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 Hong Kong fellows,
Under the shadow of the China-U.S. trade war, the business community in Hong Kong is generally downbeat about the economic outlook for 2019. However, the signing of the new Agreement on Trade in Goods between the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government (HKSARG) and the Ministry of Commerce under the framework of the Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) on December 14, 2018 could be said well-timed and offered relief for local businesses and companies under the current climate of uncertainty.
According to the new agreement, starting from January 1, 2019, much more goods of Hong Kong origin can be imported to the Mainland with zero tariff. In addition, pilot scheme on liberalization of the servicing industries including finance, education, tourism and culture, will be launched in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area (GBA).
This CEPA Upgrade is a more comprehensive free trade agreement with enrichment in contents covering four major areas, namely trade in goods, trade in services, investment, and economic and technological co-operation in response to the National 13th Five-Year Plan. It, to a great extent, elevated the co-operation and exchanges on both sides setting a new milestone and laying a solid foundation for further economic integration and trade development.
One will be pleased to see that the new agreement unifies, refurbishes and enhances the level of commitments on liberalization and facilitation of trade. It also opens up more economic and investment opportunities between the Mainland and Hong Kong as well as gradually addresses the issue of ‘big doors lay open while small doors remain shut’. In particular, the zero-tariff arrangement for goods will inevitably save manufacturers’ time in tackling product specific rules of origin (PSRs) and encourage them to develop new products in Hong Kong and export them to the Mainland market in full gear. Besides, trade facilitation measures among the cities within the Greater Bay Area and Hong Kong will keep to boost the manufacturers’ confidence in upgrading their production lines for high value-added products, to speed up the pace of expansion of SMEs in the Mainland market and to provide stronger support to Hong Kong's participation in the Belt and Road Initiative. The description - “Made in Hong Kong” is going to be loved.
The agreement supports Hong Kong to cultivate a greater and broader export market in order to boost its own economic growth. This could be seen as the country's new measure to further support Hong Kong's economic development.
The agreement is a 'New Year gift' for Hong Kong, which serves to combat the adverse consequences of the trade war and carve a way out for the trade sectors. However, to ensure successful implementation of the Agreement, it is important that the government of each side shall take necessary measures, whether in the form of law, regulation, rule, procedure, decision, and administrative action, etc. to ensure observance of the agreement by its competent government authorities.
2018 marks the 40th anniversary of the nation's reform and opening-up, and the 15th anniversary of the signing of CEPA as well. It is of special and epochal significance to Mainland and Hong Kong to have this CEPA Upgrade last year. It reflects the country’s full recognition of Hong Kong’s tremendous contribution to the success of the reform and opening-up process.
As a matter of fact, the current international political and economic environment is complicated and unpredictable, particularly trade protectionism is escalating rapidly, posing a major threat to global economy. The Chinese economy also faces downward pressure, as reflected by the economic data in recent months. The industrial output growth and Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) reveal signs of slowing down. In addition, enterprises in various industries are facing significant challenges in the process of transformation and upgrading. Nevertheless, China has the capability and confidence to maintain the economic fundamentals sustaining its development in the long run. Medium-to-high speed growth of China’s economy is an important stabilizer for Hong Kong’s economy. When China gradually expands its domestic demand, the demand for imported goods and services becomes increasingly strong. Hong Kong, with the strong support of Mainland, will benefit the first and the most. Looking ahead, growth for trades in goods and services in the future remains great, which will not only inject new energy into Hong Kong's economic development but will also strengthen its capability to resist adverse impacts by, say, a trade war.
2019 is expected to be a challenging year. The Sino-U.S. trade war is still in the process of endless talks and discussions without constructive conclusion. As a representative of The Chinese Manufacturers' Association of Hong Kong (CMA) in the Legislative Council and one of the Vice Chairman of the Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong (BPA), I will use my best endeavor to speak for them and assist the government in formulating policies conducive to the development of SMEs. Say, calling on the government to offer incentives in encouraging high value-added and highly automated industries to open their factories in Hong Kong. For what concerns the industry most, such as revitalization of industrial buildings and the offsetting of MPF, I will make every effort to achieve the highest common factor between the interest of the industries and society. I shall look forward to everybody’s continue support to me. Let’s go hand in hand to achieve a better Hong Kong.
Let me take this opportunity to wish everyone a fruitful New Year.
Member of the Legislative Council Jimmy Ng Wing Ka