Recently, Tian Feilong, a law professor at Beihang University, openly criticized the unsatisfactory performance of some pro-establishment politicians in Hong Kong since the 1997 handover, saying what the central government is determined to create is not “rubber stamps” or “loyal garbage” but virtuous patriots. He made his criticism with less of a diplomatic sophistication but rather with a frank bluntness. Not surprisingly, his abrasive remarks shook Hong Kong like a thunderclap. Though Tian’s criticism had no official packaging, his warning was chilling to the hearts of some pro-establishment politicians in the HKSAR and triggered a panic attack among them, accompanied by wild guessing who Tian was referring to.
Shortly afterward, Tian’s lightning struck again when he accused some pro-establishment figures in Hong Kong of “double-dealing”, without mentioning any names. It definitely alarmed many people in Hong Kong, to say the least. Far more dangerous than “loyal garbage” folks, “two-faced campers” hidden within the pro-establishment camp are engaging in double-dealing in order to gain benefits from both national interests and Western interests. They try to enjoy the best of both worlds. Their refusal to give strong support to the HKSAR government to combat the 2019 social unrest was their quintessential political style. According to Lau Siu-kai, vice-president of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies, the central government has been very dissatisfied with some pro-establishment lawmakers’ performance since the 2019 social unrest.
Following the outbreak of violent protests in mid-2019, the protesters made five demands; namely, the withdrawal of the extradition law amendment bill, an investigation into alleged police brutality and misconduct by an independent commission, the release of all the arrested, a retraction of the official characterization of the protests as “riots”, and the resignation of Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor as chief executive, along with the introduction of universal suffrage in the territory. According to Reuters, Lam made a report to the central government in August 2019, examining the feasibility of the protesters’ five demands, and analyzed how conceding to some of them might calm things down and restore order in the city. The withdrawal of the extradition law amendment bill and an independent inquiry were reportedly seen to be the most feasible politically.
After the withdrawal of the extradition bill in September 2019, some in the pro-establishment camp still said it was not enough. In particular, they supported the setting up of an independent inquiry. As Tian has correctly pointed out, the failure of some pro-establishment politicians to act at such a critical juncture on issues concerning national security is simply unacceptable. Their dissenting voices could easily play into the hands of separatists and hostile external forces, giving them more leeway to put pressure on the HKSAR government. The concession was therefore dismissed by the “pan-democrat camp”, especially opposition lawmakers.
A look back at the events in early 2019 may help us see better how some pro-establishment lawmakers failed to fully support the HKSAR government when the latter needed it the most. The protests against the extradition law amendment bill began in March 2019. Some pro-business lawmakers suggested 15 economic crimes being exempted from the 46 offenses covered by the draft extradition law amendment bill. In an interview with CNA, Michael Tien stated that he would not back the extradition law amendment bill because it was too controversial. That remark shows a complete lack of understanding of the importance of the extradition law amendment bill to national security and in a way proves Hong Kong is the weakest link in national security. Lawmakers have a sacred duty to tell their voters and supporters that Hong Kong society must safeguard national security to the best of their abilities. In essence, national security is priceless.
As Tian has correctly pointed out, the failure of some pro-establishment politicians to act at such a critical juncture on issues concerning national security is simply unacceptable. Their dissenting voices could easily play into the hands of separatists and hostile external forces, giving them more leeway to put pressure on the HKSAR government
When national flags and emblems were defaced during the violent protests, some pro-establishment lawmakers did not condemn such illegal acts as they should have, given their political status and standing. The fact that some people saw such criminal behavior as an affront to national dignity and demanded a swift clampdown by law enforcers while some pro-establishment lawmakers didn’t is a warning in itself. To patriots in Hong Kong, failure to do so can be seen as dereliction of duty as far as lawmakers are concerned. Besides, they should have used those illegal acts as examples to educate the public about the importance of the national emblem and national flag to Chinese citizens in terms of national dignity and pride.
Credit is also due to Tian for reminding us that our failure to safeguard national security can be seen as violating the principle of “one country, two systems” in Hong Kong. He made that comment after Li Zhanshu, chairman of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, praised Macao as a better model of “one country, two systems” in December 2019. Tian also commented on the failure of Hong Kong to enact national security legislation according to Article 23 of the Basic Law. The failure of some pro-establishment lawmakers to back the national security bill in 2003 apparently did not escape his attention or memory. The HKSAR government postponed the second reading of the national security bill by the Legislative Council after James Tien resigned from the Executive Council that year.
It is difficult not to be disappointed by the laissez-faire attitude adopted by some pro-establishment lawmakers toward national education. In 2012, the controversy over national education curriculum led to mass protests in the city. Though Wong Chi-man of the National Education Services Centre and Peter Cheung of the University of Hong Kong tried their best to defend the national education curriculum, some pro-establishment lawmakers remained neutral. They have failed to realize that national education is the only way out of the identity crisis faced by many young people in Hong Kong. In fact, national education and national security are two sides of the same coin.
Similarly, only a few pro-establishment lawmakers are alert to the pro-Western political viewpoints promoted by some liberal studies textbook writers who are gripped by ideological bigotry. Without proper guidance from teachers, the above bias could have helped radicalized youngsters, as reflected in the “Occupy Central” illegal movement in 2014 and the violent protests and riots in 2019. It is worth noting that some teachers of liberal studies have failed to provide proper guidance for their students to understand the motherland.
To shed the “loyal garbage” stigma, pro-establishment lawmakers and other members of the camp should also pay more attention to livelihood issues in Hong Kong. The housing problem is a social time bomb that requires urgent attention. Increasing the land supply in Hong Kong is always a tough task but not insurmountable. It is simply immoral and illogical to stop the government from turning a small percentage of country parks into residential zones by amending the relevant laws. Consideration should also be given to the developmental potential of the 1,300 hectares of brown field sites and Tso/Tong land (village land) in the New Territories.
To conclude, pro-establishment lawmakers must bear in mind that competence should be weighed as important as, if not more than, loyalty on the new screening scale. Instead of the “loyal garbage” label, Tian may simply remind pro-establishment lawmakers that a seat in the Legislative Council should be earned, with not just loyalty, but dedication to serving Hong Kong society.
Junius Ho is a Legislative Council member and a solicitor.
Kacee Ting Wong is a barrister and a part-time researcher of Shenzhen University Hong Kong and Macao Basic Law Research Center.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.
HONG KONG NEWS