Public Eye
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 June, 2014, 4:49am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 June, 2014, 5:27am

Referendum versus white paper can only result in zero reform

BIO

Michael Chugani is a Hong Kong-born American citizen who has worked for many years as a journalist in Hong Kong, the USA and London. Aside from being a South China Morning Post columnist he also hosts TVB’s Straight Talk show, a radio show and writes for two Chinese-language publications. He has published a number of books on politics which contain English and Chinese versions.
 

Referendum versus white paper can only result in zero reform

We're the boss, said the central government with its sudden release of a white paper spelling out its policies for Hong Kong. No, we're the boss, retorted over 700,000 Hongkongers by voting in an unofficial referendum on democracy, condemned as illegal by Beijing. So, who is the real boss? The people showed they were boss in 2003 when half a million marched against the policies of Tung Chee-hwa and the central government. Tung's subsequent resignation was largely seen as being on Beijing's orders. But will Beijing buckle this time by withdrawing or modifying the white paper? Unlikely. The stakes are too high. As Public Eye wrote elsewhere in this paper, we can fight but we won't get what we want. The white paper and the huge "referendum" vote have so worsened mutual mistrust that a political reform deal now looks virtually impossible.

 

One man, one vote, two bosses; what's a chief executive to do?

Who will the chief executive be answerable to if, against the odds, we do reach a deal for one person, one vote in 2017 - the voters or the central government? Beijing's white paper states that the central government "issues directives to the Chief Executive". That means Beijing is the boss. What about the people who elect the chief executive? Aren't they the boss? Isn't that what democracy is supposed to mean? What if the people who elected the chief executive don't like a directive from Beijing? Should he then listen to the people who elected him or the central government?

Anger over racial insensitivity is missing the equality point

When Public Eye worked in Seattle years ago, a local ethnic-Chinese politician got in a temper over racially insensitive place names that had survived into modern America. In our interview with her in Cantonese she referred to African-Americans as huk kwai - black devils. It never occurred to her she was being as racist as those who came up with names like Chink Hill, which has since been renamed. In my experience, some Chinese-Americans - whether from Hong Kong, Taiwan, or locally born - go berserk when they feel they have been racially targeted. Seattle's outraged Chinese community once staged protests outside a restaurant which displayed a 1920s poster showing a caricature of a Chinese man with a long pigtail. The owner pointed out that the same picture was on display at the China Club in Hong Kong. More recently, outraged Chinese-Americans have demanded apologies from US radio and TV hosts, such as Jimmy Kimmel, for racially insensitive comments. But shouldn't such outrage be applied to insensitivity directed at all racial groups? Where was the outrage in our predominantly Chinese population when a Chinese male actor donned a curly wig and dark make-up for comic effect to play a Filipino maid in an insurance commercial? The ad was withdrawn after criticism from domestic helpers' rights groups and the Equal Opportunities Commission. What if a Filipino actor had used such racial stereotyping to portray a Chinese person? And where was the outrage when local textbooks depicted Filipinos as maids and South Asians as construction workers?

Michael Chugani is a columnist and television show host. mickchug@gmail.com

 

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