Letters from leaders of Hong Kong's political parties and government departments.
How are your students treating you lately? Are they still keeping you on your toes with their rackety yet endearing ways? I hope you had the chance to recharge during the Christmas holidays, and are ready to tackle the new term. Teachers are surely under tremendous stress given the political situation now. I can only imagine your frustration when even I, an outsider of the teaching profession, am so disappointed in our government’s education policy. You are already overstretched in your teaching job. The National Anthem Bill is only adding oil to fire by creating much unnecessary stress and tension.
And all this is for what? For love and respect for the motherland, they say. But how much of this love and respect is genuine, when such feelings are motivated by fear? Love and respect are rare, and there is no way a person can have another person’s love and respect resorting to force, threats, or bribery. The government thought law and punishment could force some national pride out of us, not knowing that these feelings can’t be true when it’s coerced, or they don’t want to know. It’s something to be earned. The people are not puppets or chess pieces to be ordered around. We are all living beings of flesh and blood with our own individual consciousness.
As a teacher, you have explained this so well to me before. No amount of scolding can make a student trust you if you can’t prove yourself deserving of their love and respect. And this is especially true with children. They are always so frank with their feelings. This takes us to another issue with the National Anthem Bill. Who are we to prohibit a child from showing how they really feel? Who are we to police their thoughts and opinion? Who are we to punish a child for dissenting a government that they hold no love for, and that has done nothing to deserve their loyalty? And above all, why are we placing the burden of punishment upon teachers who are already bearing the weight of the world upon their shoulders? It makes no sense to me at all.
To quote the bill itself, it states that those who insult the national anthem are in violation of the law. The word 'insult' brings about a lot of problems. The ambiguity and lack of clarity in its definition could risk abuse. We Hongkongers pride ourselves on our justice system. Hong Kong's laws are not based on subjective wordings, this bill however is an exception to this rule. How can our government ask us to pledge our faith and trust in a law so vague and loose? How can our government ask us to believe in a law that shakes up the very foundation of Hong Kong?
More importantly, how can we trust a government that instills unnecessary fear into its people? The Secretary for Education is placing the brunt of this law's burden upon teachers. Including national anthem in the school curriculum may be justifiable, but to say that teachers should be given the task of disciplining students who 'insult' the national anthem, that is just mindless and irresponsible, when there is no clear definition to the word 'insult'. How are teachers like you, professionals in education and not the law, expected to carry out this task reasonably and adequately?
I know some of your favorite students closely follow Hong Kong politics and have expressed their frustrations about the government through various peaceful means. One of which is to rewrite the lyrics of the national anthem. The bill sees alteration of the national anthem’s lyrics or score a criminal offence, so is to play it or sing it in a distorted or disrespectful way. Through this legislation, the central government managed to deal yet another a blow to our free speech. Not just your students, people around the world have remixed or even rewritten their national anthems to vent their frustrations at their governments. The National Anthem Bill effectively takes away this means of peaceful protest.
Once again, our sunflower souls are beaten and battered by the harsh winds of the administration. I cannot imagine how anyone can even think that respect can be made a law. Following Machiavelli's advice, even ancient rulers knew that genuine love and respect could only earned through dedication and effort. Human hearts are not easily swayed by mere words on paper, even if it’s a law.
Of course, I do hope from the bottom of my heart that one day, each and every Hongkonger can look at the Mainland with love, pride, and respect. Though in light of the attitude harboured by those who are presently in power, I'm afraid this future is still quite far away. Despite this, I hope you can promise me that you will keep your sunflower alive and thrive, no matter what the world throws at you. We have to stand united and unyielding in face of unjust laws.
Dear villagers of Yuen Kong San Tsuen,
Last week, I was kicked out from the village representative election by the government’s returning officer, declaring that I do not sincerely uphold the Basic Law and pledge allegiance to the Hong Kong SAR. Lots of media coverage came out afterwards but unfortunately most reporters mentioned the name of our village without knowing where it is. It worries me that you may follow the narrative of the mass media by thinking that I have been using the village election as an excuse to start a political war against the government. This open letter is an explanation of my ideas.
I guess before the disqualification of my candidacy not many of you have heard about the upcoming village election, and even fewer have voted in the past. Frankly, the 15 year old village representative election system does not seem to encourage villagers’ participation, especially among new residents. If you are not an indigenous villager you need to live in the village for more than three years to be eligible to register as a village voter. A village have at least two representatives, one for indigenous villagers and one for residents, but most of the time the latter seat is taken over by another indigenous villager of the major clan. Competitions seldom involves real difference between election platforms, not to mention visions about the future of the rural area.
But that is what a village representative election should be about! Take Yuen Kong San Tsuen as an example, when I wrote my election platform, I realized that a village is actually the best testing ground for new ideas and initiatives. From management of burial ground to revitalization of abandoned farmland, from promotion of renewable energy to recycling system, from establishment of childcare to elderly care co-operatives. All these issues happen within a manageable size of 800 residents, compared to the gigantic New Territory West Legislative Council geographical constituency, with a population of 2 million. For such an interesting position, I can’t find any reason not to run as soon as possible, and to me, every village seat uncontested is a huge waste of political opportunity.
At the same time, my participation in the election relates to the campaign to reform the Heung Yee Kuk. 1300 village representatives are the foundation of the three-tier representative institution in the New Territories, above which we have 27 rural committees and the Heung Yee Kuk. Currently the rural committees are operating in a black box and very few information is open to the public. There is an urgent need to amend the corresponding legislations to make both the rural committees and Heung Yee Kuk more transparent and accountable. They should represent the views of the majority, concern about the environment but not focus on real estate interests of the minority.
But I was barred from running. It has nothing to do with my village election platform and my proposed reform of the rural committees and the Heung Yee Kuk. At the surface of it, the returning officer did not accept my interpretation of what is meant to uphold the basic law. I declared so, and he just didn’t believe it. But the core issue is that this government under the control of the Chinese communist party does not believe in its people, they want to do political screening before the voters choose. They want to know the result prior to the election. They intervene on every level, from the chief executive election to the village representative elections.
And even more alarming is the political logic behind the returning officer’s decision. I was told that not only myself cannot advocate for independence, but I need to denounce others’ right to do so in order to secure my eligibility as a candidate. If this logic get rooted in Hong Kong, we will lose our right to keep silent.
The promotion of this logic is exemplified by the coming enactment of the national anthem ordinance. Actively performing the national anthem in a manner harmful to the dignity is an offence, but not standing respectfully at the occasion where the national anthem is performed may also be prosecuted. In the future, everyone needs to act patriotically in order to stay away from trouble. Pro-Beijing legislator Priscilla Leung even went so far as to propose that management teams of public venues should be held responsible for letting users discuss sensitive political issues.
The world is facing unprecedented challenges on different levels. Global warming and the related extreme weather have triggered social unrests in different regions and will only become more severe and frequent in the near future. Pollution, degradation of ecosystem, ageing and poverty, the development of artificial intelligence and biological engineering are all posing fundamental questions about the essence and continuation of humankind. Liberal democracy itself is being challenged for not able to bring about real change, but a chinese style authoritarian rule suffocating Hong Kong and spreading across the world would definitely make things worse.
You can’t make the world a better place by not letting people speak. It is as simple as that.
The Yuen Kong San Tsuen village election was ended suddenly, but they cannot stop the campaign to carry on. I lost the candidacy, but in return I gained a lot of opportunities to promote democracy, freedom of speech and sustainable development. I hope more villagers are ready to join hands to implement all the proposals in the election platform, and I am confident that many more villagers are willing to compete in the next election, to push for a greener and cleaner rural Hong Kong.
Today marks the beginning of the Yuen Kong San Tsuen "Da Jiu" festival every eight years, it prays for good weather and a peaceful nation. I wish the event a great success and our vegetable farmers to have good harvest in the coming year.