By Ken Lam.
In a society with sound public governance, it is often an overstatement to conclude that a particular leader alone is to blame for the failure of policies or occasional commotion in society. In the case of Hong Kong, the process of decision-making has long followed a set of established procedures which leaves no room for any single person to pervert the system. But in recent years, such widely respected established order has been gradually corrupted as revealed by numerous incidents that are taking the society backwards. It has become clearer than ever to the people of Hong Kong that a single person can indeed wreak havoc with our society.
Going all out just to win another term
The independence of Hong Kong is a notion that would have never entered the mainstream public discourse had it not been for Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, who drew the focus to what was a non-issue at the time in his opening remarks when presenting his Policy Address at the Legislative Council last year.
Few realized back then that the target audience of such disproportionate mentioning of an unlikely secession attempt was Beijing, not the general public of Hong Kong. Not until recently has it occurred to many that it is part of a plan for a struggling leader to seek a further term in office by conjuring up a fight against what was then a non-existent attempt to break away from China. What then followed was a series of unfortunate events and a self-fulfilling prophecy that has turned the demand for the city’s independence into a genuine one with ever-growing support.
Any politician who is seeking re-election usually would either try to play down (or cover up) his or her failures, or make an effort to achieve more, and sometimes both. Hong Kong’s core values and long-term stability have again taken a great hit lately as seen by the great shake-up at the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). This was triggered by an investigation into a case of possible misconduct by someone in the city’s top public office, or the use of administrative measures with questionable legal basis to suppress the overblown movement for Hong Kong independence. It is evident that nothing can stop someone from getting another five years in the office.
With chaos come votes — a paradoxical approach to winning the election
Ever since the Umbrella Movement in 2014, Hong Kong has entered a period of political upheaval with the election of the District Council, Legislative Council and the Chief Executive held each year between 2015 and 2017. Meanwhile, the SAR government has shown no intention to act as a mediator and to communicate with people of different political stances for the sake of social stability. Instead, it has only helped to create more division. In its latest move, the government has even introduced a so-called confirmation form as an additional hurdle to strip those who advocate independence for Hong Kong of their rights to be elected as enshrined in the Basic Law, the city’s constitution. A political move masked in administrative measure so crude and badly justified has shocked many in Hong Kong. But to those with a hidden agenda, the more chaotic the better, according to their “highest principle of struggle”.
Deprived of their candidacy for the Legislative Council, some ‘candidates’ now tell the public that “revolution is the only way out”. Such rhetoric no doubt would make those in power more alert to dissent than ever. Setting aside the notion that now there is only one option left in the realm of politics, if there was to be another “Fishball Incident” — a term that refers to the Mong Kok unrest during the Chinese New Year earlier this year — the pro-establishment camp would only stand to gain in the upcoming election as in such scenario social stability would likely be the top concern for many voters. It could be said that putting the issue of Hong Kong independence in the limelight is an indirect way to campaign for pro-establishment candidates in the September election.
Time for damage control or else some would try fish in troubled waters
It has been over half a year since the “Fishball Incident”, but till this day, one cannot help feeling there is something fishy about such spontaneous eruption of violence with many mysteries unsolved: Among the masked participants in the street unrest, quite a few were unusually well-organized, sturdily built and skillful in creating chaos. What was the hidden agenda behind the seemingly organized crowd? To cite another example, why did officials from the central government in Beijing dismiss the incident simply as “trivial” when local officials had been condemning the unrest in every possible way?
As the election day draws closer, disorder of such magnitude may once again arise. As grievances mount, some young people who feel increasingly frustrated may again try radical means to make themselves heard. A word of advice for these young activists is that no matter what action they choose to take, it would be wise for them to take into account the possible repercussion on the election in the coming months.
The gravest problem and challenge facing Hong Kong today is that incapable and deceitful politicians will do anything and resort to tricks no matter how dirty as long as it can help them to cling to power. For the rest of us, it is our responsibility to think of how we can replace these people with suitable ones so as to arrest our city’s decline.
Ken Lam is an IT company R&D manager.