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Wednesday, January 28, 2015, 09:29

Divisions may deny SAR chance of democracy

By Chan Tak-Leung

Whichever way you look at Hong Kong’s current situation despite it being recognized as a world city, it is not a city at ease with itself.

I do not make this statement lightly. Observing the region from afar, Hong Kong has barely recovered from the 79 days of illegal occupations at the end of last year. There are still small scale disturbances; damaging splinter activities still take place sporadically. These aim to cause deeper conflict and to challenge the rule of law.

Furthermore, despite the launch of a second round of consultations on constitutional reform, “pan-democrat” legislators are still reluctant to participate in the public consultation with no legitimate mandate from the electorate. Their conduct is hardly democratic. The eventual consequences of their actions could deny Hong Kong citizens the opportunity to achieve universal suffrage in the 2017 election for the next Chief Executive (CE) (as well for the new legislature).

To make some advances toward democracy, it is vital that those with different positions also contribute toward the formation and selection process for the Nominating Committee (NC) and other election matters. Legislators and citizens should understand that unless there is engagement and participation, Hong Kong and its citizens may be the ultimate losers. The 5 million people eligible to vote in an election by universal suffrage may not be able to do so.

Do these “pan-democrat” legislators really believe the status quo to be more democratic than having universal suffrage in 2017?

I thought democracy meant giving citizens the right to active participation in politics and civic life. I have experienced four elections and was fortunate to be elected on three occasions. “The people have spoken” is a well-known saying we should bear in mind. Those citizens eligible to vote in Hong Kong are not being consulted by their elected representatives. These representatives are unwilling to participate in the decision-making process which could lead to successful constitutional reform. These legislators may in fact have stripped these citizens of their right to vote in the next CE election.

“Pan-democrat” legislators and other groups are forever urging Hong Kong to follow international standards. However, their opposition to recent developments in the SAR is actually the opposite of what they preach.

First, the inauguration of the newly formed Hong Kong Army Cadets Association was recently criticised as “indoctrination”. As a matter of fact, uniformed cadets are nothing new to Hong Kong. It should also be noted that there are currently more than 100,000 young people who participate in the cadet movement in Britain. The British Ministry of Defence invests over 160 million pounds ($241 million) in the movement with the view of promoting active citizenship and improving the confidence and character of young people. Critics who have never participated in such activities might find this difficult to understand.

Second, I strongly believe there is urgent need to review Hong Kong’s school curriculum. Take a look at the current English national curriculum, you will find history education is promoted with the purpose of helping students gain a coherent knowledge and understanding of the country’s past and of the wider world. 

Students are also asked to study world history. Those blinded by these facts in Hong Kong should hang their heads in shame because students in Britain know more about China’s Qing Dynasty from 1644 to 1911 or Russian history from 1800 to 1989. This is the only way you can help students gain a balanced knowledge of history coupled with a world view. For the record, Britain’s curriculum also includes citizenship issues and languages (including Putonghua).

Third, British students are encouraged to take part in extra-curricular activities such as debate, local youth councils and a regional youth parliament. There are also Business and Education Partnerships around the country. Their roles help students participate in work, placements, workshops, tours, exchange programs, internships, skills training, career development, mentoring and apprenticeships.

Such participation would certainly advance the cause of democracy in Hong Kong. Moreover, citizens in Hong Kong should not compromise its status as a world city during an increasingly competitive and demanding time.

The author is director of the Chinese in Britain Forum. He was the first-ever Chinese British citizen to be elected mayor of the Greater London Borough of Redbridge (2009-10) and served as a member of the city council for over 10 years.

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