Abe's shrine visit offers lessons for Hong Kong's opposition

Updated: 2014-01-06 06:40

By Zhou Bajun (HK Edition)

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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited the Yasukuni Shrine on Dec 26 where the 14 "Class A" war criminals are enshrined. China and South Korea angrily condemned the move. The international community also expressed concern - particularly the United States - Japan's major ally. A US State Department spokesman said Washington was "disappointed" with Abe's actions. A new opinion poll also showed that most Japanese disagreed with their prime minister's conduct.

I don't know whether Abe fully realizes the consequences of his actions. However, I am certain that the visit will make it more difficult for Abe to conduct foreign affairs in 2014 and beyond. It will also worsen his status domestically.

The 14 "Class A" war criminals' enshrined at Yasukuni are a reminder of a dark period in Asia's history from the mid 1930s to the mid 1940s, when millions of innocent Chinese, Koreans and other Asians were killed by invading Japanese soldiers. Abe and other Japanese officials are also disrespecting international rules established by the United Nations.

Before Dec 26, the US authorities rarely expressed concern about Japanese leaders visiting the shrine. This time, the Pentagon even cancelled the defense secretary's scheduled telephone dialogue with a Japanese counterpart. There were two reasons for this: First, Abe's actions really showed that Japan was trying to breach the post-World War II international order for which the US sacrificed many of its soldiers; and second, Abe's actions were a dangerous signal that the US risks being dragged into a war between Japan and China. The White House has reiterated that Japan is the US's close ally, so the US has an obligation to help Japan if it has military conflict with China. However, during the Syrian crisis, the Obama administration said it was unlikely that the US could afford to embark on another difficult military operation overseas.

Abe's shrine visit offers lessons for Hong Kong's opposition

In Hong Kong, we can learn a few things from this recent episode. To some extent, the local opposition camp is behaving in a similar way to Abe. Here, the opposition is trying to wreck the Basic Law and the "One Country, Two Systems" principle by threatening to take Hong Kong hostage and demanding a political ransom from the central authorities.

The bottom line of the "One Country, Two Systems" is enshrined in the Basic Law, with words such as: "upholding national unity and territory integrity, (and) maintaining the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong". But, the "Occupy Central" campaign obviously violates a fundamental element of the city's rule of law. If this is damaged or threatened by illegal action, then freedom of speech, of assembly, and so on will be in danger.

On Dec 26, the same time as Abe's shrine visit, some protesters were trespassing at the headquarters of the People's Liberation Army Hong Kong Garrison. They waved the colonial flag and shouted slogans advocating "Hong Kong independence". At present, seeking "Hong Kong independence" isn't yet a mainstream goal of the opposition. However, their objective, in having a representative in the 2017 CE Election by universal suffrage, is to seize power. They hope to make the city become an independent political entity.

Hong Kong is facing an unprecedented political contest. Many locals were led to believe that with "real" universal suffrage, greater prosperity and stability would result. This could not be further from the truth. What the opposition may never tell the public is that once the HKSAR Government is under its control, the city's relationship with the motherland will be in danger. Consequently Hong Kong would lose most of the advantages it has achieved, such as greater prosperity and stability. Thankfully, Hong Kong will never be taken away from its motherland again as China is no longer the "sick man of Asia" as it was in the 19th century.

The opposition camp and its foreign masters hope the central authorities will satisfy their demands for "real" universal suffrage because Hong Kong is too valuable for Beijing to allow it to go to the dogs. This time they are bound to be disappointed as they have been so many times before.

The author is a veteran current affairs commentator.

(HK Edition 01/06/2014 page9)