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Professor Ho Lok-sang, Senior Research Fellow, Pan Sutong Shanghai-Hong Kong Economic Policy Researc

2020-01-12

Professor Ho Lok-sang, Senior Research Fellow, Pan Sutong Shanghai-Hong Kong Economic Policy Researc

2020-01-12

Dear Fellow Hong Kongers,

The New Year is now upon us, and lately we have been greeting one another with wishes for a Happy New Year.  No doubt happiness is something that we all cherish.  The good news is that happiness is within reach.  The bad news is that our struggles for happiness could make us less happy.   

When are struggles for happiness counterproductive?  Struggles for happiness become counterproductive when the effort is misdirected.  When struggles are aimed at winning over our adversaries, anxiety is inevitable.   Such struggles will always be accompanied by worries, anger, and frustrations, because they represent a fight with others.  To many, the fight and the sacrifice are worth it, because they believe in the intrinsic value of what they are fighting for.   However, our adversaries may also think they are fighting for a good cause.   The unfortunate thing is that through history many wars are fought in the name of a good cause on each side.  

The danger today is that quite a few believe that the fight should be physical.  They believe that inflicting maximum physical damage on one’s adversaries would make them capitulate.   But they are learning the hard way that this is not working.  Hence the frustration.  The longer they fight, the greater the frustration.   Rise in anxiety and depressive symptoms follows.
Actually, struggles for happiness do not have to be counterproductive.  

They are counterproductive only when each camp believes they are fighting a holy war and that the other camp is evil.   

The problem is that many Hong Kongers are fighting for a wrong cause.   Many of us imagine that Beijing is an adversary, and that Beijing’s interests and Hong Kong’s interests are incompatible.   But there is really no reason why Beijing wants to gain anything at the expense of Hong Kong.   Beijing will be very happy if One Country Two Systems works, and if Hong Kong thrives.    When did Beijing ever do something that undermines Hong Kong’s interests?  
It was Beijing that protected Hong Kong from possible population explosion when the NPCSC overrode the 1999 CFA ruling that all children born of permanent residents, no matter where they were born, had the right of abode in Hong Kong.   The NPCSC interpretation of the Basic Law at that juncture should be welcome by today’s “localists”, because it alleviated the possible burden on Hong Kong in public housing, healthcare, education, and other community services.

The 2011 interpretation by the NPCSC over whether the Democratic Republic of Congo enjoys diplomatic immunity in an application to seize money to offset debts Congo owed a US company is not controversial, as Hong Kong does not have jurisdiction over diplomatic affairs.
There are three other Basic Law interpretations by the NPCSC which are considered by some to undermine Hong Kong people’s democratic rights.   But, to be fair, the one relating to the de-qualification of Leung and Yau of the Youngspiration party as legislators is not really controversial, because the disqualifications of the two follows according to the Oaths and Declarations Ordinance, which says “Any person who declines or neglects to take an oath duly requested which he is required to take … , shall (a) if he has already entered on his office, vacate it, and (b) if he has not entered on his office, be disqualified from entering on it.”  Any objective observer would agree that the way Leung and Yau made their oaths to take office is not acceptable anywhere.  

There was one other interpretation of the Basic Law that is entirely technical and not controversial.  That relates to whether the one who replaces a serving Chief Executive who vacates office before the term is over should serve a new five year term or just the remaining years in the original term of office.  

All in all, only the 2004 NPCSC interpretation of the two annexes of the Basic Law could undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy in political reform.  These annexes relate to Article 45 which promises election of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage.
Rather than exasperating over this, I would suggest that we read the specifics of Article 45 and try to understand why those specifics were there.

The exact wording of Article 45 follows.  “The method for selecting the Chief Executive shall be specified in the light of the actual situation in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and in accordance with the principle of gradual and orderly progress. The ultimate aim is the selection of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures.”

We can see that Beijing was very cautious at the time the Basic Law was drafted and that it had never promised unconditional universal suffrage to elect the Chief Executive.  Note that there is the reference to “gradual and orderly progress” based on “the actual situation in the Hong Kong SAR.”   Second, when the “ultimate goal” is achieved, there will still be a nominating committee.  Moreover, only at that time that committee will be “broadly representative.”  Since Hong Kong and Beijing had agreed to these terms, let us abide by them in good faith.

The fact that these specifics were there shows that Beijing had been wary of an elected SAR Government that acts in ways counter to Beijing’s interests, which are “territorial integrity” and “developmental interests”.  Beijing is particularly wary of an SAR government that acts like a proxy government of some foreign interests.   If we read more about international politics from different sources, we should understand Beijing’ fears are not unwarranted.  

So, fellow Hong Kongers, let us try to put ourselves in Beijing’s shoes, and let us ask Beijing to put itself in our shoes.  Let us stop seeing each other as adversaries.  Struggling for greater happiness by working together, overcoming our own fears and biases, will lead us to greater happiness.  

Ho Lok Sang


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