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香港人對社會不滿 不止於反送中 Hong Kong’s malaise runs far deeper than the extradition bill

2019/7/12 — 10:51

7.1 示威者佔領立法會

7.1 示威者佔領立法會

編按:Evan 在本文指,近月的遊行抗議不完全關於反送中條例;香港人一直對中國共產主義有根深蒂固的恐懼,遊行抗議僅為一種表達方式。香港的悲哀在於,不滿的根本原因無法正式被承認,因此問題不會得到解決。本文首刊於 The Internationist 雜誌。

In this article, first published in The Internationalist, Evan writes that the protests never were really about the extradition bill. They are an expression of the deep rooted fear of Communist China that exists in Hong Kong. The tragedy of Hong Kong’s situation is that the root cause of discontent can not be officially admitted, and as such will not be addressed.

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“The bill is dead. The bill is dead.”

So began Tuesday’s press conference, called by Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam. The trouble for Mrs. Lam and her government, and for Beijing, is that not only does this come too late, but that the roots of the protests lie much deeper with a society that is fundamentally different, if not opposed, to what China has come to represent.

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It was not always this way. In 1997, when Hong Kong was returned to Chinese sovereignty after 150 years of British colonial rule, there were positive signs that China was progressing towards joining the international community as an open, liberal and internationalist state. Those who bet on Hong Kong’s future, including my family, stayed not because we believed Beijing — very few people honestly did — but because our hope of the China dream outweighed our fears of a Party that had, only 8 years earlier, set its military on the aspirations of its youth for a more open and just society.

Looking to Taiwan there was reason for optimism. A similarly nationalistic one-party dictatorship had allowed itself to end with a peaceful transition of power. Chinese democracy resulted in both internal reconciliation, much needed flowing years of barbaric self-harm, and a flourishing cultural renaissance. As Hong Kong had been a model of a free and vibrant Chinese city for one, it was presumed the city’s free spirit and liberal institutions, despite its democratic deficit, would be a vanguard for reforms on the Chinese motherland. Indeed, it was thought Hong Kong’s executive lead colonial administration and lack of political development — a result not of British colonialism but of Beijing’s insistence that no political party system be allowed to develop in Hong Kong that might challenge the Chinese Communist Party’s claim to represent the Chinese people — would be an important in reassuring Beijing that Hong Kong posed no political threat, and assist Hong Kong and the Mainland to start along the process of political, legal and market reforms if not together than with a degree of concurrency.

As Hong Kong today enters its second month of mass protests and civil unrest, it is worth remembering that behind the protests calls lies a fundamental presumption: that the hope that an authoritarian China would progress towards the open, progressive and liberal values and understandings of core concepts such as freedom, press freedom and the rule of law are no more. Today, hope has been replaced by fear. Hong Kong has no China dream beyond those of the Greater Bay Area and Belt and Road — a faustian pact of economic at the price of greater integration into an authoritarian and increasingly totalitarian system.

These protest, unlike those in 2014, no longer cling to the hope of progress, nor the aspirations of a people for genuine democratic political reforms as promised in both word and in spirit by Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law. There is no longer hope nor trust in the political system nor in Beijing’s intentions. Today the protest is marked by a sense of desperation, a “last stand” as protestors call it, against the perceived erosion of fundamental rights and freedoms that had once defined Hong Kong both as a place and as a community.

Therefore Hong Kong is likely to remained gripped in the momentum of the current protests, which have been unprecedented in scale, appeal and provocation. The past month alone has seen two of the largest protests in the city’s history, numbering if not in the millions then most certainly in the many hundreds of thousands. The daily protests that demonstrate the level of discontent affecting almost every sector of society may ease, but the discontent will not.

More significant for both the authorities and in the changing nature of the protest has been the actions of tens of thousands of young protestors who have taken an increasing aggressive and provocative line. This has included the surrounding of government offices, the city’s Beijing-controlled legislature and police headquarters; the targeted storming of the Legislative Council building and the deliberate defacement of symbolic property representing Chinese authority in the Council Chamber; and, most recently, night-time clashes with police in the Mong Kok district of Kowloon last Sunday.

The young have not been radicalised by foreign forces, as Beijing and some in the city’s pro-Beijing political elite insist, nor by the teaching of civic education in liberal studies classes, but in reaction to an excessively hostile police response to what began as a peaceful sit-in and the political inability of Hong Kong officials to openly question the response. Beijing will not allow sensitive politics. They young, like Hong Kong’s political opposition, know they will be condemned regardless. Action no longer seeks dialogue but international attention.

The extradition bill, which would have allowed for the extradition of people in Hong Kong, including foreign nationals, to China, may have sparked the protests. But the it does not fuel the discontent. As the decision to pause the bill on the 15th June, following four consecutive days of postponed Legislative Council meetings, did little to lessen public anger, it is unlikely the statement on Tuesday will do much to address public anger. On the 16th June a record number of people took to the streets in protest.

The extradition bill affects Hong Kong people not by what it is as legislation but through what it is perceived to represent: an attempt to normalise relations between Hong Kong and China, whilst ignoring the key issue of historic distrust. The bill represents more than the fear of “legalised kidnapping” but a far deeper and long held fear — and it is fear — of creeping authoritarianism of communist rule.

Since 2014 Hong Kong people have been debarred from standing for election. Elected pro-democracy legislators have been disqualified, and political parties banned. Filibuster, an act of political desperation, has been stopped. The local identity has been challenged, and a nascent Hong Kong localist movement portrayed as nativists and separatist, pushing what might have been moderates to the fringe. Opposition is deemed unpatriotic. Publishers have been kidnapped. In such circumstances the “pragmatism” demanded by the city’s political and business elite seems more like surrender.

The Hong Kong Musuem of History has had since its founding a permanent exhibit called the Hong Kong Story. Before 1997 this exhibit documented the refugee story of the city. It was a story the majority of people in Hong Kong would have related to — a shared experience that helped bind a diverse Chinese community together under British rule. Today the same exhibit is housed in a far grander purpose-built complex. But today it is a story of immigration. Outside of economic reasons, it can no longer be said why people came to Hong Kong. As with so much that is wrong with Hong Kong today, what cannot be said is sadly the crux of the problem.

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