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Published: 00:36, August 23, 2022 | Updated: 10:01, August 23, 2022
Hong Kong’s anti-social saboteurs are not ‘political prisoners’
By Ho Lok-sang
Published:00:36, August 23, 2022 Updated:10:01, August 23, 2022 By Ho Lok-sang

Mr Lo Kin-hei, chairman of the Democratic Party, recently announced that the Democratic Party supports “one country, two systems” and China’s Constitution. He says the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China is the foundation for the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government and should be respected.

However, he continued to call for the release of “political prisoners”, saying this is an important step for rapprochement and for easing the tensions between different factions in the community.

The problem with this narrative is that he still fails to tell the difference between political prisoners and arsonists. “Arsonists” may be a strong word. But it is an apt figure of speech to describe those who want to burn down the system that has been agreed upon between Hong Kong and Beijing as laid down in the Basic Law. It is explicitly spelled out in the Basic Law, which our own legislature has endorsed, that elections for the chief executive in the HKSAR government have to follow a gradualist approach, the progression of which depends on actual circumstances, and that even at the final stage, there will continue to be a Nominating Committee, which will vet the potential candidates. But the Democratic Party and its associates continue to advocate deviating from the Basic Law’s requirements. Moreover, many of those who are in the “pan-democrat” camp also want to overturn the Chinese mainland’s political system and turn it into a Western-style multiparty system, even though the existing system has proved to work very well, and more than 90 percent of mainland residents are very happy with the status quo. The mainland’s Communist Party of China-led political system is not a system that protects the interests of autocrats. It has eradicated extreme poverty, set up a social security system, enacted labor laws to protect labor interests, turned desert land into arable land, greatly improved water quality and atmospheric quality, greatly improved the country’s public health and healthcare systems, and greatly improved the livelihoods of the vast majority of people or practically everyone. The mainland’s political system is an infrastructure that has worked really well in virtually all key performance indicators. Those who want to subvert this system must be either foolish or they do not care for the well-being of the Chinese people.

I certainly hope that the Democratic Party will become part of the establishment — not to defend the interests of vested interests or autocrats, but to work out sustainable, feasible policies that will take Hong Kong to the next stage of development

This is why I call those who want to introduce a Western-style multiparty system into China “arsonists” or at least anti-social saboteurs. Those who want to tear down the Basic Law that protects Hong Kong people’s interests under “one country, two systems” are also saboteurs. Those charged under the National Security Law for Hong Kong are not political prisoners.

Political prisoners are those who are persecuted by the current ruling party in a multiparty system. The corrupt ruling party typically represents the narrow interests of autocrats and their friends, and they throw people in the opposition into prison so they will not run against them. In a one-party system in which leaders are selected based on track record and merit, there are no political prisoners.

Mr Lo is absolutely correct when he alludes to the importance of “people’s hearts reverting to the motherland”. It is true that without people genuinely and of their own accord identifying with the mainland, Hong Kong’s official reversion to the motherland can only be superficial. Unfortunately, the HKSAR government has not done a good job educating Hong Kong’s younger generations about the facts about the mainland, and the way the Liberal Studies curriculum was implemented was a disaster. “Critical thinking” was totally distorted, as youngsters were taught, instead of examining their own thinking process critically and checking out the truth or falsehood of “facts” that they are exposed to, to challenge the establishment. Although personal development and interpersonal relations were listed in the curriculum, even senior teachers in charge of the subject were found to lack critical thinking and respect for others. It was a disaster. Mr Lo overlooked these problems, and apparently is himself a victim of the lack of critical thinking. He just followed the narrative of the Western press and referred to those charged under the National Security Law as “political prisoners”.

Mr Lo is right in saying that rapprochement is important. Hong Kong people should stop infighting, and should work together. I certainly hope that the Democratic Party will become part of the establishment — not to defend the interests of vested interests or autocrats, but to work out sustainable, feasible policies that will take Hong Kong to the next stage of development. Hong Kong has been in the doldrums for too long. Some of the problems are, unfortunately, self-inflicted. Let us identify them, and work out the solutions.

Given that many who are charged under the National Security Law may have been misled and that many young offenders might have thought that they were doing the right things, I hope the judges will look at the circumstances and consider the upbringing of the offenders to consider whether there are grounds for mitigating the sentences. One thing is certain: Hong Kong continues to uphold the rule of law. As Grenville Cross observed, Hong Kong is doing quite well relative to both the United Kingdom and the United States in expediting trials. He found it strange that the European Commission, Hong Kong Watch and the Hong Kong Democracy Council never criticized the UK and the US for extended pretrial custody of those charged.

The author is director of Pan Sutong Shanghai-Hong Kong Economic Policy Research Institute, Lingnan University.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily. 

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