Politicians and public figures from a range of backgrounds take turns to have their say on important matters of the day in this personal view programme.
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Just the other day, someone asked me a question many had asked before, “What is the biggest challenge to the success of One Country Two Systems?” The answer came to me almost instantly: without a doubt, lies and misinformation. You may ask, aren’t they the same thing? No, they are not; misinformation may be accidental, but lies are deliberate. Yes, there are people out there who are planning and scheming every day to destroy the One Country Two Systems. And their lies are deliberate. You may think I am being paranoid, but there is no other way to explain the amount of lies and misinformation our community is being fed every day. Most of these lies and misinformation cannot be anything but deliberate falsehood. Examples are abound.
Take the example of the so called One Way Permit system by which children of Hong Kong residents are systemically allowed to come to Hong Kong to unite with their parents. Even today, almost 20 years after its introduction and operation, there are still people who firmly believe the system was designed to facilitate Mainland residents who had no connection with Hong Kong to come to Hong Kong with the sole aim of robbing jobs, housing and other social welfare rights of Hong Kong people. And we are not just talking about mistaken beliefs of the man in the street, but highly educated people, politicians and legislators, some even with long standing legal background. What is most shocking is that the facts are more often than not, open and plain for all to see. And yet, there are still so called opinion leaders and even legislators who choose to believe the opposite.
What happened in 2019 is another obvious example. A certain newspaper invented the slogan, “send back to China” (“送中”)to twist an amendment to the law as regards extradition of foreign criminals into an evil scheme to send Hong Kong people back to China to be persecuted. It was an obvious lie; and yet, tens of thousands if not millions of people, some highly educated, believed it, so much so people were willing to destroy everything in their path, commit arson, kill and maim innocent bystander because of it. I have not, of course, forgotten most overseas media and governments also either believed the lie or didn’t care to find out the truth. Together, they helped fan the anger and hate in the community until it reached a crescendo that brought us to the brink of total disintegration.
Can these governments, media, politicians and opinion leaders not tell the difference between truth and lie? Of course they can. So it was not an accident, or carelessness, but deliberate action. Can these horrible things be avoided? Theoretically yes, but we need honest politicians and impartial media committed to making the One Country Two Systems a success; and we are lacking in both.
You may say, there must be something that can be done to stop politicians, opinion leaders and the media from telling lies or spreading misinformation to mislead the public. Again, theoretically yes, but next to impossible in real life, especially under the One Country Two Systems. Why? Because immediately such measures will attract a sinister label of limiting or even destroying freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Under the One Country Two Systems, these freedoms are the most highly guarded core values any challenge of which will bring on the perception of deviating from, if not the demise of, the One Country Two Systems. In other words, there are people out there who know precisely how to weaponize our inherent conflicts under the Two Systems and turn our most revered core values into a formidable tool to dismantle our One Country Two Systems.
So are our hands tied and there is nothing we can do? Not exactly. We can and must fight them at their battle ground. Communicating with the public has never been the strong suit of successive administrations since the Handover. In fact, it has always been our weakest link. We must change that. First, we must build up a suitable network of channels of communication and consultation with the public. The British did that quite well in the colonial days; there is no reason why it can’t be done again.
Secondly, the government must devote more resources to strengthen its ability to refute untruths and misinformation. There should be set up a public relation office or a central policy unit where lies and misinformation are quickly dealt with and corrected and not allowed to ferment and proliferate.
Thirdly,we must also realize government action alone is not enough. If people distrust the Government, they will not be easily convinced by Government officials or agencies. There is a role for non-government agencies here. I am referring to think tanks and other private sector opinion leaders and media with a conscience. The Government must forge a good relationship with such private sector allies. I am not just talking about information or intelligence sharing, but mutual support materially and spiritually.
Finally, there must also be more in depth research and studies of policies and their ramifications. There are simply not enough resources devoted to this kind of work within the Government at the moment. Where appropriate, there should be more contracting out of such projects to think tanks in the private sector. This is not unusual in other countries and certainly the Central Government places a lot more reliance and emphasis on think tanks than the SAR Government ever did.
The internet has brought along a whole new era of sharing a wealth of information at the touch of a finger tip. News travels fast and far, but sadly untruths and misinformation travel even quicker and further. Nowadays, wars are fought and won not by guns and rockets but by lies and misinformation. The Government must adopt a whole new perspective and a new way of thinking to tackle lies and misinformation. For the very survival of our One Country Two Systems depends on it.
Dear Hong Kongers,
I handed in my resignation letter last week. This marks the end of my work in the Legislative Council.
10 years ago, when I decided to leave the ICAC to return to work for the Democratic Party, during an interview with the Hong Kong Economic Journal, I said, “When we look back at the events that happened in the past hundred years in Chinese history, we should be grateful that dissidents like us are still able to speak our views freely and continue to make a living, and not be subject to exile, imprisonment and decapitation.” Looking back, the only thing that has not happened yet is decapitation.
To be frank, I have never underestimated the Communist Party’s cruelty. I was only 12 years old when the Party used machine guns and tanks to massacre the students in Beijing in order to preserve their power. When I decided to rejoin the Democratic Party, I was well prepared for a gradually increasing level of suppression by the regime; I just never expected the pace to skyrocket the way it did this past year.
Under an authoritarian regime, it is considered normal for politicians to face imprisonment. I have no regrets: this is my vocation and responsibility. I have this responsibility because of my love for Hong Kong and because of my stubbornness. I firmly believe times will change and that one day, full democracy will triumphantly take root in Hong Kong.
The night is always darkest before the dawn. We must persevere despite the challenges. There is no doubt that the authoritarian regime will further crack down on journalists, academics, members of the judiciary, those in the medical profession, social workers, civil servants, pro-democracy activists and supporters, etc. I believe that the new wave of suppression will consist of the following:
1. It will include District Councillors and public officers in the existing oath provisions so that they can politically screen candidates and disqualify those they deem “disloyal” to the CCP;
2. Markedly restrict mass gatherings and demonstrations even after the pandemic is over, citing public order and safety concerns; organizers will be charged with serious offences;
3. Cite the Emergency Regulations Ordinance as an excuse to maintain social stability, execute seizures of outspoken media outlets, and block websites to deter public donations in support of the movement.
4. Intervene in different professional sectors: government and quasi-governmental bodies will be established to issue licenses as a way to control professionals’ “political stance” and override professionalism;
5. Recruit Administrative Officers (AO) based on political allegiance; fully review the political backgrounds of candidates so that AOs can become party members;
6. Government officials and pro-establishment figures will initiate defamation lawsuits frequently, so that pro-democracy figures will face paying hefty sums and will be under constant psychological pressure;
7. Continuously create a climate of fear causing a chilling effect: members of civil society will think that they have no choice but to self-censor themselves; the regime encourages reporting on others, causing a breakdown of mutual trust; an increasing number of people will be forced to leave the city and they will be replaced by large numbers of Mainlanders.
How can Hong Kongers not feel sad and depressed when Hong Kong’s well treasured core values and system are crumbling so rapidly? However, the world is changing: international and domestic political environments are constantly evolving; the internal and external pressure faced by the regime will only increase further in the future. I trust I do not have to elaborate much on what will happen if that continues to be the case. Who can go against history’s course?
Furthermore, Hong Kong is still the Hong Kong we deeply love, we have to come together, unite and march on. We, especially those of us within the democratic camp, must put aside our differences, as we are all protesters under the suppression of the authoritarian regime. We must gather as much force as we can to oppose the regime’s suppression, but also stay alert and flexible in response to the government’s persecution. I will continue to stand firm, fight, and work together with the public in the local community, in cyberspace, and on the streets to guard the truth of the events that happened in the Yuen Long attack, and counteract all the untruthful allegations and spurious statements of the government and the pro-establishment camp.
Under the current climate, some friends felt they were left with no choice but to leave Hong Kong. I fully understand their reasoning and difficulties in making such decisions. However, I respectfully ask all of you not to forget our roots. Help one another out as much as possible: a little support goes a long way. Hold on to the passion for change as long as you can: we, namely all those working for democracy and justice, will rise again. Apart from staying healthy, Hong Kongers should also think outside of the box when it comes to participating in democratic movements: we should all strive to outlive the authoritarian regime. Youngsters should keep equipping themselves, because the future is yours. We should all remember the words of coach Anzai, from the well-loved comic Slam Dunk: “If you give up, the game will be over.”
Lastly, I would like to thank the 39,327 New Territories East voters who voted for me back in 2016. My slogan when I ran for LegCo was “Anti Bid-rigging, Anti-Corruption.” Looking back, I seem to have only achieved half of my mission. The triads no longer monopolize building renovation works, the market is now back on track and there are no building renovation works with sky-high prices anymore. Unfortunately, corruption seems to have gotten worse, and those in power stay in power at the expense of citizens. I also want to thank my team, my colleagues, volunteers and pro-democracy supporters from the bottom of my heart for weathering the storm with me all these years. It is my honour to have fought this battle with you all.
Add oil Hong Kongers!
Lam Cheuk Ting
Hong Kongers, the fight for democracy is far from over. Despite the many difficulties ahead, I will continue to march towards and work for a better future for Hong Kong. Please take care. With you, I look forward to the day when we will celebrate our victory at dawn.