Radical students must pay for defiance

Source:Global Times Published: 2015-3-9 22:23:01

Lau Siu-Kai Photo: Yu Jincui/GT

Editor's Note:

Even with the end of Occupy Central movement last year, political wrangle over how to realize the universal suffrage in 2017 remains tense in Hong Kong and the relations between the mainland and Hong Kong have kept witnessing conflicts. How should Hong Kong advance the political reform? Global Times (GT) reporter Yu Jincui interviewed Lau Siu-Kai (Lau), a member of the national committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and vice president of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong & Macao Studies, during the ongoing two sessions.

GT: Will Occupy Central happen again in the future?

In the wake of the 79-day illegal and undemocratic Occupy Central protest that plagued Hong Kong late last year, political divide and confrontation have been sharpened. Radical forces, most of whom are young people, are growing while mainstream society has become more conservative. The Occupy Central evoked a deep sense of concern among more Hongkongers about the future stability and prosperity of the city. It's this conservative backlash that has curbed the expansion of the protests.

The mounting public demand for resuming the order of the rule of law and stability paved way for a relatively peaceful end of the Occupy movement. The movement didn't bring the protesters to fruition but instead diminished the public trust on them, so it's unlikely that another large-scale Occupy Central would happen again.

However, because some factors that cause the Occupy protest to happen still exist, such as discontent with the Hong Kong government, the chief executive and social injustice, the opposition forces may resort to other confrontational actions like contention in the Legislative Council.

The recent sporadic demonstrations against mainland tourists are also an example. When the proposal for political reforms is voted on by the Legislative Council, large demonstrations are likely to happen but there is little chance for another Occupy Central, since the public has realized the damages the protest will pose on society.

GT: Why did some Hong Kong young people go radical?

Lau: History shows that only those who are marginalized in the process of the development will become extremists. Most Hong Kong students and young people are practical, and the radical ones are a minority.

Hong Kong has grown into a mature economy. With economic growth slowing down, there are fewer opportunities for upward mobility. Affected by Western values, the youth have some prejudice against the mainland. Besides, young Hongkongers grow up in an environment fraught with varied political struggle. In the past two decades, challenging authority has run rife and been hailed as heroic, which misleads the young people. They hold nothing in awe, and think there is no price they have to pay for defiance of established authority.

In this regard, Occupy Central taught them a good lesson. Young students shouldn't view the world in an ivory tower. They have to interact with other groups, knowing and respecting the demands of mainstream society. They need to recognize that they have to pay the price for their violations of the rule of law, being reprimanded by the public or even punished by the law. In this sense, Occupy Central will help the young people become politically sensible.

GT: Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, warned against calls for Hong Kong independence recently. How do you view the influence of independence supporters?

Hong Kong independence is merely an emotional display. The trumpeters neither have any practical actions nor win real support from the public. In the 1980s when discussions about the return of Hong Kong to China started, the proposition of Hong Kong independence emerged. However, it received little attention from mainstream Hongkongers. Hongkongers, especially the older generations, have a strong sense of safeguarding the national unity. They are also against separating Taiwan from the country. They will never allow themselves to be part of the separatists.

GT: Hong Kong is conducting a public consultation period on political reforms ahead of its 2017 election for chief executive. It's anticipated that the reform plan will be submitted and voted on by the Hong Kong legislature later this year. How do you forecast the result?

I am pessimistic about the prospect of the vote. I think the pro-democracy camp should support the reform plan even if their demands were not fully satisfied. Unfortunately, they won't accept the exclusion of their preferred candidates in the elections for chief executive.

Nonetheless, from the perspective of comparative politics, once the public is allowed to vote, even if there is a restriction on the nomination procedure of eligible candidates, dramatic changes will take place in politics. Even though there is no candidate from the pan-democracy camp, other candidates will solicit support from the pan-democracy camp and the elected chief executive, in order to seek another term, has to cater to the public demand and find a balance between the central government and the Hongkongers.

The elected one will never totally tilt in favor of the central government as the pan-democracy camp is saying. The opposition forces wrongly believe that vetoing the reform proposal and making it an eternal topic in Hong Kong politics can help reinforce their leverage, however, what they will get is merely the disappointment of the Hong Kong public. 

GT: There are debates about whether Hong Kong should curb the influx of mainland tourists through imposing restrictions on the multiple-entry permits. What's your opinion of this?

It's unfair to solely blame the mainland parallel traders who exit and re-enter Hong Kong an unlimited number of times through the multiple-entry permits. It's the Hong Kong vendors that make the business thrive and make a profit from it. Hong Kong should crack down on smuggling, but decreasing or even cancelling individual trips is not necessary. 

After all, the individual trips have benefited Hong Kong a lot economically. We have to treat this issue very carefully and avoid giving the impression that Hongkongers are excluding their mainland compatriots.

Posted in: Society, Viewpoint

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