Hong Kong As A Role Model for Shenzhen

My translation of the post:-

“The Beijing Government has recently designated a public park for the purpose of letting people conduct marches and protests during the period of the Olympics, after they have applied for and obtained permission from authorities. The act has been met with widespread applause. Indeed the Olympics have brought many good things to China, which we can perhaps call ‘the Olympic red packets’. This act is one of them – we should thank the Olympics for it.

It is without doubt that citizens have the right to express their demands to society, to government or to others. Citizens’ right to participate in protest marches is written in our constitution. But in real life, this right is basically shelved. It has remained shelved for so long that when a chance comes by for the right to be exercised, the process always gives the impression of clumsiness and may even be used by mobs as an excuse to violate social order. So it has attracted a bad reputation; government does not like it, neither do the people.

Democracy is a good thing. But this good thing can only be had one step at a time. During a time when society is undergoing a difficult transformational phase, it is all the more imperative to raise people’s awareness about their civic rights. In my view, being aware of one’s civic rights is as much about knowing that one has the right as about how to go about legally exercising the right, It’s just like a situation where government gives a gun (right) to a citizen - teaching him how to use that gun is the more urgent issue than debating whether he should have it. The reason is that if due to improper use the gun goes off accidentally and hurts someone, it will give government a good reason to confiscate the gun.

Shenzhen’s neighbor Hong Kong is in a uniquely privileged geographical location. In the areas of social, political and economic systems, Hong Kong is qualified to be Shenzhen’s teacher. It would seem that Shenzhen’s municipal government is quite aware of this too. In 2005, the Shenzhen government had already proposed the concept of ‘learning from Hong Kong and serving Hong Kong’. Such humble attitude should be highly commended by us. But three years have passed, what actually have we learned? To this question, I think neither the teacher nor the student has any good answer.

To learn from Hong Kong, there are in fact many small channels open to us. For example, as reported in Wen Wei Po: ‘On July 27, thousands of Philippine domestic workers went on the streets to protest, chanting in Cantonese ‘Cancel the domestic workers’ levy and give us back reasonable wages’. They demanded that government meet with their request, failing which they would conduct a much larger-scale protest on the 17th of next month.’ Here they have given us a vibrant and vivid lecture on democracy. While our right to protest has remained something on paper only, still relying on some international events like the Olympics to give us a ‘red packet’, they have already turned a civic right to protest into a norm.

Protests and marches have long been familiar to Hong Kong people. Whenever they feel disturbed about an issue, they would go to the streets and cry out loud. We can often see on TV screens (which are fortunately still unblocked) such a scene: some protesters holding up a banner and chanting slogans while marching forward; serious-looking policemen standing on the side to maintain order; passers-by throwing a glance this way or just ignoring the scene and going on their own way. Such kind of event is being played out almost everyday on Hong Kong streets. It has become part of Hong Kong people’s lives. Yet Hong Kong has not turned into a dangerous city full of crime-committing mobs.

A society is always full of these and those kinds of conflict. Piling up these conflicts on top of a volcano is one way of doing things. Letting them out freely through a valve of expression is another way. As to which way is the better option, it is as clear as day. But whether the Shenzhen government has the same way of thinking, I am not sure. The one thing I am sure of is that in a civilized society, a citizen’s right to express his demands should be a norm rather than something that can be given and then taken away like the ‘Olympic red packet’. If Shenzhen can make some headway in this respect, it can find itself several big strides ahead of other cities.”