12 June 2014

Why We Should All Thank Long Hair 多謝長毛


Following the Legco election in 2004, The Economist, in an article titled “Suffrage on Sufferance,” had this to say about one of our lawmaker-elects:


“The unexpected election of Leung Kwok-hung, better known as ‘Long Hair’ – whose other main claims to fame are his Che Guevara T-shirts and rants against the chief executive... – suggests that many voters treated both the election and the toothless Legco as a joke.”

The British newspaper opined that Mr. Leung, with his fiery rhetoric and raggedy hairdo, is nothing more than an attention-grabbing troublemaker, and that by voting a clown into the Legco Hong Kong citizens must not have taken the election seriously. 

Rebel with a cause


The article led me to two thoughts.

First, whoever wrote it didn’t have a very good grasp of our political reality. Hong Kong has one of the most undemocratic legislative systems in the civilized world. Among the many anomalies, there is a political invention called the “functional constituencies” (功能議席) who take up half of the Legco’s 70 seats. Under the current rules, any government-proposed bill requires a simple majority from the 70 seats voting together. Bills introduced by individual lawmakers, on the other hand, are subject to the logic-defying “separate vote count” (分組點票) procedure and must secure a majority of votes from both the functional seats and the non-functional seats voting separately. Since none of the functional constituencies is democratically elected (they are picked by a small circle of voters within a trade or interest group) and nearly all of them are pro-establishment businessmen, you can see how the rules are custom-made to block any proposal made by the opposition, such as a motion to investigate C.Y. Leung’s corruption allegations.

What does this have to do with Long Hair? Pretty much everything. Our dysfunctional political system means that being a “moderate” Pan-democrat such as a member of the Civic Party (公民黨) or the Democrats (民主黨) is about as useful as a knife without a blade. Wagging their fingers at the government on the Legco floor may make these goody-two-shoes politicians look like people’s heroes on the evening news, but it does nothing to change the status quo. In other words, if the poker game is rigged, the player will only keep losing if he continues to play by the rules, no matter how hard he racks his brain.

Functional constituencies at work:
another opposition-proposed bill vetoed


That’s exactly what Long Hair and his so-called “radical” friends like Raymond Wong (黃毓民) and the folks from People Power (人民力量) refuse to do: play by the rules and lose game after game. They understand that as long as the playing field remains lopsided, they need to think and play outside the box. And so these rebel fighters organize mass protests, stage days-long filibusters and come up with innovative campaigns like the de facto referendum. Their efforts have yielded real results, often by raising enough stink to tip the balance of public opinion and forcing the government to back down from a bad bill. What's more, their shenanigans highlight the unfairness of our twisted political system and, in the process, inspire citizens to be interested and get involved. In their relatively young political careers, Long Hair and his comrades have managed to accomplish more than the rest of the Pan-democrats have done in the 17 years since the Handover.

Long Hair during a filibuster


My second thought after reading The Economist article is more depressing: if a world-class newspaper doesn’t get our system, what chance does an average tabloid-reading, soap-opera-watching, politics-averse Hong Konger have? Indeed, ask anyone on the street and he will likely describe Long Hair and his likes as extreme, belligerent and irrational. Their good work is written off as destructive and counter-productive. After all, images of these firebrand lawmakers throwing bananas at the chief executive or shoving paper coffins into the faces of cabinet members make a far deeper impression than what they try to achieve and why they have to do it in the first place.

Whenever the dinner conversation turns political, I find myself defending Long Hair and his allies. In a city where Confucian ethics still inform our value judgment, social propriety is placed above all other priorities. We tend to reward the well-mannered villains and penalize the unruly heroes. That means no matter how hard Long Hair fights for his good causes, from a universal retirement scheme to universal suffrage in 2017, and no matter how much he is holding C.Y. Leung to task and keeping him and his minions on their toes, he will only be remembered for his untoward antics.

If he wears a suit and speaks gently, he must be trustworthy


Apropos, this past Monday an appellant court upheld Long Hair’s conviction for “behaving in a disorderly manner” during a public debate in 2011. He was immediately taken to his prison cell to serve a four-week sentence. A day later, his trademark locks were cut, rendering the recognizable lawmaker unrecognizable. Many people I know applauded the turn of events as a wayward politician's just desert for being a nuisance to society and setting a bad example for our children.

So I once again found myself defending Long Hair, except this time I was able to point to an altogether different reason why we should be grateful for having him around: Long Hair goes to prison so we don’t have to. Whereas most moderate Pan-democrats treat their political careers like, well, a career and squirm at the first sign of personal ruin, Long Hair treats it as a religious duty and is prepared to go all out and lose it all. As the city’s political future comes to a critical juncture – just two days ago, Beijing released a surprisingly blunt white paper asserting its total control over Hong Kong to intimidate the Occupy Central movement – we need people like Long Hair more than ever.

Long hair no more


________________________

This article also appears on SCMP.com under Jason Y. Ng's column "As I See It."


As posted on SCMP.com

24 comments:

  1. "The Economist article is more depressing: if a world-class newspaper doesn’t get our system, what chance does an average tabloid-reading, soap-opera-watching, politics-averse Hong Konger have?"

    I wouldn't call the Economist a world-class newspaper. It's got much thinner since that article came out on Long-Hair. Apparently, You wasn't around here in their good old days; you don't know the Brits well. They've always been dismissive, even now in their waning days.


    "...tabloid-reading, soap-opera-watching, politics-averse Hong Konger", that is a great line. It aptly describes us(or at least some of us).

    A great article on Long-Hair. I couldn't agree with you more. Now the poor guy has to wear a wig for a while after finishing his stay with free room and board in government housing.

    Mo Ming See.

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  2. Given the emerging RED political environment clouding Hong Kong nowadays and the constant daily erosion of our Core Values by the Mainland's newer interpretations, Long Hair is indeed a Hero for many in our city - he did stand up tall - undeterred and steadfastly, especially in times of critical controversial moments.

    Kudos to him for making a difference and more importantly keeping those in rank under positive tension mode. It should not come as a surprise that he, not only have violent supporters and well wishers, but also have had others who supported and stood by him in Long Silence. To that effect, I am definitely one of them.

    People may call him names with derogatory remarks or frame him with inflammatory agendas and objectives to meet goals for his personal gains etc. but he is and always have been seen to be true in his actions on delivery to those who had placed faith and confidence in him with their votes..

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  3. Nobody said the HK system is perfect, but since we live here, we need to team together to make it work. For people like Jason Ng, you properly does not care if the government get its policies executed. At the end of the days, all you care is where to meet your friends to drink beer and have a nice meal. But for us common Hongkongers, we care if the government can find more lands and build more apartments to drive down the property prices. We care if the economy is good and unemployment is low. We do not care much about politics, but care if we can have a good living in HK. All we can see right now, is whenever the government tries to do something, the politicians are trying their best to stop them. They also realize that many of those policies are good for the common folks, but for political reasons, the politicians go all out and stop the everything CY's administration try to achieve. At the end, who is going to suffer most? Not those politicians whose jobs is to play politics. Not people like Jason Ng who does not need to worry where his three meals coming from everyday. It is those people at the mid and low levels who need to struggle to work for their three meals everyday, and use most of their monthly earnings to pay their mortgage since the property prices in HK is the highest in the world. So, Jason, we are not stupid as you claim. We know who is really work for us common folks, and who only are attention-grabbing troublemakers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is a great complimentary view to the lop-sided perspective, and the condescending view (above) of Hongkongers being just tabloid readers and soap opera viewers! Thanks.

      Delete
    2. "We do not care much about politics, but care if we can have a good living in HK."

      This statement alone is enough to sum up why you are beyond cure.

      In a political system where vested conglomerate interests enjoyed overwhelming political veto (a chief executive elected by a small circle of elites and a LegCo stacked with economic elites through the functional constituency seats and a virtual veto through the separate voting mechanism), the HKSAR executive and legislature is a government of the privileged, by the privileged and for the privileged. So you expect that a political setup heavily in favour of the privileged and the rich will take care of what you called "people at the mid and low levels who need to struggle to work for their three meals everyday, and use most of their monthly earnings to pay their mortgage since the property prices in HK is the highest in the world"? Probably a wild wet dream of yours.

      Delete
    3. "whenever the government tries to do something, the politicians are trying their best to stop them."

      You don't even know the Hong Kong political system well. Yes, the opposition can filibuster and obstruct BUT the powers of the LegCo to check the executive is so weak that the government would be able to ramp through whatever policies it wants to if it chose simply not to listen to public opinion.

      And even if the public thinks the government has been doing very badly, there is NO constitutional way by way of universal suffrage to replace incompetent and corrupt officials and these Secretaries KNOW that the public will just 吹帳. Rafael Hui is one of your best example.

      Delete
    4. "We care if the economy is good and unemployment is low."

      Even if the economy is good, you are just stagnating as an average joe in HK. Why? Because this HKSAR government strongly believes in "trickle down" economics and also continues with the "high price" land policy for its revenue so that it does not have to impose taxes on the rich and the privileged.

      Hahaha. Naive.

      Delete
    5. "They also realize that many of those policies are good for the common folks, but for political reasons"

      Excuse me, do your so-called "policies good for the common folks" include CY's frivolous plan to expand the government without any convincing argument and rationale to 5司14局?

      Delete
    6. "We do not care much about politics, but care if we can have a good living in HK. "

      "This is a great complimentary view to the lop-sided perspective, and the condescending view (above) of Hongkongers being just tabloid readers and soap opera viewers! "

      兩條on戇友都唔知道這兩句係自打嘴巴! haha 唔關心政局, 就以為民生問題可以神奇般自動得到保障. 這種狗屎垃圾的鬼話只有睇八卦同追無聊肥皂劇的草包才講得出來. 呵呵

      Delete
    7. "We do not care much about politics, but care if we can have a good living in HK."
      That sums up the problem: do not want to see the problem of system, blame it on the little kid of the Emperor's new clothes.

      Delete
    8. For your well articulated lecture, Mr. Ng will send you a bottle of non-vintage Veuve Clicquot to go with your 水餃麵 lunch. And if you show him a little more courtesy and respect for his gwei-lo status, he might even deliver a bottle of Haut Brion for your 牛腩 and 炒芥蘭 dinner.

      whymak

      Delete
  4. Whoa whoa anonymous (June 12, 2014 at 6:10PM), no need to get personal, anonymous does not = mean!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nope. It just mean calling your bluff and calling a spade and spade. If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

      Delete
  5. Instead of bragging and calling names, bring out your superior intelligence to save the world! Don't be just a paper tiger.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Anonymous wrote, "But for us common Hongkongers, we care if the government can find more lands and build more apartments to drive down the property prices."

    Rather than praying for the government to bring down property prices, we should ask ourselves why they are so high in the first place.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Land prices in Hong Kong are high mainly because we have a low tax system. If land prices fall dramatically and continue to be in a very low level, the government here will not be able to sustain her current pattern of expenditure and wealth of many common folk here will vanish(see what happened during 1997-2003)!
      Land prices in Hong Kong are high mainly because we have a low tax system. If land prices fall dramatically and continue to be in a very low level, the government here will not be able to sustain her current pattern of expenditure and wealth of many common folk here will vanish(see what happened during 1997-2003)!
      Democracy has never been the success formula of Hong Kong. The Hong Kong now has grown from poverty without elected representatives nor heroes like Long Hair in the LegCo. On the contrary, Hong Kong has become stagnant when there are more and more elected politicians.

      Delete
  7. Salute to Mo Gor!

    Andrew

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  8. Good article. Well said.

    XYZ

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  9. Jason, a piece like this could cost your job.

    kctony

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  10. Mr. Ng,

    You talk about a Hong Kong mindset. Seriously, can you read and write Chinese on a second grade level?

    What is wrong with functional constituency? Have you heard of upper houses such as the US Senate and House of Lords? In the real world, it's where power resides that matters, not mumbo jumbo dogmas of the Democracy Cult.

    In the US, the elected government is only one among many components of a balanced political machine. K Street lobbyists have more political power than all the US voters put together. In matters involving Middle East policy issues of war and peace, Israel controls more than 75% of the votes in US Senate and Congress.

    If you look under the hood, foreign control of governments is quite common. Tony Blair is a lap dog of Rupert Murdoch, an American and Australian, although he finally exacted some personal revenge by cuckolding the latter's wife. Closer to home, HK courts have many foreign jurists like no other nation. Why don't you complain about that too?

    Except for the article mentioned in your piece, I don't think you actually read The Economist. It's a weekly, not a newspaper. Its editorial is dogmatically English classical liberal, which white folks with close minds and HK self-hate bananas find very agreeable.

    Among English speaking peoples, there is one prerequisite for political respectability, which is demonizing China. It appears that you are eminently qualified too.

    whymak

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    Replies
    1. As much as I'd love to, I don't have time to rebut all your arguments. And so I'll just grab the low hanging fruit. The Economist is a newspaper, silly rabbit.

      Delete
    2. To: Whymak,

      Wow. People write as well as you do in English are usually on the same end of the social and political spectrums with the "bananas". You are way off on the opposite end.

      You are a shocker, Mr. Whymak.

      I have to read your comment here several times to make sure that I've got it right.

      I happen to think a large part of your comment is true. But what is true doesn't make it right.

      In one of your examples, it is no secret that the big-spending, very wealthy pro-Israel groups have an enormous influence on US politics, particular on its Middle-East policies. Few people who is familiar with American politics can deny that. But is it right or fair for a foreign interest group or deep-pocket lobbyist to buy political favors and influence from your politicians? Or should you look the other way?

      Similarly, in his article on Long-Hair, Jason states the reality of today's HK politics, a system that is rigged and utterly unfair to those who are involved in our political process. Few can deny it is true. But, on the same token, is it right? Is it right for the system to continue?

      Other people doing the same wrong thing does not make it right, Mr. Whymak.


      To: Jason,

      By the way, the Economist is a weekly magazine, however, its founder preferred and insisted to call it a newspaper. Actually it was originally described as "The Economist, a weekly newspaper". It comes out once a week.

      Must be a British thing, they always like to make their language difficult for people like me.


      Mo Ming See.


      .

      Delete
  11. The Hong Kong political system is currently unfair, tainted and lopsided with no level playing field, it is natural that people like Long Hair and others branded as radicals will emerge as leaders.

    Leaving aside his violent movements for which Long Hair had been consistently asked to leave the Council meeting room, the past Legco Chair Rita Fan and the current Legco Chair Jasper Tsang have had expressed their admiration and respect for Long Hair in his sober moments at Council meetings for his conviction and professionalism on Council work with well prepared and thoroughly researched materials for debates, many HongKongers have had also supported him behind the scene beyond his street protests where most of the time, he carried paper coffin, shouted slogans and acted violently etc....

    Some HongKongers consider Long Hair a disgrace villain, traitor or rogue, while others consider him a perfect gem who kept the system under check and balance. So, we should for all reasons, at least stay neutral, whether we like him or not as one man's meat is another man's poison.

    Going forward, unless there is some change to a more relatively balanced political environment in Hong Kong, the city will outgrow itself with many more Long Hair. By which time, one may silence one Long Hair but not all.

    Carrie

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  12. To: Carrie,

    Well said.

    If I may, "violent" may be too strong of a word. I wouldn't call throwing bananas, papers and other harmless objects "violent". No one gets killed and no one gets hurt. It is theatrical, but it gets the point across. It is about the only way to get attentions from a certain group of people in HK politics at this point.

    By the way, I am sure you meant "grow" and not "outgrow" as the two words have opposite meanings to each other.

    We need more Long-Hair(s). That is to be sure.


    More the better.



    From: Mo Ming See.





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