‘Self-determination’ isn’t the same as Hong Kong independence, Li Fei and others must see that
I write to offer, with all humility, words of advice to Basic Law Committee chair Li Fei and all others involved in the discussions about the Basic Law of the Hong Kong SAR, Legislative Council elections and the barring of candidates for elected office.
I am a UK-born British citizen, and have been an English speaker for all of my 74 years and a teacher of English language and literature since 1962.
Language usage will always cause controversy and misunderstanding, which is why it is surely wise to take care when making definitive statements and to seek help from various sources when challenging others on the meaning of their language usage.
In your report, “Calls for Hong Kong self-determination as unlawful as independence talk, senior Beijing official says” (February 23), I read, “Li Fei] said talk of self-determination was in breach of the Basic Law … and on par with the promotion of independence. ‘They are the same, no matter what they said’, said Li … ‘They just shifted the use of words, but the nature is the same’.”
I am far from convinced that these words and phrases do contain the same meaning. “Independence” is about being able to do things without constraints provided by others.
Thus many parents believe their role is to lead and encourage their children to grow and develop until they can leave home and live independent lives. An independent state is able to define and rule itself without control from another state.
“Self-determination” is not a synonym for independence. In the context used by many in Hong Kong, it argues that the people should be granted the opportunity to decide for themselves how they wish to be governed. One option offered could be independence, another could be to continue as an SAR of the People’s Republic of China. There could be other options offered.
We could all learn the discipline of listening, particularly to those whose views we find disputable.
It is very easy to create disharmony when anyone makes assumptions about others’ beliefs based on statements and not actions. Hence the concern many have about expecting administrators to make judgments about election candidates’ intentions and views on any topic without sufficient knowledge of their thinking and activities.
Is it within the remit of administrators to pronounce on the intentions and beliefs of anyone? Isn’t that the function of the electorate?
I hope my words will be received in the spirit intended, as a helpful contribution to an important discussion.
Patrick Wood, Taikoo Shing