Fri, Jul 04, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Flogging a dead horse

On Tuesday, Hong Kong marked the sixth anniversary of its handover to China -- and more than 500,000 people hit the street to protest the expected passage of an anti-subversion law and other grievances. In mere six years, the erstwhile crown jewel of Asia has nose-dived into the despicable state it is in today. Can things get any worse? They sure can. This is only the beginning of the end to human rights in Hong Kong.

The impact of the proposed law will have a severe impact on the daily life of the people in the territory. As now drafted, the law would allow the police to enter private residences at any time to conduct searches, people could be accused of treason for expressing anti-war sentiments or they could be accused of inciting a rebellion by criticizing the government in such a way as to inspire a riot. If a war breaks out between Taiwan and China, any speech made in support of Taipei will be deemed an effort to split the motherland. Many other egregious violations of universally recognized human rights can be openly and blatantly violated under the said law.

No wonder many Western democracies, including the US, the UK and the EU, have expressed grave concerns for this latest development.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) made a three-day visit to the territory earlier this week -- although he skipped town just before the demonstration got underway. He tried to reassure people, saying that the new law would "most certainly not influence all the legally vested rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong, including reporters."

But no one is going to buy Wen's words, since six years ago Beijing promised to the people of Hong Kong that their way of life would remain the same for at least 50 years and that in fact their lives would only become better once they were unified with the "motherland." With those flowery words still fresh in the public's mind, just look at what has happened since then.

People in Hong Kong have very little to celebrate. The unemployment rate has gone from a mere 2.8 percent in 1997 to a shocking 8.2 percent. On the other hand, economic growth had declined from 5.2 percent in 1997 to an estimated 1.5 percent for this year. This has much do with the increasing level of economic integration between the territory and the mainland, as well as the deliberate efforts by Beijing to give top priority to the development of Shanghai as its primary business center.

As for Taiwan, the lesson from the plight of Hong Kong invites much thought. It is no secret that Beijing had tried to shape Hong Kong into a "one country, two systems" model in order to lure Taiwan into accepting the same model. In this regard, it has failed miserably. The harsh reality is that despite promises from Beijing, once the handover was complete, there was no longer any room for Hong Kong to bargain or negotiate. The same would happen to Taiwan if its leaders decided to accept Beijing's offer of similar "autonomous" status.

Having experienced the horror of the KMT government's martial law era, the life offered the people of Hong Kong now has no appeal to the people here.

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