24th December, 2014
We Shall Reach Democracy By Different Paths
By HKUSU Independence (港大學生會退出學聯關注組 – HKU Student Union Resign HKFS Membership Concern Group)
On the last night of the students’ class boycott, Scholarism and Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS) led the crowd to charge into Civic Square. All students were unarmed but they did not fear the police’s crackdown and defended the square until the last moment. On 28th September, the police launched teargas at the protesters without provocation, which resulted in more people supporting the students movement and occupying various locations across Hong Kong – the Umbrella Revolution had begun. Over the 79 days of the Umbrella Revolution, the ferocious nature of the HKSAR Government and the politicians’ uselessness could not have been demonstrated more clearly. While the (pro-democrat / pro-dem) politicians were busy polishing their sacred “freedom fighter” halos, students fought in the frontline of a hard battle.
The momentum of the Umbrella Revolution was magnificent. It created an important opportunity for the progress of Hong Kong’s democratic movement. What disappointed people most were the many lousy decisions HKFS made: they wishfully believed that the negotiation with the HKSAR Government could possibly yield results; failed to set a deadline for the Government to respond, and; missed multiple opportunities to escalate action. HKFS preached and followed religiously the idea of “occupying without obstructing roads”, and stationed themselves on the Admiralty Centre footbridge to create a passageway for civil servants to go to work. Not until the second half of November was the footbridge was temporarily blocked. However, this “escalation” turned out to be too little, too late.
Once all the signs pointed to failure, HKFS returned to the old passive protest method in Hong Kong: sit-in and wait for arrest, which has been proven time and time again to lead to nothing but failure. This move not only created the perfect opportunity for pan-democratic politicians to burnish their “revolutionary” credentials by being arrested (even though they were absent throughout almost the entire Umbrella Revolution), but also destroyed all the hard work and structures the brave protesters built, and bumped up the cost of future democratic struggles. HKFS’ are deluded in believing that their tactic of “returning to society (terminating occupation) to cultivate and preach” stands a fighting chance of combating the organised propaganda network built and managed by biased (pro-China) media that has penetrated across all walks of life, as well as the pro-establishment camp.
HKFS have made many mistakes, just like anyone, but this is not the reason for our organisation to propose resigning its membership at HKFS. The reason is that the faults of HKFS’ direction and internal structure cannot be fixed by a reform. HKFS’ guiding principle is “building a democratic China”, which shows that HKFS believes strongly in the Greater China Unification ideology. As localism continues to boom in Hong Kong, this controversial guiding principal is too deeply rooted within HKFS to be modified to fit the growing support of localism.
The election mechanism of HKFS has long been questioned: the secretariat (administrative function) of HKFS is elected by the standing committees of all universities and the candidates are almost always “nominated” by the representative council which comprises of long term members. Hence the “leftard” mindset and Greater China Unification ideology are passed on year after year. Ordinary students who are not close to the standing committees can never participate in HKFS.
HKFS’ Secretariat is elected by the standing committees of all universities, so the secretariat is only accountable to the standing committees and the representatives of the universities and tertiary institutions, and has no constitutional responsibility to respond to the discontent of individual universities or tertiary institutions. The secretariat and standing committees are essentially the same group of people, which means there is no separation of power. Although the representatives of the universities have voting rights on the secretariat and have significant power in influencing HKFS, they do not communicate with the secretariat and rarely host any meetings. Hence these representatives are a “rubber stamp” committee.
Despite the fact that HKFS misjudged multiple incidents throughout the Umbrella Revolution and the “fake escalation scandal” was exposed the other day, we believe what Alex Chow said during the interview was a case of misunderstanding and we do not question the contributions HKFS have made throughout the Umbrella Revolution. We propose that HKU to resign its membership of HKFS because we see the students in Hong Kong University reproach HKFS, and that there is a clear difference in direction between students at HKU and HKFS.
HKFS has many faults in its direction, system and attitude, it will take the student unions of all member institutions and representatives to work together for a long time to conduct a successful reform – a time consuming task in the midst of this critical time in Hong Kong. In the past, students from HKU have assisted HKFS to improve but our efforts were mostly wasted. On the contrary, throughout the Umbrella Revolution, the system of HKU’s student union has become comprehensive and well structured. Only if HKU leaves HKFS, can HKU Student Union be completely independent to represent the opinions of students in HKU.
Hence, we argue for a referendum within HKU to determine whether HKU should retain or resign its membership of HKFS.