Letters from leaders of Hong Kong's political parties and government departments.
The unique hardship endured by you and your party Demosisto is definitely not something to be celebrated. It is a clear remark of the dire political situation. During 1980s when Deng Xiaoping created the concept of One Country Two Systems, Beijing’s focus was to adopt the good elements of Hong Kong’s system for the development of China, in particular the legal system that had the trust of the majority; but in 2017, Beijing’s confidence of its one party authoritarian rule is so overwhelming that they ask Hong Kong to learn from the Mainland system instead. As a result, not only is the prospect of real democracy in Hong Kong being crushed, but even the judiciary is becoming a political tool of the executive branch.
Many observers have stated, Hong Kong’s accelerated fall to authoritarian rule is not something only enforced by Beijing, but are endorsed by many local elites who were grown up with a colonial mentality. The three judges of the court of appeal who grossly neglected civil disobedience as a rightful motive clearly put themselves in a cooperative role to keep the undemocratic status quo, rather than to promote the healthy change of the society towards democracy.
What worries me is that the legacy of our thirty year old democratic movement is not substantial enough to resist the amalgamation of our 170 year old conforming colonial mentality with the authoritarian agenda brought to us by our new master from the north. Since the umbrella movement cynicism became the prevalent mood, the number of people who dare to voice out dropped drastically, even when the population is confronted with major human rights setbacks such as the Causeway Bay Bookstore saga, the disqualifications of elected legislators using new interpretation of Article 104 of the Basic Law, and even the giving up of Hong Kong jurisdiction to the mainland authority in the high-speed railway co-location scheme.
When we dig deeper to the Hong Kong identity, I am surprised to see that although many of us have strong affection towards Hong Kong, we don’t really act as if this city belongs to us. For example when the government has total control to land sale and town planning and the whole land administration is a black box since the 19th century, we don’t feel the urgency to take back the power. That should be the core part of our democratic movement yet in many years no one talked about it until young protesters came out several years ago to fight against the Northeast New Territories new development area. Thirteen of them were sent to prison last week due to a review of sentence applied by the department of justice.
The government is also playing a very successful PR campaign since CY Leung became Chief executive in demonizing the democrats as anti-development and common enemy of the city. But in fact we are fighting for every in the city the rights to decide the allocation of land resources, which I think is the only solution to the housing problem of the city.
Beijing and Hong Kong local elites are encroaching every aspects of the democratic movement. we have the media mostly controlled by pro-Beijing businessmen, we have 6 elected legislators from the democratic camp disqualified, we have mega state enterprises continue buying up properties and public utilities with the aim to control the economy, and the most serious thing is, we have a demoralized population. It is when the above conditions ready that the SAR government started this round of imprisonment of young activists in order to decapitate the new generation of the opposition. They try to make this as the fatal blow to the movement.
It seems easy to predict the dreadful result of this David-Goliath struggle, and difficult not to feel desperate. But look at it from a comparative perspective, when in history has a modern democracy movement succeed before hundreds if not thousands were sent to prison? When in history has universal suffrage ever been granted from above by a one party authoritarian state? If it is true that hope only comes with endeavours and perseverance, then it is of utmost importance for you being confined and i who still have a position in the establishment to rethink the vision, the mode of organization and the strategy of the democratic movement, , in order to make it strong again.
Your party Demosisto is at the core of this new phase. I think, with less mass media coverage on our side, party members should not stick to the internet but pour to the streets to give political speeches, about the danger of co-location scheme, about the democratization of public finance and land administration, and about the basic law and the constitutional order we want. We need to actively re-orient the people of Hong Kong in this difficult time, we need to persuade them to realize that authoritarian rule in Hong Kong will only damage our livelihood and perpetuate the power structure that favours the rich, that democracy is our undefeatable cause towards dignity and prosperity. ideas are invincible.
Nobel Peace Prize lureate Liao Xiaobo died in custody last month. Due to censorship, Liao was definitely not a household name in China and even fewer people know about his contributions and sacrifices to the democratic movement in China. What made him so determined to risk his life to launch the 08 charter? I finally understand after his death: the more difficult the movement becomes, the more important is to persevere. Facing the same Goliath, Liao sacrificed his life to keep the movement alive, the democratic movement that inevitably links China, Macau and Hong Kong and even Taiwan together.
Now Hong Kong began to have our own prisoners of conscience. I will try my best to support Demosisto and other democratic parties when I am still outside, and accept with no fear my turn to go inside.
Chu Hoi Dick
Dear Hong Kong Citizens,
As you may have noticed, the grade one historic building in Tuen Mun known as the Hung Lau has been put into the spotlight recently due to the damages that it has sustained by developers. The attitude and efficiency the H.K. government exhibited (after the damages were known) was totally unacceptable, and calls into question how effective our current heritage conservation policy is in protecting historic monuments.
The Hung Lau, which means "Red House" in Cantonese, is historically important as it is said to be linked to Dr. Sun Yat-sen during the Chinese republican revolutionary days. Yet, trees surrounding the Hung Lau were chopped down, parts of the walls surrounding the building were torn down, even the water supply was cut off forcefully in February. I visited the site with Tuen Mun local residents as soon as I knew about these damages, and saw no sign that such work would stop. I wrote to Secretary of Development Eric Ma immediately, requesting him to declare the Hung Lau a ‘proposed monument’ under the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance. On 1st of March, Antiquities Advisory Board, abbreviated as AAB, stated that it would not declare the building a ‘proposed monument’, and that it would only declare it as such, only if it should sustain any further damages in the future, a decision I find ill-informed and completely unreasonable. On 8th of March, multiple windows of Hung Lau were damaged and only then did the Antiquities and Monuments Office declare it a ‘proposed monument’. The way how things turned out not only showed how incapable the government is when protecting historic monuments, it also shows how little significance is attached to heritage conservation.
When a building that has not been declared a monument is about to be demolished, such work could only take place after permission from "Building Department" or "Lands Department" under the "Building Ordinance" (Cap12) and "Buildings Ordinance (Application to the New Territories) Ordinance". However, as seen in the case of the Hung Lau, when damages were reported and demolishing work started to take place, the only action taken by the authorities was Building Department issuing a Notice and putting it in an obvious spot, which fails to act as a deterrent. Lessons learnt from past examples have also shown the unavoidably repeated fate of demolition even if the monuments were given a grade one status, like that of Queen’s Pier and Star Ferry Pier. It is also worth mentioning that Ho Tung Gardens and the Complex of King Yin Lei at Stubbs Road were also granted a "proposed monument" status after they were damaged, which further demonstrates the government’s incapability of protecting ungraded historical buildings.
The Chief Executive appoints the chairman and members of the board of AAB (Antiquities Advisory Board), which explains why its members are all his supports and confidants, making the Broad as a consultative panel full of politicians and businessmen. Only four members of the board have archaeological and historical backgrounds, the rest of them are from fields such as planning, accounting, politics and information and technology. This undoubtedly questions the legitimacy of AAB Antiquities Advisory Board. Moreover, under such leadership, discussions inside Antiquities Advisory Board are inevitably driven by development and business interests. Heritage conservation is an important step towards achieving sustainable development, but such goal seems more difficult to achieve when the effectiveness of Antiquities Advisory Board is hampered by the way the CE appoints its members.
To ensure that buildings with historical significance are protected, the Historic Buildings Grading System should be added into the jurisdiction of the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance, This would prevent private property owners from tearing down any buildings of historical value, and ensure that buildings that are not declared a monument could also be protected. In addition, the Antiquities and Monuments Office should increase its transparency and accountability by allowing public participation and the nomination of representatives from the corresponding fields. Lastly, the government should also consider setting up an Architectural Heritage Fund that is responsible for conserving historic buildings and monuments.
Even though the Hung Lau is currently declared a ‘proposed monument', the building is only safe for a year. Thus, I hope the building will be declared a monument, so that the public can know more about the building and its history in the future. Like many fellow citizens, I also hope the publicity this series of events has generated can help raise the public’s awareness to Hong Kong’s heritage conservation policy.