Emulating Hong Kong would best suit China

By Paul Lin 林保華  / 

Sat, Nov 10, 2012 - Page 8

The appearance of so-called “dragon and lion” flags, derived from the one used when Hong Kong was a British colony, on protest marches has provoked an angry reaction from a retired official of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office (HMO) of China’s State Council.

The incident came to a head when the South China Morning Post received an e-mail from former HMO director Lu Ping (魯平), in which he said that Hong Kongers who did not think of themselves as Chinese should consider renouncing their Chinese citizenship. Lu said that China has a population of 1.3 billion, so would not mind losing such a tiny handful of people.

Five years ago a Chinese Web site’s opinion poll showed 65 percent of respondents saying that they would not want to be reincarnated as Chinese. Now Lu has permited Hong Kongers not to be Chinese anymore in this life.

Some Hong Kongers are glad to hear this, and have embarrassed the authorities by calling on them to set up special desks for them to renounce their Chinese citizenship. Rita Fan (范徐麗泰), a delegate to China’s National People’s Congress, interceded by saying that some officials’ reactions may have been excessive and that she hoped that Hong Kongers would not react angrily.

Lu is 85 years old. His retirement in 1997 was a loss for China. It would have been better if he had gone on to serve as general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) Central Committee and president of China. Considering his enlightened attitude of agreeing that Hong Kongers could renounce Chinese citizenship, I would be willing to kowtow to Lu, because from that point on Taiwan would also be able to move toward becoming a normal, sovereign democratic country.

CCP sympathizers in Hong Kong have recently attacked its judicial independence, even calling for Hong Kong’s judiciary to submit to the central authorities.

Kemal Bokhary, used his retirement from being one of the three permanent judges of Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal to warn of the approach of “a storm of unprecedented ferocity.”

An editorial in Tuesday’s Chinese-language Hong Kong daily Ming Pao (明報) said some Chinese jurisprudence experts suggest reorganizing the Court of Final Appeal and the Basic Law Promotion Steering Committee and tearing up the Sino-British Joint Declaration by demanding that all Court of Final Appeal judges must be Chinese citizens.

Being all too familiar with the Chinese way of doing things, even the thoroughly pro-unification Ming Pao had to comment that “if the storm that Bokhary talked about is already looming, the task of upholding Hong Kong’s core values will enter a new stage.”

This shows how vital a civilized judiciary is for Hong Kong.

The CCP sees the Opium Wars as a humiliation for China, but some Chinese question the way the wars have been denigrated by their opium connection. If the wars had not pushed open China’s gates, they say, there would have been no Self-Strengthening Movement, with its acceptance of Western civilization. One result of the Boxer Rebellion was that five southeastern provinces of China, plus the eastern province of Shandong, ignored orders to take up arms against the invaders, leaving the Qing Dynasty to its fate. These provinces came to be China’s most open-minded and economically developed areas.

Chinese culture can explain only the past, not the present. The best thing for Chinese would be for all of China to become like Hong Kong. Unfortunately the CCP’s opposition to Westernization, especially since the 1989 democracy movement, has caused human rights to retreat and corruption to flourish. If China really wants to reform, it must accept the civilized values of the West. If it does not, all talk of reform is meaningless.

Paul Lin is a political commentator.

Translated by Julian Clegg