The House News
18th April 2013
<Where Did The “Unification of Greater China” Supporters Come From?>
15th April, the death anniversary of Hu Yaobang
Margaret Thatcher’s death recalls to the memory of Hong Kong people, the signing of the Sino-British Joint Declaration in 1984. Lee Yee wrote about the changes in Hong Kong’s anti-communist ideology, and I read an editorial the other day which said “if the people of Hong Kong knew ‘a democratic return of sovereignty’ was going to be what it is now, would they have supported it?” There is no “if” in history, history is something that we can never change.
Many Hong Kong netizens named those who supported “democratic return of sovereignty” as “Greater China Plastic”#, whilst Lee Yee called them “Greater China Democrats”. These people supported the “democratic return of sovereignty” in the 80s. And after the 4th June 1989, they stuck to the theory about Hong Kong’s fate and China’s fate being in lock-step – without a democratic China, Hong Kong would have no hope. Back then, Szeto Wah predicted that pan-democrats would play the part of the opposition for at least 20 years, while they waited for changes in China. It has now passed the 20 year mark, but the situation in China (in terms of moving toward a democratic country) is worse than it was in the 80s. Was naivety the reason those who participated in politics and social movements in the 80s became “Greater China Plastics”?
# Editor’s note: “plastic” in Cantonese is “gaau(1)”. It is phonetically similar to the rude word “gau(1)” which literally means penis, and is also used as describing someone’s action as stupid, foolish, idiotic, etc.
Communist Party Regresses
I think the younger generation nowadays could not understand the hope people of (colonial) Hong Kong had then, as they saw China moving on from the Cultural Revolution. In the 80s, besides Deng Xiaoping, China was ruled by leaders including Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang, who were perceived to be more liberal. Surrounding these leaders were also a group of brains who were relatively open-minded. There was no raising of a strong country (China), and there was no repulsive “China style”. People within the Communist Party could openly discuss political reforms without being labelled as colluding with a foreign power to push for Jasmine revolution.
University students then also felt the liberating atmosphere. From Professor Lu Yao-tung’s Chinese history course, I learnt that since 1948, history studies (in China) were restricted to the “five red flowers” derived from Marxism, which includes peasants uprising and the blossom of capitalism. The book “Prosperity and Crisis” by Jin Guantao and Liu Qingfeng says that Chinese history was a super-stable structure, and denies Marxism’s materialist conception of history. During my first year at university, all students wanted to read this book. At the same time, Xichuan People’s Publishing House published the “Moving Forward Series”, and the “shortened version” of the series was widely popular amongst the young then. Wang Qishan, Secretary of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, sat on the editorial committee of this series.
China started to open-up then, and it was not just propaganda – China was liberated through Marxism and Maoism. This had a huge impact on Hong Kong intellectual circles. There were no studies on social science, the liberating mindset came from science and philosophy. China translated Karl Popper’s The Logic of Scientific Discovery; many Hong Kong and China intellects in the 80s were heavily influenced by Karl Popper. Prior to the 4th June 1989, political reform was already in the Communist Party’s agenda, originated by Zhao Ziyang in the 13th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (NCCPC). I truly believed China would have a political reform for a democratic society, and China would have begun or completed its democratisation when Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997. People growing up in the 80s unavoidably became sucked in by the ideal of Greater China Nationalism: Hong Kong would not go independent after decolonisation and China would gradually democratise, hence Hong Kong’s fate and China’s fate would go hand in hand.
Motivating People with Emotion Triggers
4th June 1989 was a turning point, when Hong Kong and China parted in values: as China began to open-up its economy but regress politically; Hong Kong embarked on its democratic path. Led by the Democratic Party, democratic movements in Hong Kong had two different beliefs: (1) hoped the Communist Party would improve itself and reform its electoral system, led by The Meeting Point; (2) called for an end of single party dictatorship and to build a democratic China, led by the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China founded by Szeto Wah. Both of these two organisations failed lay out any concrete proposal about China’s political reform. All they had, and have, are emotional and imaginary ideals, hence no difference in terms of directions.
Ever since the handover in 1997, the so-called “China Vision” remained empty words. It has only been recently when an independent sense of nationhood (native consciousnesses) began to develop: discussion about this came not from the mainstream democrats, but from the (Hong Kong) cultural preservation movements which began 2003. In 2008, the anti high-speed-train project reached its peak. The SynergyNet, derived from the Meeting Point, reacted to this new public sentiment and began to publish an annual journal called “Journal of Local Discourse”. Later on, after Wan Chin’s theory on city-state autonomy (books published) and the intensifying conflicts between Hong Kong and China, this became a political movement. The Democratic Party, which continues to indulge themselves in Greater China Nationalism, doesn’t have sufficient knowledge to respond to, and comment on, Hong Kong’s sense of nationhood and the fact that the structural issue of Hong Kong comes first.
Since Benny Tai Yiu-ting proposed Occupy Central, I have been pondering whether the “democratic return of sovereignty” has come to an end. I admitted failure. Although I am a “Greater China Plastic”, it is my mark of growing up in the 80s. To embrace the fact and identify the next step is the key. “Greater China Plastic” theory is an romantic one nonetheless.
“Moving Forward Series”, published by Xichuan People’s Publishing House, a mark of growing up in the 80s