Sat, Jun 12, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Beijing's high-handedness filling HK with fear

By Emily Lau劉慧卿

The huge turnout of over 80,000 people at the June 4 candlelight vigil in Victoria Park last week was the Hong Kong people's response to the central government's decision to tighten control over the Special Administrative Region. Many people attended the vigil because they could not forget or forgive the Tiananmen massacre, but many more took part because they defiantly regarded it as a sign of protest against diminishing freedom in the territory.

Just hours before the vigil, I attended a forum in Victoria Park to discuss Tiananmen and constitutional reforms in Hong Kong. One member of the audience said the next time people march to the Central Government's Liaison Office in the Western district to protest, instead of urging the crowd to disperse right away, the organizers should direct demonstrators to stage a two-hour sit-in. He said the objective would be to strengthen the protesters' demands.

Since Beijing decided in April to rule out direct elections in Hong Kong in 2007 and 2008, the political atmosphere has become very tense. Apart from banning democratic elections, the central authorities also want Hong Kong people not to march on July 1 and not to vote for pro-democracy politicians in the Legislative Council election on Sept. 12.

Beijing's high-handed decision has filled many Hong Kong people with revulsion and despair; hence some people are pressing for a more radical form of protest. I do agree that Hong Kong should send a strong message to Beijing about the people's determination to preserve freedom and to fight for democracy. However, we should not resort to measures that would paralyze traffic or create huge inconveniences. Last July the people showed that they were prepared to stand up for their rights, and hundreds of thousands of people are expected to march again on July 1 this year.

However, some people may stay away if there are signs of violence or disturbance. Last year when more than half a million people marched in scorching heat, there was not a single incident. Such responsibility and self-restraint were much admired by the international community. A strong signal about the community's unity and sense of purpose was also sent. Thus the best way forward is to insist on protesting peacefully with dignity, determination and self-restraint.

Looking to the Legislative Council election in September, Hong Kong people should be psychologically prepared for a long, hot summer filled with political struggle, scandals, smear tactics and possibly even violence. This is because the Chinese authorities are worried that pro-democracy candidates may be able to secure a majority in the Council, and think that would make the territory ungovernable. Thus they are intervening to prevent that outcome.

Most people in my generation are not used to communist-style politics, and "one country, two systems" is intended to prevent the Chinese political system from spreading to Hong Kong. Now that the central authorities have decided to intervene, that shield has been removed and the local people have no choice but to deal with Chinese politics directly. In so doing, Hong Kong's people are like babes in the wood. Faced with the communist regime and its arbitrary and ruthless way of doing things, many Hong Kong people are very frightened. This is a big challenge and the people's wisdom will be severely tested.

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