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Interview: Lawmaker Claudia Mo on Hong Kong’s press freedom and self-determination

Claudia Mo Man-ching is a pan-democratic politician and a member of the Civic Party. Formerly a journalist, Mo was elected to the Legislative Council in 2012 and has served as a lawmaker for the past four years. She is concerned about a range of topics in Hong Kong, including English education, ethnic minorities, animal welfare and press freedom.

Claudia Mo.

Claudia Mo. File photo: HKFP.

Following the end of the Legislative Council session in July, the city quickly diverted its attention to the upcoming elections in September, with many lawmakers seeking re-election.

Claudia Mo Man-ching is no exception. While campaigning at Kowloon’s Star Ferry pier, the incumbent from the Kowloon West constituency reflected on her term in the legislature.

“I have mixed feelings about it. On one hand I have failed,” she said.

“When it comes to political reform, which is probably the most important issue, we haven’t failed. We managed to foil that official attempt to try to introduce forced universal suffrage into Hong Kong,” said Mo.

“But though we managed to avoid the bad, we haven’t managed to actually bring about the good, so we’ll fight on,” she added.

claudia mo

Claudia Mo Man-ching. File photo: HKFP.

“I wouldn’t say that I have any high hopes, but I’ll do my best and I hope Hong Kong voters would notice what I have done in the last four years,” said Mo when asked what she thinks her biggest re-election challenge is.

Mo said that she had no intention of signing the controversial declaration form requiring candidates to agree that Hong Kong is an inalienable part of China.

“I’m not particularly worried either, because as far as I’m concerned I’m not a politician by nature or by training. If I’m not allowed [to run for election] I’ll just retire. I was a journalist for 30 years and I think upholding some basic stance in life is very important.”

claudia mo

Photo: Gene Lin/HKFP.

Press Freedom

Formerly a journalist at international and local news outlets such as Agence France-Presse, TVB and RTHK, Mo said that press freedom is a particularly important cause for her.

“When it comes to press freedom, you can’t do much about it, because you can’t say that it’s the government’s failure to… retain Hong Kong’s free press status.”

“It’s so obvious there is [a] political atmosphere that is really challenging editorial independence. There’s hardly any media boss who’s not a member of the CPPCC [Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference] or the NPC, and if you work for that sort of proprietor, as a journalist, a reporter, an editor, you know how to behave.”

“Self-censorship, for reasons of advertising revenue, for reasons of political favours and so on – it’s so obvious to any layman, you don’t need to be a member of the trade to see what’s happening, it’s very sad.”

She added that the obstacle seems to be “unstoppable” and that online journalism is becoming more important.

When asked if she thinks these issues are among her voters’ priorities, Mo said that elections cannot be too “audience driven.”

“I do have my own priorities: namely press freedom, English education, ethnic minority and animal rights.”

Claudia Mo.

Claudia Mo. Photo: Todd Darling/HKFP.

Self-determination

In the past, Mo has been an advocate for the preservation of what she calls “Hong Kong values.” Her campaign slogan for the 2016 LegCo election is “Hong Kong Self-Determination” with an emphasis on the rejection of the social phenomenon known as “mainlandisation.”

“I’m very much into the so-called localism trend. I was one of the first to introduce that [idea] into the city.”

“I hate this word, the ‘localism’ trend… It implies claustrophobia, xenophobia, what have you – but it’s not the case,” Mo continued. “This localist expression basically means we’re anti-communist – Chinese communist.”

claudia mo

Claudia Mo Man-ching. File photo: HKFP.

Mo said that she hopes people would realise they need to preserve Hong Kong’s identity, spirit and core values. When asked what kind of value makes someone a Hong Kong person, Mo said that there is no particular definition for it.

“I think as long as any person takes Hong Kong, the whole part of it, as his home and is a permanent resident here, I think that qualifies the Hongkonger status,” she said.

Mo added that when she is talking about Hong Kong values, those are mainly against communist influence in Hong Kong – namely corruption, self-censorship of the media and abuse of power.

Claudia Mo. File Photo: HKFP.

Claudia Mo. File Photo: HKFP.

The Future

“I don’t know how to envision that. The young are now talking about 2047, when the Basic Law will expire,” said Mo when asked how she would envision an independent Hong Kong.

“It’s not for me to say ‘I support’ or ‘I do not support’ Hong Kong independence, because it’s irrelevant. It’s really a whole Hong Kong issue, I wish we could have a referendum and Hong Kong people can freely express their opinions, but as of today I’m actually quite confident that most Hong Kong people will say no.”

“We’re talking about 2047 – it’s a solid 30 years away. I won’t be here anymore… 30 years, let the young decide what they want,” she said.

Interview: Lawmaker Claudia Mo on Hong Kong's press freedom and self-determination