It’s the time of year when everyone should be making resolutions about how to do better in the coming 12 months. As those concerned with Hong Kong affairs are all rather busy, I thought I would help by suggesting some good New Year Resolutions for them in 2020.
Let us start at the top with our President Xi Jinping. He has been very busy this year and there is no chance of a let-up next. The United States, under its erratic president Donald Trump, is now treating our country as a strategic competitor. He has launched a trade war against us with the introduction of high tariffs on most of our exports. Although these are paid ultimately by American consumers (a point he still doesn’t seem to grasp) they are hurting our economy in the short term and also carry long term negative effects on supply chains. The US is opposing assistance for China from multilateral agencies, urging us to buy more but then banning us from buying products we need, trying to force US allies not to buy our technology etc. Hong Kong plays only a minor role in this containment exercise (notwithstanding the contrary beliefs of some of our naïve youngsters) mainly for American propaganda purposes.
My recommendation for Xi is that he remain focussed on the big picture and not allow himself to be distracted by pinpricks such as the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.
Next in line is Vice Premier Han Zheng, the Central People’s Government point man on Hong Kong matters. According to all reports there has been far too much interference in the detail of managing Hong Kong affairs by such bodies as the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office in Beijing and the CPG’s Liaison Office here. Take the example of the so-called “five demands”. All of these are Hong Kong domestic issues that fall well within our high degree of autonomy. It is correct that the CPG has comprehensive jurisdiction over our city, as the 2014 White Paper reminded everyone. But that doesn’t mean it is always in Beijing’s best interests to exercise that jurisdiction directly. On use of the word “withdraw” in the context of the extradition legislation, is it really the case that chief executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor actually sought permission in writing to use the word, hence the four month delay in doing the obvious?
And what are we to make of Professor Lau Siu-kai’s recent remark that the CPG would not allow any more concessions to be made? Setting up an independent commission of inquiry to examine the root causes of political disasters is a standard part of the procedure in Hong Kong’s way of life. We are constantly being reminded to protect “one country, two systems” so why is this part of the Hong Kong system not operating? And what is the authority of a retired university professor to be making pronouncements anyway? Beijing’s role is to lay down overall strategy, leaving the tactics to be determined by the Hong Kong administration.
So my recommendation for vice premier Han is that he should get a firm grip on all the relevant parts of the CPG apparatus, encourage them to think more deeply and to refrain from public remarks. They should be talking only to him.
Now to our beleaguered chief executive. She has already acknowledged, both publicly and privately, her role in development of the current situation. It has been a humbling experience and at the human level one cannot but have sympathy for her. But the plain truth is her continued presence in office is now an obstacle to a political solution, as in her heart of hearts she must surely realise. The final service she can render to the community she loves so much must be to insist to Beijing that she be allowed to leave office, with dignity, with effect from a future date so as to allow time for a by-election and appointment of a suitable successor. My recommendation to Lam is that she be determined.
On her way out of the door Lam should collect the undated resignation slips of all members of her current executive council so that her successor can select which if any are worth retaining. The same applies to her ministers.
The protesters also need to take a long hard look at themselves in the mirror. Back in June, they were the Jedi knights opposing the forces of evil. Over the ensuing months they have become as bad if not worse than those they oppose. Slashing the neck of a policeman with a box cutter, setting fire to someone with opposing views, doxing the young children of police officers so they get bullied at school, terrorising families out having a peaceful Christmas dinner. This is not the conduct of heroes, rather they are they are the actions of those who have gone over to the dark side.
My recommendation to the protesters is to reflect on themselves, drop their thuggish ways, and return to the path of principled peaceful protest.
The traditional opposition leaders have been conspicuous by their equivocation on the subject of violence. When pressed on the matter they are invariably quick to distance themselves from mindless vandalism and assaults on ordinary members of the public, but are quick to add a proviso beginning “But” or “However” followed by “you must understand”. No, what I understand is that you are supposed to be leaders, violence against fellow citizens and local businesses is a pressing social issue, get on and lead.
I have criticised police tactics and occasional lapses in discipline before and will not dwell here. Suffice to say that instances of excessive force or outright negligence have occurred and a decent commissioner would want to identify these bad apples and drum them out of the force. Another leader who needs to remember how to lead.
From the outset this has been a political problem that requires a political solution. With the help of new year’s resolutions such as focus, getting a grip, remaining firm, self-reflection, perhaps we can give ordinary Hongkongers what they deserve: a Happy New Year.