Just who is polarizing the Hong Kong SAR?

Updated: 2014-08-13 07:24

By Lau Nai-keung(HK Edition)

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Just who is polarizing the Hong Kong SAR?

Executive Council (ExCo) Convener Lam Woon-kwong and fellow member Anna Wu Hung-yuk have decided not to sign the anti-"Occupy Central" petition. In doing so, they are breaking ranks with other members of the government's top advisory body. Their decision follows concerted efforts by the government to highlight the illegality and potential harm of the proposed "Occupy Central" campaign.

Other non-official members of ExCo have all backed the signature campaign. As of Aug 8, at least 25 political appointees to the government have either signed or said they would sign a petition opposing "Occupy".

Lam Woon-kwong's previous comments condemning "Occupy" includes a commentary headlined, "Occupy Central is naive to think its disruptive threat will work" published in the South China Morning Post on Aug 8. Lam told reporters that, "I don't see the need to sign up to a campaign to repeat (my views)." But is Lam really firmly against "Occupy"?

"Repeated polls by respectable agencies show that public support for 'Occupy' has never gone past the one-quarter mark. That is a clear sign that while most of us do want to participate in an open and fair election for the next Chief Executive, the great majority does not consider the threat of civil disobedience wise or acceptable," Lam wrote in the Post. He made it sounds like an "open and fair election for the next Chief Executive" is not going to happen. If the dissidents can find a "wise and acceptable" way to oppose the government, he will give it his full support.

The sub-head of his article says: "Disruptive tactics don't speak for all Hongkongers, even if we agree with the goal." What goal is Lam talking about? "International standards" or "true democracy"? It is alarming that the Executive Council convener shares the same goal with the organizers of "Occupy".

He wrote that consensus on reform could not be achieved by threats and posturing and said "Occupy" was "naive to threaten the central government". He cited polls showing limited support for the "Occupy" campaign.

Anna Wu also said she would not sign any petition that "dealt with political positions". "I feel that as long as I am in ExCo and particularly during this period, I should keep an open mind," Wu added. Is it just me, or did she say her colleagues who signed the petition have an incorrect understanding of the proper role of an ExCo member and are narrow-minded?

In the signature campaign organized by the Alliance for Peace and Democracy, participants are asked to support four simple statements: I oppose violence. I oppose "Occupy Central". I support peace for Hong Kong. I support democracy for Hong Kong. (If you also want to sign, please visit http://www.sign4peacedemocracy.hk.)

What is so political about these statements? In keeping an "open mind", is Wu suggesting violence is perhaps also worth considering?

Lam and Wu represent a fraction within the government, who believe that meeting the dissidents head-on will harm the social fabric of Hong Kong. According to them, no matter how ridiculous and unreasonable the dissidents are, we must not retaliate with similar tactics. The government can only use the same old tricks that have already proven ineffective, such as presenting and answering questions in the Legislative Council. If the executive branch tries to reach out to people directly, such as using Facebook and blogs, or town hall meetings, it is considered "polarizing society". In essence, these "moderates" want to stop the government from taking the appropriate actions to uphold the rule of law in Hong Kong.

Article 55 of the Basic Law says "members of the Executive Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall be appointed by the Chief Executive from among the principal officials of the executive authorities, members of the Legislative Council and public figures. Their appointment or removal shall be decided by the Chief Executive."

In other words, they serve at the pleasure of the CE, and do not have the luxury to pretend they are independent from the CE. Now that Leung Chun-ying has openly indicated he will sign to support the anti-"Occupy Central" signature campaign, why are Lam and Wu making such unhelpful comments?

While it is unclear whether supporting the signature campaign will further "polarize" society or not, the conduct and comments of Lam and Wu have clearly polarized the government.

The author is a veteran current affairs commentator.

(HK Edition 08/13/2014 page9)