Public Eye

Celebrate the handover anniversary? Hongkongers should ask if we’re better off now than 20 years ago

The fault line now splitting the city is ideological, not political

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 June, 2017, 6:24pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 June, 2017, 10:00pm

To celebrate or not to celebrate? Are you among the Hongkongers asking themselves this question as we mark the 20th anniversary of the city’s return to Chinese rule? If yes, why? Isn’t reuniting with the motherland a cause for celebration?

Yet here we are, 20 years after the colonisers left, grappling with a question that in itself suggests something is terribly wrong.

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Before you decide whether or not to celebrate, ask yourself whether Hong Kong is better or worse off than it was 20 years ago. Is it better to have a governor imposed on us by the British monarchy or a chief executive elected through an imperfect democratic system?

Is it better to have a cabinet filled by bosses of British business houses and a British garrison commander or one that is top-heavy with the chief executive’s allies? Is it better to have a legislature of British-appointed yes-men or one that is partially directly elected and partially indirectly elected in a process favouring Beijing?

Is it better to be ruled by colonisers or communist countrymen of your own kind?

Is it better to be ruled by colonisers or communist countrymen of your own kind? Now that’s the crunch question. Depending on how you answer it, the other answers will automatically fall in place. That’s because the fault line that splits our city is ideological, not political.

We say we want so-called true democracy but the truth is many Hongkongers don’t mind being ruled by democratic colonisers who gave us no democracy rather than by communists who give us some democracy.

The ideological split runs so deep that national education is deemed brainwashing but talk of independence is touted as academic freedom. No one thinks twice about Queen Victoria’s statue in Victoria Park, but try erecting one of Deng Xiaoping, the architect of one country, two systems. It would be defaced within a day.

Such ideological hostility won’t change even if Beijing allows us full democracy. Many Hong Kong millennials find the mainland’s restrictive regime too alien. As for the post-millennials, forget about it. They don’t even consider themselves Chinese.

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This is the Hong Kong that awaits President Xi Jinping 20 years after reunification. Patriots will celebrate in one part of Victoria Park; protesters will begin a street march in another. That this hallmark of freedom has survived 20 years of mainland rule says a lot.

To celebrate or not is a personal choice, but it is the duty of Hongkongers to make sure we give Xi the impression we are a peaceful and civilised society.

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