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Monday, December 09, 2019, 00:17
Stop toxic politics before it is too late
By Wilson Lee Flores
Monday, December 09, 2019, 00:17 By Wilson Lee Flores

Hong Kong’s strategic viability, world-renowned operational efficiency and preeminence as an international trade and investment hub now confront two grave threats which should be stopped and disentangled. These are the insidious malaise of toxic politics evidenced by chaotic, often violent, protest rallies and the overt meddling by United States politicians in the city’s domestic affairs such as with the hypocritical, pompous and anomalous Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.

The economy and social fabric of Hong Kong will suffer calamitous damage, if unabated toxic politics, destructive anarchy and nefarious foreign political interference are allowed to continue. This protracted civil unrest reminds me of the “cultural revolution” (1967-77) rallies that convulsed China, the 2013-14 political unrest which plagued Thailand, and the 1980s anti-government rallies which wrecked the Philippine economy. The leaders and people of Hong Kong must resolutely, swiftly end this civil strife, characterized by unruly political discord and wanton violence.  

One great asset of Hong Kong in the past under British suzerainty which continued in the 22 years of post-colonial era as a special administrative region of China is its sustained political stability. The city has essentially been apolitical and an isle of stability — free from murky, partisan political strife which has ravaged other Asian societies. In fact, lots of entrepreneurs in often politically chaotic Southeast Asian nations have for years parked their capital in Hong Kong. 

The once admired political stability of Hong Kong, combined with efficiency, Confucian discipline, international openness, rule of law underpinned by an independent judiciary, low levels of corruption, low taxes, a good civil service, incorruptible police force and high economic freedom, helped build up its prosperity. 

The economy and social fabric of Hong Kong will suffer calamitous damage, if unabated toxic politics, destructive anarchy and nefarious foreign political interference are allowed to continue

Tragically and ominously, Hong Kong’s domestic political turbulence has been abetted, applauded, lionized in some segments of media and society, and aggravated by the amoral, cynical interference of foreign external forces. It seems certain rabid politicos want to use Hong Kong as a base for ideological and geopolitical warfare against China, thus jeopardizing the city’s stability, neutrality and vigor as a safe haven and ideal center for international commerce and finance. Hong Kong people shouldn’t allow the economic and strategic ruination of their city by becoming a pawn of any foreign power. 

Hong Kong is a global entrepot liberated from fratricidal politics and also famously free in its vigorous laissez faire capitalism, with the indisputable truth that this city was never a Western-style political democracy in 150 years of British colonial rule. Hong Kong’s Legislative Council was not established until 1985 and it did not become fully elected until 1995 or two years before the handover by the British and it remains fully elected today under Chinese sovereignty.

Just before Hong Kong’s return to China, the award-winning journalist David E. Sanger wrote on June 29, 1997 in The New York Times about the reasons for Hong Kong’s success. He said that the city had been governed by the British colonizers with “an iron hand” and with no room for turbulent politics, thus liberating the people’s creative energies and entrepreneurial spirit from politics so they can focus mainly on making money. 

Sanger said: “Hong Kong’s taxes are among the lowest in the developed world. … The territory was ruled with an iron hand that limited domestic politics, eliminating a distraction from making money.” This is an inconvenient fact for those in Washington and London.

Indeed, 150 years of British colonial rule didn’t grant Hong Kong any Western-style, “one-person, one-vote” political democracy or universal suffrage, which the radical rioters have for months obstinately been demanding, with impudent encouragements from the West. 

In contrast, Beijing’s “one country, two systems” political design for the city after the 1997 handover had ushered in a new era which has elevated only Hong Kong people to become the top political leader and with public consultations. Before, the colonial governors were invariably British citizens appointed by the British crown all the way in London and without public consultation with the Hong Kong people. 

Today, the city is governed by chief executives of Hong Kong descent who are indirectly elected by the citizens. The present framework is far more democratic than that under British rule. This orderly, vetted and efficient political process is a Confucian form of what I would call “democracy with Chinese characteristics”. This system under the Basic Law is enlightened and more conducive to good governance and economic prosperity for Hong Kong.

The author is analyst, columnist of English-language Philippine Star and Filipino-language Pilipino Star Ngayon, the winner of a record 15 Catholic Mass Media Awards and three Palanca literary awards.

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