As for your last paragraph, do you know what "didactic" means? Cuz it doesn't seem like you do.
What must be remembered, and is probably behind any Chinese govt. action, is that whatever is granted to HK in the way of 'democracy' will eventually have to be granted to the people of China as a whole. The govt. cannot be seen to permitting one part of China something which it is not prepared to grant nationwide.
So where to begin and how to progress - that is the question.
Will the answer be provided before 2017? Unlikely.
A Christian metaphor may help pandems see
FC’s absurdity about Tyler Brock’s nose and HK patriots
Matthew (7:21-) not all “Christian” go to heaven
christians who exorcise using the crucifix may join the devils they expelled
What kind of christians can enter heaven?
How in hell are christians distinguished from other hellmates?
Is Diaoyu landing a sufficient act to qualify a political activist as a patriot?
Can a government be unpatriotic and deny a patriot’s entry to the country?
Who are the patriotic Japanese, those who visit Yasukuni or those who don’t?
Patriotism is not as simplistic as FC naively presumes.
Deep in disoriented subservience, FC seems gratified
asserting that Chinese revolutionaries're safe in HK
“PRECISELY because it was under British administration”
A modicum of patriotism would’ve helped FC realize
British colonists weren’t here PRECISELY to provide Chinese safety
“Hong Kong is a bundle of contradictions” because of simpletons like FC
Addicted to misunderstood BIG words, he irrelevantly asserted
“it is possible to be a Chinese patriot as well as anti-Communist”
Is it impossible to be communist and patriotic?
If so, why were “Hong Kong's democrats the FIRST to WELCOME
the return of the British colony to Chinese SOVEREIGNTY” ?
What’s patriotism in HK if it can be both communist and anti-communist?
What’s in the name, COMMUNIST?
Is “colonial rule” better than “the communist paradise”?
FC is brainwashed
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.
“British colonists weren’t here PRECISELY for Chinese safety”
aptly rejoins FC’s farcically miscarried gratification 表錯情
British colonists turned a blind eye to Asian revolutionaries
plotting and implementing uprisings in Asian countries
But they forbad Dr Sun, graduate top of the class, from medical practice
healing pains and saving lives in HK
If like you, FC “wouldn't characterize the CCP as "communist"”
His “anti Communist Chinese patriots” are anti what and why?
Marx, Lenin, and Mao can’t be any more relevant
than "the Mongoose" or Opium Pottinger
You’ve missed the metaphorical introduction of my argument
For those who have strong love-hate feelings in equal measure
on seeing Chinese athletes receiving Olympic medals,
against the rising Chinese flag and the national anthem,
unrealistic hair-splitting can only result in mental confusions
leading the way to the psychiatrist
In any case, thanks for your considered comments
"But they forbad Dr Sun, graduate top of the class, from medical practice
healing pains and saving lives in HK"
---that's neither here nor there, and has no relevance to the author's point. The Brits gave Dr. Sun (and others) safe haven. Whether Dr. Sun was then allowed to practice medicine in that safe haven has no bearing on the point in question. Just as your previous observation that the Brits weren't in HK exclusively for the purposes of providing Dr. Sun safe haven has no bearing on the fact that they nonetheless did so.
"If like you, FC “wouldn't characterize the CCP as "communist"”"
---but you can't use what I said and try to stipulate that the author would have said the same thing. I wouldn't characterize the CCP that way, but the author did. "His" "anti-communists" are, quite simply put, anti-communist. As for why, well, to each their own.
Separating China as a country from CCP as a political party is anything but "unrealistic hair-splitting"; on the contrary, failure to perceive that substantial difference bespeaks a degree of myopia that even modern laser vision correction (the medical marvel of which Dr. Sun might approve) would be powerless to correct. Sadly, as I've noted elsewhere, it is an all-too-common affliction, and one that you may have already contracted. I would suggest immediate medical attention lest it lead to further decay of higher cortical function.




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