Friday, December 15, 2017

The silent enabler

I always wonder what is the rationale Hong Kong residents have when they are faced with the evidence that China is progressively chipping away at Hong Kong’s way of life (freedom of expression, rule-of-law, separation of powers, etc. All the good stuff in a free society).

One of the pundits, Michael Chugani, has made his position clear in his SCMP comment on the suggestion that tickets for the Express rail might be payable in RMB:

"Are you serious, Mr Secretary? Do you really want to pursue the folly of using China’s renminbi as the currency to buy express rail tickets in Hong Kong? Unthinkable as it may be for many Hongkongers, that’s exactly what Transport and Housing Secretary Frank Chan Fan said two weeks ago.
These were his exact words at a press conference about the railway’s logistics: “How about the kind of currency that we are [to be] using? Should it be the Hong Kong dollar or should it be renminbi?”
I can think of only two reasons for Chan’s astounding remark: he wasn’t thinking straight, or he is unfamiliar with the word “mainlandisation”.
Either way, it again proves that our officials have an inborn knack to shoot themselves in the foot.
Mainlandisation is anathema to many Hong Kong people. But it’s an inevitability that’s already eating away at the feel and culture of our city. Mainland developers have humbled local property tycoons in snapping up land. Mandarin has become a fixture in our finance sector. Even Hong Kong icon Cathay Pacific has lost its blue-chip status to a mainland firm on the Hang Seng Index.
Do we want to hasten the process by requiring Hongkongers to pay in renminbi for express rail tickets at West Kowloon?
The HK$84 billion Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail was built with Hong Kong dollars and paid for by local taxpayers. Its terminus is in West Kowloon, which will remain part of Hong Kong even after a section is placed under mainland jurisdiction.
Call me a localist if you will, but I am ruffled by the thought of having to pay in renminbi for a ticket on a railway built and paid for by Hong Kong.”

Sure, but these are details. The important part and the character of Hong Kong is not the fact that it is using the Hong Kong dollar to pay for a train ticket.

“Don’t confuse my brand of localism with that of the lunatics who equate it with self-rule. Independence is never going to happen, but drilling that into the brains of such people is mission impossible.

My definition of localism is accepting Hong Kong as a part of China but keeping at bay the kind of mainlandisation that dilutes our city’s character and culture. Many local stores, particularly high-end ones that cater to mainland tourists, already accept payment in renminbi.
But the express rail is not a store. It is a taxpayer-financed government entity intended to showcase Hong Kong as an international city efficiently linked to the world’s second-largest economy.”

Oh, so, now it is quite clear; for Chugani, mainlandisation is the irrelevant details. The big things that made Hong Kong what it is, he does not seem to understand or care for. What is now Hong Kong was the land nobody wanted before the Brits took it over, and then enshrined the principles of free enterprise, rule-of-law, freedom-of-the-press, freedom-of-expression, an independent judiciary, no communism… That is what makes Hong Kong what it is.
I am not saying that colonialism is preferable, that's not my point at all. But for sure, everything that a CCP-ruled China will be bringing is the antithesis of the Hong Kong character.

“But joint immigration at West Kowloon does scare many Hongkongers who fear being arrested by mainland officials on Hong Kong soil.
Opposition legislators have fanned this fear, insisting that joint immigration violates the Basic Law. They have used, and intend to continue using, every trick in the Legislative Council rule book to stall local legislation that will allow joint immigration.
Some in the opposition have even ridiculed the express rail link as a pricey showpiece that benefits business elites rather than ordinary Hongkongers.
Does Chan really want to throw them more red meat by considering renminbi as the fare currency? Such a move will play right into the hands of the opposition. What next, they will ask. Charging renminbi for plane tickets to the mainland? What happened to “one country, two systems”?
It is, of course, a given that passengers travelling from the mainland to West Kowloon should pay with renminbi. I don’t even mind if passengers to the mainland are given a choice of either currency.
But choosing renminbi as the only currency? No sir, Secretary Chan. Banish the thought here and now.”

See, that’s the crux of the problem with people such as Chugani. Either because of ignorance or naivety, he believes that his idea of the Hong Kong character will survive within China even if the core of Hong Kong political, economic, and legal system goes. It cannot, because it is the Hong Kong character! Let’s see how content Chugani is when the only thing left of Hong Kong is Cantonese opera and pineapple buns. 

As such, he is silent enabler; thinking that if we go quiet, the Chinese government is going to keep the status-quo. Unfortunately, the evidence of the past few years  support the exact opposite. And no, they are not all related to the Occupy movement (abducted booksellers rings any bells?)

I think that quite the opposite; China will accelerate the complete removal of the Hong Kong character unless the silent-enablers wake up and voice their dissent.

P.S. On a side-note, the SCMP has taken to refer to Hong Kong as a 'City' instead of a 'S.A.R.' lately…

2018-MAR-01: Another enabler, Alex Lo, reveals himself clearly in his latest viewpoint:
"The city’s limited democratic system cannot be reformed any time soon. But at least we can aim to maintain the status quo and not give Beijing reasons to interfere.
After all, it is our constitutional duty under the Basic Law to maintain China’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, and to realise universal suffrage in Hong Kong. This way, we may yet earn back Beijing’s goodwill, and lay the groundwork for future political reform."