Both Beijing and Hong Kong need therapy

Alice Wu says to improve relations, both Beijing and Hong Kong must deal with their inner demons that prevent compromise

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 July, 2014, 3:24am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 July, 2014, 3:24am

When emotions run high, no one expects rational discussion. When emotions are over-the-top high, we should expect the unexpected. So those who were hoping for some relief after the July 1 march - thought to be an opportunity for people to "let off steam" - have underestimated the force of the emotions.

Events since that day show that they've yet to run their course. From a sermon that elicited vitriol to another man of the cloth calling a critic "a dog", they tell us that the storm rages on, and we're in the path of more damage. There is hatred so vile that we're looking for blood.

There is no better time to ask ourselves, honestly, whether we need to cool down. The answer should be clear: cooler heads must prevail if we're going to survive this, wherever one stands on the political divide.

Is the chief executive the root of this city's problems? If so, is it the office, or the person with the title? If the problem was Leung Chun-ying, then the solution would be simple. But it's not just Leung; it's the office. It has suffered a crisis of legitimacy from the start. The problem is the system - it has produced three chief executives so far who cannot do any right.

The need to change the system is clear, but as we have seen from how little ground we've covered in constitutional reform, it isn't as simple as it sounds.

Rational discussion and compromise - the very essentials that make politics work - are needed now more than ever, to replace all the deafening histrionics and hysteria.

But that's not the only reason we've been blown off course. A lot of other things have been pulled into that emotional vortex, including the State Council's white paper on "one country, two systems".

And then there are things that aren't so obvious to the naked eye - the "inner demons" Jasper Tsang Yok-sing warned about last October.

Tsang was referring to the doubts and distrust of those north of the Shenzhen River. But it's hard not to see that those of us south of the river have been living with our own demons, too.

When both sides are similarly afflicted, fanning the flames is easy.

The source of the fire is complex and messy. It stems from the insecurities that plague both Hongkongers and Beijing. Hongkongers' insecurities aren't hard to see or understand. Beijing has - intentionally or not - fed them over the years. As for Beijing's insecurities, the white paper says it all. But we have done our part in affirming those insecurities.

It's no wonder, then, Tsang recently lamented that, "The most worrying development in the past few weeks is both Beijing and Hongkongers falling into a vicious cycle that is not conducive to narrowing differences on electoral reform".

In other words, we are stuck in a black hole caused by two worlds of insecurities, feeding off each other.

Is there a way out? Possibly, but it will be painful, and it must begin with having the courage to address those underlying insecurities. Instead of casting out people, Beijing and Hongkongers need to cast out the fears - those demons - that cripple our way forward.

Alice Wu is a political consultant and a former associate director of the Asia Pacific Media Network at UCLA


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