Sat, Jul 10, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Unity is a must while opposing Beijing

By Cao Chang-qing曹長青

When Hong Kong was handed over to China on July 1, 1997, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to celebrate their return to the motherland. The drug of a "greater China" worked on Hong Kongers' nationalist sentiments to great effect, confusing their brains and blurring their vision so that they could not distinguish which value is higher, the concept of a greater China or their personal freedom.

Seven years later, the memory of this joyous scene is still fresh. But more than 500,000 people hit the streets once again to protest Beijing's autocracy, which has deprived them of their freedom to directly elect their chief executive in 2007 and lawmakers in 2008. Over the past seven years, freedom, the economy and social culture in Hong Kong have all deteriorated. In the people's own words, the territory is becoming more and more like China's hinterland.

Hong Kongers used to think that they could be more proud to be a colony of China than of the UK. Unexpectedly, their status has declined sharply within a decade after they returned to the arms of the motherland. Before the handover, the people of Hong Kong who frequently entered and left China were proud of themselves. What the Chinese people envy the most about Hong Kongers is not the cash in their hands, but their freedom to cross the border between the two places, as well as their freedom to speak, sing and do business without any mental and physical threats or restrictions that may endanger their own safety.

Unfortunately, the territory's media long ago introduced self-censorship of news, its entertainers have learned to speak with a Beijing accent and its businesspeople have learned not to express their political opinions. Not long ago, three famous local talkshow hosts did not behave themselves and even criticized Beijing boldly.

But they were forced to shut up and eventually resign their posts after receiving death threats. In fact, half a million Hong Kongers took to the streets on the torrid summer days of this and last year simply because they have already had a taste of the bitter, poisonous medicine that the Chinese people have suffer for over half a century. Thus, they have just begun to experience the bitterness of being a Chinese citizen.

Nevertheless, having known the taste of freedom in the past, people in Hong Kong understand that only by fighting Beijing can they truly protect themselves. The massive demonstration last year successfully aborted the implementation of Article 23 of the territory's Basic Law.

The major demonstration this year will also restrain Beijing's impudence. The Hong Kong example serves as an inspiration to the oppressed Taiwan: we can only protect our own businesspeople, entertainers, and this democratic and free country, if we unite together against Beijing.

Cao Chang-qing is a writer based in New York.


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