When lawmakers go low, the rest of Hong Kong must go high
Alice Wu says the Legislative Council has become such a farce that we must simply refuse to follow its lead and start our own political conversations based on moderation
The pro-establishment and anti-establishment camps in the Legislative Council may have finally found common ground, and they did so by swapping places and walking in the other’s shoes. That was what happened last week when pro-establishment lawmakers walked out and triggered the quorum bell.
As they headed out of the chamber, they mouthed off, giving the same reasons for leaving that their opponents had used many times before. Then, the anti-establishment camp feigned the same moral outrage that the pro-establishment camp had used on them before.
Inside the Legco walkout: how pro-establishment lawmakers used opponents’ own tactics to turn the tables
They played each other’s roles so well that it was hard to tell the actors were different this time. The only regrettable part may have been “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung throwing luncheon meat at the pro-establishment group a little too soon. Had Leung waited a little longer, we might have been fooled into believing all the feigned surprise and outrage.
Politics leaves us discombobulated. We can hardly believe our lawmakers are telling us they “had no choice but to do it” – with a straight face. The depth and breadth of the hypocrisy on display was unprecedented but, then again, we have had so many of these shockers that it is hard to keep up.
It is unfortunate that politics – here and abroad – has descended to such a low. Excuse me for borrowing words from Donald Trump, but things are truly “so bad it’s a disaster, a total disaster”.
It’s going to stink like rotting luncheon meat until at least November. There’s no telling if we’ve hit rock bottom. When localist Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang came out from the chamber last Wednesday saying “let them be stupid”, after the pro-Beijing camp’s stunt denied him a second chance to take his oath, we know that hope of a turnaround does not rest with him. Clearly it was lost on him that this all came about because of his own stupidity the week before.
The good news? Maybe the next time any of them try to mount their moral high horse, they won’t be able to. The rest of us won’t let them. We will let them know we see through their act, and we want no part in their race to the bottom.
A vicious war has been waged on Hongkongers to surrender reason and accept a troubling sort of politics that knows no bounds. Our notions of basic decency, respect, honour, duty, integrity and responsibility have been challenged. Our politicians have come to expect us to embrace ignorance. Their continued push for more polarisation, and for us to follow their paths, can only be stopped if we refuse to be thrown into the pit of political madness, where words do not matter, actions have no consequences and the shackles of civility are forcefully removed.
If they have lost all understanding and capability for moderation, then we must teach them that lesson. We must first reject their attempts to rile us. We can lead our own political conversations without following their lead, and we can, at the end of the day, respect one another without insulting people’s intelligence, sacrificing decency, or resorting to their immature and disgusting showboating.
That would be us taking the high road. US first lady Michelle Obama put it well: “When they go low, we go high.” Well, instead of trying to judge who went lower – because there is no point in doing that now – we need to go high. We need to show our lawmakers that their “politics” is toxic to us. We will not be taken hostage by their vitriol, fear and demonisation.
And we’ve still got the courts. However reluctant we are to accept the fact, the latest saga is now in the law’s hands. If we lose faith in even that, we are allowing these clowns to destroy everything that past generations have worked hard to build, and a future that our next generation deserves. The courts need to be given the chance to rule in accordance with the law, nothing else.
Until then, we need to deprive the bad political theatre here of an audience.
Alice Wu is a political consultant and a former associate director of the Asia Pacific Media Network at UCLA