City Beat

Walking a mile in Beijing’s shoes could serve Hong Kong politicians well in future

The will of 1.3 billion people on the mainland is a powerful consideration

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 November, 2016, 2:54pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 November, 2016, 10:35pm

Writing this weekly column reminds me, from time to time, how certain Chinese sayings can best describe the recent developments in Hong Kong. Over the past week, “sheshenchudi” seems to be one that captures what’s going on – good that there is an equivalent in English for it: “put yourself in another’s shoes”.

The National People’s Congress has, for the fifth time, given its interpretation of the city’s mini-constitution due to the oath-taking saga of two young lawmakers-elect with localist platforms advocating independence. While the majority of Hongkongers do not support any attempt at independence, there are those who don’t appreciate the NPC’s latest move either. One common concern is: will the authority and independence of Hong Kong’s courts be eroded?

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In a politically divided society like Hong Kong, “yes” and “no” arguments are unavoidable. But it’s here that Hongkongers need to also realise a mainland perspective. An episode during the recent meeting between President Xi Jingping and Taiwan’s Kuomintang chairwoman Hung Hsiu-chu could well be a reference. Xi told the visiting Hung that his party “would be overthrown by the people” if it failed to deal with independence activities on the island, because “the 1.3 billion people on the mainland would not agree to Taiwan’s independence”.

The Xi-Hung meeting happened a few days after the Communist Party’s sixth plenum, in which it was reported that members of the central committee had expressed anger over the oath-taking saga in Hong Kong and agreed to take decisive measures to tackle it.

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Xi may or may not have had Hong Kong on his mind when meeting Hung, but the message here was loud and clear: without answering to the people’s will on the mainland, the ruling party’s status will be at stake.

So when it comes to Hong Kong, like it or not, the reality is that when some in the city question whether it’s necessary for Beijing to “exercise its power to the fullest” by taking such a resolute measure – as retired judge and chief executive aspirant Woo Kwok-hing put it, it “would not look good” for the NPC to make such a ruling even if it had the right to do so – it “would not look good” either if it did nothing to show its determination to stamp out independence advocacy in Hong Kong.

Apparently, the public sentiment of a much greater population up north outweighs concerns in Hong Kong

Apparently, the public sentiment of a much greater population up north outweighs concerns in Hong Kong, let alone local voices also supporting the interpretation.

In this regard, veteran moderate pan-democrat Ronny Tong Ka-wah is one of the few keeping a clear mind. He was frank in sharing his worries in one of his Chinese-language columns, saying that he must thank God if “one country, two systems” manages to survive in the next five years, given the political ignorance of some of the city’s politicians who keep challenging Beijing’s patience and bottom line.

Ever since the 18th Party Congress, which confirmed Xi’s leadership, he has kept emphasising that the party should have full confidence “in our path, in our theories and in our system”. Hongkongers do not have to memorise this kind of jargon, but should at least be mindful that it is a new leadership with a powerful weapon: the anti-independence will of 1.3 billion people.

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This could well explain why Basic Law Committee chairman Li Fei did not even bother to come down to Hong Kong this time to “explain” the rationale to Hongkongers, as Beijing used to do in previous interpretations. Instead, he went to Shenzhen to brief a group of mainland and Hong Kong experts, who were expected to further communicate Beijing’s message to the whole country.

For the good of Hong Kong, hopefully, walking a mile in Beijing’s shoes will help provide our politicians with more political wisdom on the long journey of future dealings with Beijing.