Okay, kids, that’s enough puerile hijinks, banner-waving and profanity; it’s time to grow up, get serious about both yourselves and your city and, of course, take the oath.
If Hong Kong’s brash new flock of youthful lawmakers did not hear this message loud and clear from the public after their shameful shenanigans during the swearing-in ceremony at the Legislative Council last week, then they are even more stubborn and immature than their actions have already demonstrated. We’ll see this Wednesday, when they will be given a second chance to make the standard LegCo pledge of allegiance without inserting the f-word or otherwise insulting the Hong Kong and central governments, not to mention just about everybody else in the city.
Hopefully, after a week of reflection, Yau Wai-ching and Sixtus “Baggio” Leung Chun-hang of Youngspiration and Edward Yiu Chung-yim of the Architectural, Surveying, Planning and Landscape functional constituency have figured out a way to underscore their anti-establishment sentiments without resorting to mangling and defiling the oath they are expected to take and thus subsequently getting booted out of the council to which they were only recently elected.
Voters who shook the status quo by catapulting these three radical localists into the LegCo chamber presumably wanted them to actually serve a full, four-year term and to use their newly acquired office as a bully pulpit for change and reform—not to self-immolate before that term even begins in the futile flames of obscene rhetoric and juvenile protests.
Other rebel lawmakers such as independent Eddie Chu Hoi-dick and Demosisto’s Nathan Law Kwun-chung managed both to make known their opposition to the powers-that-be at home and in Beijing while at the same time safely navigating their way through the oath. Indeed, in contrast to Yau, Leung and Yiu, the elder statesman of Hong Kong radicalism, “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, appeared positively dignified as he recited the oath while hoisting a yellow umbrella in homage to the pro-democracy “umbrella revolution” that swept over the city for 79 consecutive days in 2014.
The terrible threesome added cheeky words of disrespect as they recited their oaths—with Yau’s “the People’s Refucking of Chee-na” (in place of the required “People’s Republic of China”) taking the prize for subadult expressions of protest. For good measure, Yau and Leung also carried banners that read “Hong Kong is not China.”
In the aftermath of the rejection of their oaths by LegCo Secretary-General Kenneth Chen Wei-on, their middle-school brand of logic and dissent has continued as they insist, again with cheeky disdain, that they did nothing wrong. After all, it’s true in a strictly literal sense that Hong Kong is not China. As for the trio’s deliberately disrespectful rewordings and mispronunciations, don’t blame them for any confusion caused by their local accents—Leung called his particular manner of expression “Ap Lei Chau,” after the small, densely populated island located off Aberdeen in Hong Kong’s Southern District not known for any distinctive patois.
For those who don’t know, “Chee-na” sounds a lot like the derogatory term used for China by the Japanese during their occupation of the country in the 1930s and ‘40s. Yau’s “the People’s Refucking of China” speaks for itself.
Hey, all this grand-standing and wordplay would be really clever and funny—if, that is, the Hong Kong electorate were composed of people mostly aged 12 and younger. As it stands, however, the vast majority of us would like to see a far more serious approach to resisting the alarming erosion of the city’s autonomy, core values and freedoms enshrined in the Basic Law. But that’s not happening.
Nearly 20 years after the handover from British to Chinese rule, Hong Kong’s older generation of LegCo pan-democrats has failed to bring about any significant change to the city’s top-down, Beijing-controlled politics. Indeed, things have gotten worse under their watch, giving rise to a new radicalism that has brought violence and the no-compromise language of abuse and ridicule to the LegCo chamber.
Let’s face it, these days most ordinary Hong Kong people would rather go to a funeral—even their own—than a rally sponsored by any of the city’s politicians, no matter their party or ideology. The histrionic posturing, mindless sloganeering and divisive tactics and rhetoric are a complete turnoff.
Just witness the melee that preceded the vote for the new LegCo president, which followed fast on the heels of the farcical oath-taking political theatre staged by the three localists. Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen, an altogether uninspiring, pro-Beijing lawmaker from the Business and Professionals Alliance functional constituency, was finally elected president on a vote of 38-0 following procedural manipulations by his supporters and a walkout by pan-democrats who challenged his dual nationality in the United Kingdom, forbidden under the Basic Law.
Leung claimed he had renounced his British nationality, but he waited until the day of the vote to produce letters from the British government showing that he had registered to do so. That didn’t satisfy the pan-dems, and so chaos ensued.
It would be nice and neat if you could blame the newly elected radicals—Yau, Leung and Yiu—for this additional, opening-day LegCo embarrassment but, their oaths having earlier been rejected, they were barred from voting for president. Even without them, it seems LegCo remains a hopelessly fractious and ineffectual body as a new term opens.
Maybe it’s not just Hong Kong’s newest and youngest lawmakers who need to grow up. They all do.