Response to Shih Wing-ching's Essay

I think Shih's statement cannot be further away from the truth when he declares that Hong Kong people have become so radicalized in their pursuit of democratic ideals that they are ignoring the position of Beijing and neglecting the interests of the businesses.

I used to admire Shih’s integrity and his audacity to speak from his heart on various previous occasions about the Hong Kong property market and industry. But his recent manifesto baffles me.

In all probability, Shih may have taken the recent media’s and pan-democrats’ belligerent attacks on government for its mishandling of the Leung Chin-man saga (and for the implied government-developer collusion for that matter) and the political secretaries appointments as a manifestation of the sort of political radicalism that he refers to.

What he may have missed is that if Hong Kong had a democratically elected government who would thus have had governance legitimacy in the first place, those two events would likely not have taken place or at least would have been handled more fairly and more satisfactorily. It’s not that people are becoming more radical, rather, it’s that their increasing agitation comes from having their trust in government betrayed time and again but being totally powerless about it.

Contrary to what Shih claimed, Hong Kong people are well known for their pragmatism. As such, they cannot possibly have ignored Beijing’s position on how and when universal suffrage is to be implemented. Indeed, they may very well be disappointed, even exasperated and resigned, about the reality of not being able to elect the CE and LegCo by universal suffrage in 2012, but they are far from being incognizant of that reality.

It is in spite of that harsh reality that Hong Kong’s pan-democrats, be they members of the Democratic Party, the League of Social Democrats, the Civic Party, or other independents, are still struggling to fight on behalf of Hong Kong citizens for the ideals of democracy and open and accountable governance. If Shih calls that unremitting persistence “radically idealistic”, perhaps it is. But without such radical idealism, there is no hope for any kind of meaningful social progress for Hong Kong, given the political straitjacket she has been handed by Beijing and the entrenched vested interest structure in the form of a powerful property developer cartel. That is why they are doing their best to gain that crucial number of LegCo seats in the Sunday elections, so as to prevent the unthinkable from happening – LegCo becoming a real rubber stamp, and so that the least pan-democrats can do is to veto any outrageous government proposals that might hurt Hong Kong’s society as a whole.

As for the interests of the businesses, nobody in the right mind would honestly believe that government has done so little to “care about” them that they deserve to be further “looked after by society”, as Shih indicates! I would have thought that it should be the other way round – that those entrenched fattened big corporates (especially real estate developers) which have been feeding off society for so many years should now be giving back to society for a change, voluntarily or not! And even if Hong Kong democrats want a fairer society and a more open and more accountable government, that does not mean that their ideals run in direct opposition to big businesses’ interests. It might mean that many businesses have to be prepared for more vigorous but fair competition (for example, under the proposed Competition Law), but that is by no means any real harm to their interests. Their only cause for complaint would be that they have been pampered for much too long by the super pro-business and self-serving government!

But of course, if what Shih refers to as “businesses” are in fact small- and medium-size businesses, it would still make some sense to say that these deserve some caring by society. The reality is that small- and medium-size businesses are just one group of victims under the entrenched, protected property oligarchy because their entrepreneur spirit is no match for the big landlords’ insatiable appetite for rent increases.

Shih talked about the need for creating a “Conservative” political party, who would embrace a gradual step-by-step approach to political reform and stall the “radicalists”. But the thing is that such an approach has already been imposed on all political parties alike by Beijing’s stalling tactics, whether they like it or not.

Luckily, given the super tenacity and wisdom of Hong Kong people, as the LegCo election results show, self-serving demagogues (in the form of one Liberal Party) can still be identified and barred from the legislature by voters while most of the so-called “radical idealists” are still given a chance to work for the interests of Hong Kong society. Like Daisann at the Learning Cantonese blog says: “People in Hong Kong aren’t so foolish as to conflate pride in being Chinese with blind support of a dysfunctional Hong Kong government.”