A gentler, kinder Hong Kong will usher in closer ties with mainland China

Tik Chi-yuen believes that a middle path of open-minded negotiation will succeed in arresting the decline in cross-border relations where both blind support and outright rejection have failed

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 September, 2015, 4:51pm
UPDATED : Friday, 07 April, 2017, 4:19pm

Relations between mainland China and Hong Kong are complicated, even frustrating. That is the reality. Accepting it and managing the conflicts from a wider perspective is our only choice if we want Hong Kong to move forward. That is why a group of friends and I have founded a new political party, the Third Side.

We do not indulge a single opinion while dismissing others. This open attitude is necessary in our cosmopolitan city, where government leaders at all levels, from Beijing to the SAR, and political parties of all stripes play a role. Further, all in Hong Kong, including professionals, locals and immigrants, and the various groups of minorities, all have a stake in the city's well-being. As a team serving Hong Kong's interests, we should respect one another.

Likewise, mainland China's connections with Hong Kong deserve attention and respect. The acceptance of China's status and role does not mean we have to force ourselves to agree with someone else, or tie our hands and do nothing. Neither blind support nor absolute rejection of the authorities is sensible; both are too extreme.

A rational discussion that does not seek to press the other side to change can generate new alternatives and hope 

The Third Side respects differences, and believes dissimilarities create possibilities for dialogue or progress. A rational discussion that does not seek to press the other side to change can generate new alternatives and hope. For truthful communication, we have to be objective, analytical, courageous enough to speak the truth, and open-minded enough to hear it from someone else.

Thus we advocate the importance of understanding the needs of both Hong Kong and mainland China, to encourage cooperative negotiation when conflicts arise, and support wise solutions that cater to the interests of both sides. Take political reform. It had seemed there were only two views: those for and against. Where was our natural sympathy for the other side and a third view?

To bring confronting sides closer together, we will seek to break the issue into smaller parts, so that some common ground could be found before tackling the deep differences. In this way, we may build good relations with the mainland, which is essential if Hong Kong is to continue to flourish.

Instead of violence or coercion, we choose gentleness. A softer attitude can reduce the intensity of bad feelings and confrontations, especially on controversial issues.

In reality, Beijing wants our city to be stable and prosperous. This wish drives government officials to try to negotiate with various parties to gain a better understanding of others. Our communication with the mainland can be improved, provided that Hong Kong people are humble and gentle.

There's no need to lower our self-esteem, however. Neither should one flatter unnecessarily, seek excuses, or discriminate against a fragile opponent. One should express a viewpoint with patience, be tolerant of differences and continue tabling constructive ideas. The may be the only path towards a fruitful relationship between mainland China and Hong Kong.

If we value Hong Kong's stability, peace and pragmatism and manage well its relationship with the mainland, this Pearl of the Orient will continue to shine.

Such tactics may seem to be wishful thinking, yet they are actually applied by Harvard University's Project on Negotiation, which seeks an "effective negotiation processes to reduce the risk of war". Whether such techniques will work in Hong Kong is open for discussion.

One thing is sure: we will make every effort to stop the city from sinking into further political battles.

Dr Tik Chi-yuen is convenor of the new political party Third Side