Hopes for a united Hong Kong rest with the people and how they vote in upcoming by-elections
Gary Wong Chi-him says candidates in the Legislative Council by-elections should respect each other and the Basic Law. How Hong Kong votes will determine whether its spiral of polarisation can be broken
Bernard Chan, the Executive Council convenor, has criticised Hong Kong soccer fans for booing the national anthem, as this risks punishment from Fifa and other bodies, and may force the Hong Kong team to play future matches behind closed doors.
This was not the first instance of a disservice to Hong Kong. Other examples include lawmaker Junius Ho Kwan-yiu’s call to “kill mercilessly” pro-independence advocates, and the oath-taking saga involving six lawmakers that caused them to lose their seats. This weakened the veto power of non-establishment lawmakers and even led to an interpretation of the Basic Law by Beijing. With Legislative Council by-elections due within months, what expectations do we have for future candidates, to break the cycle of polarisation and prevent continued acts of disservice?
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I hope candidates can focus on resolving the dissension within society, rather than attacking opponents as enemies. Hong Kong has long been a pluralistic society, and any government policy is bound to receive both support and opposition. I do not expect candidates to transcend the blue and yellow camps, but do expect them to be upright, and learn to respect their opponents as well as fundamental procedures.
My wish is that candidates realise it is necessary to respect the Basic Law, as well as the “bottom line” of Hong Kong’s relationship with the mainland. This is the best way to defend our freedoms and fight for democratic progress. Rational dialogue does not equate to weakness or giving up on one’s principles. I hope candidates and political leaders can act wisely to solve problems in a pragmatic way, to narrow social dissonance.
I further hope candidates can understand our youth and help in their development. Their passion is what gives youth vitality and hope. Young people often express discontent in response to the inadequacies of adults or those in power. They may choose inappropriate means, but the discontent they express is not without reason. Political leaders must understand and care for the next generation, respect their values of embracing democracy and freedom, respond to their needs with determined effort, and let them see hope in the future.
Looking back at the administration’s first 100 days, we can see the government’s will to mend social rifts, to hold a dialogue with the public, and to find solutions in response to economic and social challenges. But ultimately, it will depend on how Hong Kong people make known their positions in the upcoming Legco by-elections, to determine whether it is possible to narrow the polarisation in our political culture.
Gary Wong Chi-him is co-convenor of the Path of Democracy