06 September 2016

Generation Shift 換代

For months, fierce political campaigns, vicious personal attacks and sporadic allegations of electoral irregularities had filled the airwaves and fuelled social media discourse in Hong Kong. One candidate was forced to drop out and flee to the U.K. after receiving threats of physical harm.

That is because the stakes had never been higher.

The Honorable Nathan Law (middle)

On Sunday, in the first election in Hong Kong since the Umbrella Movement was spawned in 2014, more than two million citizens – nearly 60% of all registered voters – went to the polls. 40 seats on the Legislative Council, or Legco, the region’s parliament, were up for grabs by candidates representing a wide spectrum of political parties. They ranged from diehard Beijing loyalists to pro-democracy veterans and younger, more radical newcomers calling for autonomy and even independence from China...


Read the rest of this article on TheGuardian.com.

As the article appeared in the 6 September 
2016 print edition of The Guardian

01 September 2016

Legco Election Special: Part 5 - New Territories West


I conclude my Legislative Council (Legco) election series with New Territories West, where three distinguished gentlemen in that district will tell you who they are and what they stand for.

My top picks in New Territories West are Neighborhood and Worker’s Service Centre’s Ivan Wong Yun-tat 黃潤達 (candidate #1), League of Social Democrats’ Raphael Wong Ho-ming 黃浩銘(candidate #11) and independent candidate Eddie Chu Hoi-dick 朱凱廸 (candidate #20).

Read Part 1 - Hong Kong Island, Part 2 - Kowloon EastPart 3 - Kowloon West and Part 4 - New Territories East.

Get out and vote!

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Question 1: Beyond rhetoric and slogans, what concrete action or achievements can you point to that distinguish you from other candidates?

Ivan: This is my 14th year working with Neighborhood and Worker’s Service Centre and my seventh year serving as a district councilman for Kwai Tsing. I’m not a political celebrity – I prefer to work behind-the-scenes for ordinary folks in my district, fighting for their rights and encouraging them to get involved in policy discussions.

In 2006, I launched a campaign to build shuttle elevators for the Kwai Chung Estate. We collected 2,000 signatures and mobilized 300 people to take part in a rally. In the end our efforts bore fruit and the elevators were built. I believe in taking real action.

I’m running for Legco not as a warrior but as a doer. If I’m elected, I’ll make sure that government resources are properly and fairly allocated to the cross-section of society. I’ll get more people to talk about important issues like universal retirement plans, standard working hours and civil liberties.

Raphael: The League of Social Democrats and People Power have been working side-by-side both within and without Legco. More so than any other pan-democratic parties, the two parties have succeeded in using filibusters to derail unpopular government initiatives, including the so-called “internet Article 23” [the Copyright (Amendment) Bill] and the Strategy Studies for Artificial Islands in the Central Waters [to determine the feasibility of constructing artificial islands off the Lantau coast].

In the meantime, my allies and I have been pressuring C.Y. Leung to deliver the promise he made in his 2015 Policy Address to set aside $50 billion for a universal pension scheme.

Eddie: I do a lot more than shouting slogans. For year, I’ve been heavily involved in city planning, rural development and environmental protection. I was one of leaders in the movements to save the Star Ferry Pier and the Queen’s Pier, to oppose the construction of a high-speed rail link, to promote outdoor markets, and to draw public attention to illegal waste dumping. When it comes to environmental and heritage conservation, I have ample experience in research, investigation, organization and direct intervention.

Unlike other candidates, I build my platform on a forward-looking agenda. I believe the future of Hong Kong requires several key ingredients: bottom-up city planning, social and environmental responsibility, a balance between urban and rural developments, and a sustainable agricultural industry.

Ivan has been a district councilman for
years fighting for the working class
    


Question 2: If you win, what issue(s) will you put at the top of your agenda and why?

Ivan: Our economy is dominated by oligarchs – big businesses such as Link and MTR Corp. have far too much market power and far too little oversight. Politically, the absence of real democracy allows our government and Beijing to ignore public opinion. These are the reasons why citizens work long hours, get paid a pittance and are left to fend for themselves after retirement.

If I’m elected, I’ll work with labor groups and community organizations on key livelihood issues. I’ll push to legislate standard working hours and implement a universal pension scheme without a means test.

Raphael: My primary focus will be on universal retirement protection and standard working hours legislation, both of which will strengthen our social welfare net and benefit millions of citizens.

I also support the enactment of a democratically-drafted constitution. Universal suffrage is merely a start – it’s through autonomy and self-determination under a new constitution that the people of Hong Kong will develop a distinct identity to stand up to the autocratic regime in China. That’s the future of our pro-democracy movement.

Eddie: First and foremost, I want to reform Heung Yee Kuk 鄉議局 [also known as the Rural Council, a powerful body representing the interest of indigenous people in the New Territories].

Rural development is a complex and emotional subject for many people. It affects not only the indigenous community but every Hong Konger, as it touches on much broader issues like city planning and housing policy. I believe the biggest obstacle to rural development is Heung Yee Kuk, a self-governing, self-perpetuating body that’s susceptible to nepotism and corruption. Some council members put themselves above the law, violating and condoning the violation of zoning laws, building codes and environmental regulations.

We need to inject transparency and accountability into Heung Yee Kuk by allowing New Territories villagers – many of whom are too scared to speak up – to democratically elect the council chairman and community leaders. Only then can residents take back their community currently controlled by powerful council seniors and members of the Triads. I’m not afraid to open that Pandora’s box. It holds the key to addressing the chronic land problem in Hong Kong.

Raphael believes a distinct Hong Kong identity
is key to countering China’s autocratic regime 

Question 3: Our legislative process is plagued with the stubborn existence of the functional seats and unfair rules such as the “separate vote count” mechanism. When the system is so heavily stacked against the opposition, what will you do differently and what are you prepared to do that your predecessors haven’t already tried?

Ivan: The pro-Beijing camp takes up all but a handful of the functional seats, which ensure that government-proposed bills will always get approved but that bills proposed by the opposition will always be defeated. That’s why students continue to suffer from the unpopular TSA [Territory-wide System Assessment, a series of mandatory aptitude tests in primary and secondary schools], fathers are denied a decent paternal leave, government officials responsible for the lead-tainted water incidents go unpunished, and C.Y. Leung gets away with taking a huge sum of money from UGL [an Australian engineering company]. I’m running for Legco because we need more pan-democratic lawmakers to hold the government accountable.

But being a lawmaker is much more than blocking bad government bills, because doing that alone won’t engender long-term political change. Only civic engagement will. Winning a Legco seat will give me a clear mandate to involve local communities in policymaking and empower them to partake in the political process.

Raphael: The many injustices in Legco, and in particularly the dominance by the undemocratically-elected functional constituencies, are what make procedural tactics like filibusters the only effective weapon against the government. As I mentioned earlier, the League of Social Democrats and People Power have been leading that charge for years. We’ll continue our efforts in the next Legco session, and we’ll be even more effective if other lawmakers are willing to get in on the action.

Battles on the legislative floor aside, we need large-scale political movements involving the general public to bring about fundamental change. I’m as committed to fighting the good fight in Legco as I’m doing that on the streets.

Eddie: At present, filibusters are our only defense against the government’s “white elephant” infrastructure projects. If I win the election, I’ll no doubt be part of that campaign.

As a lawmaker, I will also use every resource at my disposal to uncover, investigate and draw public attention to any wrongdoing or impropriety within the government. A Legco seat will give me the platform and political capital to get the public on side. That’s the key to building an effective opposition.

Eddie builds his platform on environmental
protection and taking on the powerful
Heung Yee Kuk
    

Question 4: What is your stance on independence? Do you either condemn or support the movement?

Ivan: The Chinese government promised Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy under the one country, two systems framework. In recent years, however, Beijing has been increasingly meddlesome in our affairs. The most egregious example is the 8/31 framework [an announcement concerning the 2017 chief executive election issued by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on August 31st, 2014, that rejected, among other things, civil nomination], which dashed our hopes for genuine universal suffrage. More recently, a number of pro-independence candidates were banned from this Legco election. Hong Kong, it seems, is no longer ruled by law but by people. The emergence of the independence movement is merely a reflection of our collective frustration.

I don’t support independence, but I believe the public has the right to at least talk about it. I’m against any encroachment on our freedom of speech and freedom of thought. China needs to butt out and let us determine our own future.

Raphael: I’m a proponent of self-determination via, among other things, an amendment to the Basic Law to permit a referendum to decide our destiny. If the majority of civil society wishes to separate from mainland China, and that’s our choice and so be it.

At the same time, I’m also mindful of our political reality. Hong Kong doesn’t yet have what it takes to be an independent state. We’ll need to either wait for the one-party rule in China to end, or unite with the pro-democracy movement on the mainland for an all-out revolt – whichever happens first. Until then, it’s more realistic for us to focus on safeguarding our existing freedoms and securing more achievable wins.

Eddie: I support self-determination. We have the right to determine our future in a democratic manner, and independence is just one of the options we may consider. Sadly, many pan-democrats have been quick to denounce the independence movement before we’ve had the chance to properly debate the option.

Incidents like the 8/31 framework, the missing booksellers and the disqualification of certain pro-independence candidates from this election remind us that Beijing has no qualms about sidestepping the Basic Law. Self-determination allows us to think beyond the Basic Law and take back our future.


Question 5: If you had to choose the next chief executive from the pro-Beijing camp, whom would you pick and why?

Ivan: I wouldn’t support anyone chosen through a “small circle” election [at present, only members of an exclusive election committee have the right to select the chief executive]. As long as the electoral system remains unchanged, it’ll continue to produce a Beijing mouthpiece. The chief executive is only as good as the system that elects him or her.

Even though I’m against C.Y. Leung’s reelection, I don’t believe getting rid of him will solve any of our social and political problems. The only solution is genuine universal suffrage.

Raphael: After what the city went through in 2014, universal suffrage remains out of reach for the people of Hong Kong. Any chief executive handpicked by the election committee will answer only to Beijing or the property tycoons – or both. He or she will do what’s best for his masters and not what’s best for the rest of us. The only chief executive I’d support is one elected by the people to serve the people.

Eddie: I wouldn’t pick anyone from the pro-Beijing camp. Like the rest of Hong Kong, I oppose C.Y. Leung’s reelection. But whoever replaces him will still be chosen by a few insiders and serving those insiders’ interests. Hong Kongers must stand firm and say no to plutocracy.


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Other top-of-the-ticket Legco candidates in the New Territories West geographical constituency include Andrew Wan Siu-kin, Ko Chi-fai, Chow Wing-kan, Cheng Chung-tai, Kwong Koon-wan, Michael Tien Puk-sun, Ho Kwan-yiu, Leung Che-cheung, Kwok Ka-ki, Lee Cheuk-yan, Wong Chun-kit, Alice Mak Mei-kuen, Frederick Fung Kin-kee, Chan Han-pan, Clarice Cheung Wai-ching, Hendrick Lui Chi-hang and Tong Wing-chi.


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This article also appeared on Hong Kong Free Press.


As posted on Hong Kong Free Press



29 August 2016

Legco Election Special: Part 4 - New Territories East


Continuing with my Legislative Council (Legco) election series, we turn now to New Territories East, where three incumbent lawmakers from the opposition camp will take my five-question challenge.

My top picks in New Territories East are League of Social Democrats’ “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung 長毛梁國雄 (candidate #5), Civic Party’s Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu 楊岳橋(candidate #7) and People Power’s “Slow Beat” Raymond Chan Chi-chuen 慢必陳志全 (candidate #18).
Get out and vote!

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Question 1: Beyond rhetoric and slogans, what concrete action or achievements can you point to that distinguish you from other candidates?

Long Hair: I have a three-prong strategy: filibusters, public demonstrations and courtroom protests. I’ll continue to use various forms of civil disobedience to force Beijing to back off and accept our demand for self-determination. I’ve stood up to the powerful regime all these years and I’ll continue to do so.

Alvin: Since becoming a Legco member some five months ago, I’ve attended 93% of all council meetings and 95% of Finance Committee meetings. I’ve also sat on 12 panels and subcommittees. Meanwhile, I still keep up with my district work in New Territories East by advising residents on community issues.

I’m thankful for the opportunity to work with my pan-democratic colleagues to defend our freedom of expression by forcing the government to withdraw the Copyright (Amendment) Bill. In addition, I voted against the Medical Council Reform Bill after balancing the interests of medical practitioners and patients, as well as proposals to fund various wasteful construction projects, including a musical fountain in Kwun Tong, a Tiananmen Square replica in Tai Po, and the Moreton Terrace Community Hall in Wan Chai, none of which passed a basic cost-benefit analysis.

Ray: In the past four years as a lawmaker, I’ve been instrumental in blocking bad bills from being passed. More specifically, I led the battles to stop the Copyrights (Amendment) Bill that would have restricted the freedom of expression on the internet, the one belt, one road scholarship program that would have benefitted only foreign students, the Lantau Island reclamation project that would have put our environment at risk, as well as many other “white elephant” infrastructure projects.

I have a proven track record of leadership and keeping our unelected chief executive on his toes. In fact, my procedural tactics have been so effective that C.Y. Leung has to urge citizens not to vote for me or my allies in this election. Leung is afraid of filibusters – he even said so himself.

After all these years, Long Hair is as
defiant as ever against communist China 

Question 2: If you win, what issue(s) will you put at the top of your agenda and why?

Long Hair: I’ve spent the past four years fighting for a universal retirement scheme. Our government needs to share its wealth with the masses and give the elderly back their dignity. I’ll continue that fight in my next term.

Second, I’ll do all I can to resist Beijing’s interference in local affairs and infringement of our rights. I’ll stave off any attempt by our government to re-introduce an anti-subversion bill under Article 23 of the Basic Law – and, for that matter, any other attempt to limit our civil liberties. I’ll also challenge the legality of the Election Affairs Commission’s recent decisions to require Legco candidates to sign an additional declaration [accepting China’s sovereignty over Hong Kong] and to disqualify certain candidates from the race.

Third, I’ll continue to filibuster and use other procedural means to discharge our function of keeping the government in check.

Finally, I’ll provide support to the pro-democracy movement on the mainland with the ultimate goal of ending the one-party rule in China.

Alvin: I’d be grateful for the opportunity to continue my Legco work for another four years. Topping my agenda is an in-depth investigation, via Legco’s Powers and Privileges Ordinance, into C.Y. Leung’s undisclosed payment from UGL [an Australian engineering company], as well as his possible meddling in the appointment of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) commissioner. I’ll also put forward an amendment to the ICAC Ordinance so that the commissioner won’t be accountable only to the chief executive. We need to increase both transparency and procedural fairness in the system.

As for social policies, I’ll push for a universal pension scheme and an amendment to Residential Care Homes (Elderly Persons) Ordinance with the aim to ensure a dignified retirement life for our elderly and release their spending potential. I’ll also propose an amendment to the Building Management Ordinance to prevent flat owners from falling victim to contractors and property management companies who rig the bidding process under the mandatory building inspection scheme.

Ray: First of all, I’ll push for a universal pension scheme under which every senior citizen aged 65 or above will receive a monthly allowance of at least $3,500 without a means test. It’s important to point out that no new taxes will need to be raised under this proposal – the additional $15 to 18 billion a year will be well covered by our government’s annual fiscal surplus. The plan will have tremendous benefits: the increased allowance will give our elderly a reasonable quality of life and at the same time lessen the financial burden on their working children.

Second, I’ll spearhead a new law to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. I’ll press the government for a timetable for consultation and legislation, as well as funding for promoting awareness and policies against sexual discrimination.

Alvin vows to get to the bottom of C.Y. Leung’s
controversy payment from an overseas firm
    


Question 3: Our legislative process is plagued with the stubborn existence of the functional seats and unfair rules such as the “separate vote count” mechanism. When the system is so heavily stacked against the opposition, what will you do differently and what are you prepared to do that your predecessors haven’t already tried?

Long Hair: To date, my People Power colleagues and I are the only lawmakers committed to use of filibusters. Unfortunately, there are only three of us and we need reinforcement to hold the line against unwanted legislation and policies. We need more of us to exert maximum pressure on the government within and without the legislature.

The Umbrella Movement didn’t achieve its political goals, in part because the pan-democrats failed to take their non-cooperation campaign into Legco. Going forward, I’ll work harder with other opposition parties to broaden the scope of our collaboration and use Legco as a platform to garner public support for our resistance and raise civic awareness in society at large. There’s strength in numbers and unity.

Alvin: A constitutional amendment to level the playing field in the legislative process has always been on my agenda. More specifically, Article 74 of the Basic Law prohibits individual lawmakers from introducing bills relating to government policies. My fellow Civic Party members and I have been advocating an amendment to Article 74 to restore our role as policymakers.

Nevertheless, Article 159 of the Basic Law confers the power to propose any constitutional amendment to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, the State Council and the HKSAR. That means before we can talk about amending Article 74, we need to educate the public and muster bottom-up support in society to pressure our government and Beijing to relent. I believe in laying the foundation for long-term change.

Ray: The majority of Hong Kong people support and vote for the pan-democrats, and yet our skewed political system ensures that the pro-establishment camp will always enjoy a majority vote in the legislature. As a result, pan-democratic lawmakers are stuck being the perpetual minority in Legco despite having a mandate from the public.

That’s why I’m prepared to exploit every Legco procedural rule to make our government more accountable. I hope to set an example for other pan-democrats and strengthen the voice of dissent.


Ray makes universal retirement protection
and sexual equality his top priorities


Question 4: What is your stance on independence? Do you either condemn or support the movement?

Long Hair: I don’t support independence. Hong Kong isn’t a race, and we still lack a coherent value system and distinct culture that would allow us to unilaterally declare ourselves a sovereign state. Separatism and isolationism won’t get us anywhere with China, especially considering [Chinese President] Xi Jinping’s nationalistic stance. Nor will they solve any of our deep-rooted problems such as a widening income gap, collusion between government and oligarchs, economic invasion by Chinese businesses and Beijing’s increasing political interference.

I do, however, support self-determination. The people of Hong Kong have the right to redraft our constitution. Independence is one of the many options we may consider.

Alvin: Hong Kongers should have the right to make decisions concerning their own future. Even though I’m not supportive of independence, I encourage political discourse and respect the right to freely discuss even sensitive topics.

The emergence of the independence movement is a direct result of the encroachment of our freedoms by C.Y. Leung and the Beijing government. Hong Kongers are disheartened by the perception that the one country, two systems framework no longer gives us the autonomy and civil liberties guaranteed in the Basic Law. In response to the broken promise of universal suffrage and the increasingly toxic relationship between the legislative and executive branches, we must fight tooth and nail for our self-determination.



Question 5: If you had to choose the next chief executive from the pro-Beijing camp, whom would you pick and why?

Long Hair: I won’t support any of them. To choose from the pro-Beijing camp is to be forced to pick your poison.

Frankly, that’s what’s wrong with the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong. For too long, we’ve played by the rules and prayed for a benevolent dictator. Without the courage to make sacrifices for our future, we’re all complicit in perpetuating the status quo.

Alvin: Regardless of which candidate is running for the chief executive office, I’m interested in only one thing: universal suffrage. I’ll push to reboot the electoral reform to secure the right to nominate and elect our chief executive without Beijing’s interference.

Ray: In 2014, the National People’s Congress unilaterally set the limits on how our chief executive is to be nominated and elected. The electoral reform bill drafted on that basis was eventually defeated in a humiliating 28-8 vote. As long as the chief executive election remains unfair and undemocratic based on rules set by Beijing, my party and I will refuse to endorse, nominate or vote for anyone who stands for election.


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Other top-of-the-ticket Legco candidates in the New Territories East geographical constituency include Christine Fong Kwok-shan, Lam Cheuk-ting, Liu Tin-shing, Chin Wan-kan, Cheung Chiu-hung, Raymond Mak Ka-chun, Andrew Cheng Kar-foo, Elizabeth Quat Pui-fan, Hau Chi-keung, Dominic Lee Tsz-king, Tang Ka-piu, Gary Fan Kwok-wai, Estella Chan Yuk-ngor, Wong Sum-yu, Leticia Lee See-yin, Sixtus Leung Chung-hang, Clarence Ronald Leung Kam-shing, Yung Hoi-yan and Chan Hak-kan.


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This article also appeared on Hong Kong Free Press.



As posted on Hong Kong Free Press