Real Hong Kong News
7th December, 2015
From Football and District Council Election to Localism – Change of Hong Kong’s Political Spectrum
By RHKN Contributor
On 17th November 2015, the “Battle of the Year” took place at the Mong Kok Stadium in Hong Kong. Hong Kong Football Team drew against China’s Football Team at the FIFA 2018 World Cup Asia qualifier after an intensive 90 minutes of battle. Although looking at the game from a pure sports perspective, it was not newsworthy (after all, it was a qualifier game between two teams that are not highly ranked in the international level), however it brought out an extremely strong message that people should not ignore.
Source: Apple Daily
Pictures of placards saying “Hong Kong is not China” were amongst the most debated subjects of the game, so much so that pictures of Hong Kong fans holding up placards showing the message were featured in international news websites. Hong Kong fans booing China’s national anthem, which was used to represent Hong Kong at all sports event, was another thing that was criticized. In fact, FIFA, which should be quite familiar with the fact that football fans often boo at a team as a way to demonstrate their support to the other, fined Hong Kong Football Association US$5,124 because Hong Kong team fans booed the China national anthem at the game against Qatar (which means Hong Kong fans were booing their “own national anthem”). In fact, vulgarity and profanity, also commonly observed at many sports games as enthusiastic fans got mouthy in the thick of everything, were highlighted in a number of newspapers as if they were rare and uniquely Hong Kong projecting an image of “Hongkongers as rude and uncivilised”.
The “Hong Kong is not China” placards resemble “Catalonia is not Spain” banners at football game between Catalonia and Spain. Many comments online say that sports and politics should not be mixed together. However, these people have forgotten that politics are in everyone’s life and sports and politics are intertwined: the Ping-Pong Diplomacy in the 70s is one of the many examples.
The match also set off a battle between university students in some universities in Hong Kong – Chinese exchange students sabotaged posters on Democracy Walls calling Hongkongers British lapdogs – or worse.
The reason for Hongkongers booing China’s national anthem is extremely complex. At the beginning of this year’s Asian qualifier, China Football Association designed and published a series of posters aiming to boost Chinese football fans’ support for the China National Team. A number of those posters contained racist elements, including one saying Hong Kong team has many “layers” because of the different skin colours of the players (BC Magazine), with the word “layers” implying the “hierarchies” people of different colours have in a society, infuriated Hongkongers. (This was, of course, not reported by any of the media that condemned Hongkongers for their “vulgarity” and “profanity” at football matches.) The poster was the immediate trigger of Hong Kong football fans’ resentment toward China National Team. The resentment grew even stronger after Zheng Zhi, Captain of the China National Team, was caught on camera spitting at Hong Kong Team Capital Yapp Hung-fai (even though not recognised by the referee) and called Yapp a dog (confirmed by Yapp).
What happened on the football pitch was a direct reflection of the growing political awareness amongst Hongkongers, particularly the younger generation.
Hongkongers, especially the younger generation, are increasingly more inclined to identify themselves as Hongkongers rather than Chinese (ethnicity). Hong Kong has a complex history, its heritage as a British territory for over 170 years plays an important part. Many people from the West accuse (deliberately using this word) Hongkongers of nostalgia, perfectly in line with the view of blinded/brainwashed nationalistic Chinese, who have called for massacres in Hong Kong so that China can truly reclaim the land, and always call Hongkongers dogs (an insult in Chinese languages including Cantonese and Mandarin). However, what Hongkongers truly miss was not a “colonial master” but the glorious era of fairness, opportunities, prosperity, and most importantly a government that addresses issues and hardship of the citizens rather than implementing laws against people’s will and suppressing the people.
When Hong Kong was under the British rule, despite the fact that there was a period of historical colonial superiority, things were better to many people’s mind – at least, an example many Hongkongers cite these days: we do not see (Chinese) people defecate in public in the good old (modern) days since the late 70s, and being labeled as victims of racism. The secret of Hong Kong’s prosperity in the 70s and 80s was the belief that if one works hard, one will be repaid (implying that one should not rely on the state and benefits).
When Chinese tourists defecate in public in Hong Kong, Hongkongers despise their behaviour and call them locusts (it is worth noting that Hongkongers criticise misbehaving Hongkongers regularly, describing them as locusts too), Hongkongers have been called racist* and have been accused of being jealous of Chinese people’s wealth. (Another important fact is that Hongkongers provided their relatives across the border in the 50s and 60s with the daily necessities, and set up factories over the border in the 80s which directly resulted the prosperous industrial sector in Guangzhou – albeit many Hongkongers got burned as the Chinese kicked them out after “learning” all the trade secrets and skills).
*During the 60s, a period when Hongkongers brought daily necessities to China for their relatives, anti-Hongkongers propaganda in the form of posters were everywhere in trail stations, calling Hongkongers yellow-skin dogs and British lapdogs.
When immigrants from China can emigrate to Hong Kong without being checked by the local authority (Hong Kong has a border that is independent from that of China), are backed by some pan-democrats to get benefits with close to no checks (the pan-democrats even took cases to the High Court), while the hardworking, minimum-wage-earning Hongkongers have to queue for years before getting a public housing unit (council flat) and have to go through scrutiny before getting a less-than-enough-to-survive amount of subsidies, Hongkongers are being called xenophobic and racist when they demand a filtering system and to regain control of their border.
When dancing Dama perform at maximum volume to get paid in the middle of the residential areas are protected by the police (video), and local Hongkongers and foreign artists performing in pedestrian zones are prosecuted and harassed by the Dama and their pimps.
When Chinese smugglers occupy the streets, massing in public spaces near residential areas, Hongkongers despise their behaviour and call them locusts. As the HKSAR government has refused to address the issue, police refuse to uphold the law, MTR station staff refuse to enforce their rights to stop them from taking the train with bulky items (like washing machines and mattresses) but at the same time stop local Hongkongers from taking the train when carrying a snooker cue or cello or fine local Hongkongers for having a sip of water in thirst, Hongkongers were left with no choice but to confront these smugglers (some are Hongkongers) themselves. A girl cried when her mother brought her to the protest zone as she was scared by the crowd; the media as well as some pan-democrat Legislative Council members condemned Hongkongers’ “violence”.
When Hongkongers go to their local shops and restaurants (if they are lucky enough to find one), and are served in Mandarin instead of their mother tongue Cantonese, or the second – and official language – English, they were told by local businesses, international media and the western world that they should face the fact that China is a growing economic power and should succumb to the language genocide (slightly better than Tibet’s situation but China cannot yet start killing people in Hong Kong, an international financial hub).
When Chinese students are granted scholarships or admitted to Hong Kong universities (quite a few were found to have used fake qualifications to get their spaces), demand lectures to be taught in Mandarin instead of Cantonese or English, and refuse to interact with the local students (white students are often spared this discrimination), leaving Hongkongers fewer spaces to apply for, the international media and local public figures condemn Hongkongers for not working hard enough and for being jealous of Chinese students’ outstanding academic performance. When campaigns were launched to demand priority be given to local Hongkongers and a fairer system established, Hongkongers were, once again, labeled as racists.
After 18 years under China’s sovereignty, Hongkongers are becoming the minority in their own land, and their voices are ignored and banished, if not completely silenced and labeled as xenophobic and racist. The interest of China as a country, Chinese immigrants and Chinese tourists are put before the interest of Hongkongers. What could possibly be more depressing than being under a worldwide suppression of such scale? Hongkongers began to ask the question, “why is being a Hongkonger a sin that when we are merely trying to defend our rights and interests we are labeled as thugs and racist pricks?”Localism began to blossom roughly around four years ago. It was first disregarded, later labeled as discrimination, fascist, extreme right wing and nationalism. But now, the tide might have finally turned.
After the 79 days long Umbrella Revolution, the surge of localism and voices calling for Hong Kong to separate from China has been unprecedented. Hong Kong independence had never been in the public domain as the Basic Law stipulates – ever so clearly – that Hong Kong SAR is “an inalienable part of China” (the “accuracy” of this assertion is a whole different topic). However, the Umbrella Revolution (as well as many other occasions) has shown to Hongkongers (and hopefully the world) that China can always “interpret” Hong Kong’s constitution to their liking.
At the recent District Council Election, there were a number of independent young candidates who competed against the pan-democrats, whose loyalty to Hong Kong is under question (including whether they give priority to building a democratic Hong Kong or democratic China), and the pro-China camp.
Obviously, the pro-China camp have substantial resources from they-who-must-not-be-named, evidenced by the number of news stories and videos showing their ability to mobilise elders to vote according to their instructions and to register dozens of people with different surnames in the same 300 sq. ft. residential unit as legitimate voters. These pro-China camp District and Legislative Council members can “buy” votes by offering free meals, free trips, free daily necessaries and the rest to elders and political apathetics.
The pan-democrats play a very different game, however. After the Umbrella Revolution (the absolute majority of the pan-democrats refuse to call it a revolution and insist on calling it a movement, as they claim that no blood was shed even though numerous no-profile students and adults were beaten to black and blue (1, 2, 3, 4, 5), and whose good names have been eternally tarnished with drummed-up criminal records. The dictionary definition of a revolution matches what took place in Hong Kong in 2014), the pan-democrats have upped their game. They do not only talk up their close- to-zero contribution to the largest scale pro-democracy protest in Hong Kong (including betraying activists and no-profile individuals by turning them in for “disrupting the peace”, a “peace” defined by these pan-democrats who control the “Big Stage”) as a major milestone, but proclaim their decades of hard-work on fighting for democracy – which has yielded no result but a decline in freedom – as an achievement. To trump these all, they continue to play the victim cards of being suppressed by China despite the fact that the leading party of all pan-democrats, the Democratic Party, entered into a closed-door negotiation with China Liaison Office in 2010 and agreed to expand the infamous Functional Constituency (elected by a small circle of people with a vested interest in the status-quo) by adding a few seats that are elected by all voters, which in turn gives the crooked system legitimacy.
The “pan-democrats” as a noun is occupied by a group of “veteran democracy fighters” who come across as the “patent owner” of “democracy in Hong Kong”. Evidenced by the Democratic Party’s public denouncements of these young political greenhorns for “splitting their votes” and demand for an explanation for running the by-election resulted from Ronnie Tong Ka-wah resigning from his Legislative Council seat. The media in Hong Kong toe the same line by digging out the “dark history” of some candidates and by planting the idea that these political greenhorns are moles planted by China (e.g. summer internship at a pro-China newspaper a candidate had to accept as part of her university degree). Even though the pan-democrats supported the Umbrella Revolution, and the notion that everyone has the equal right to elect and to be elected, when their positions in the political arena (quite well paid of course) are challenged, their stance changed! Magic! One can’t help but ask: why do these “veteran democracy fighters” think that they have the right to monopolise democracy in Hong Kong?
Not only have some of these political greenhorns won in constituencies that have long been controlled by pro-China parties and pan-democrats: In the constituencies where these youngsters lost, they only lost by a small number of votes. With this year’s high voter turnout, Democratic Party lost four seats (all veteran or younger members who support Democratic Party’s China leaning stance), and political greenhorns won seats despite the gerrymandering so skillfully performed by the pro-China parties, and the suspicious cases of vote rigging (e.g. elders, who clearly have no idea what elections mean and who to vote for, being brought to polling stations by caretakers of homes in private cars). This has sent a clear signal of Hongkongers’ desire for change.
Of course, this points to the growing desire for a democratic society. More importantly, however, is the Hongkongers’ discontent with the “monopolisation of democracy” by the pan-democrats. The growing sense of localism is set to change the political scene – the war between the old and young.
Soon after the election, almost all political parties (both the pro-China camp and pan-democrats) started to talk about the importance of including localism in their platforms. Localists were first labeled as fascists and an extreme right wing cult – as those who first joined the localism movement were portrayed as radical individuals who discriminate against Chinese. To localists, the Chinese are the colonists doing the deed of the coloniser (China) with or without knowing.
China re-colonises Hong Kong after ceding the land, by controlling the government to make policies and decisions (including infrastructure projects, education system changes, language, etc) that usurp the heritages and culture of Hong Kong, and harm the interests of Hong Kong. From Chinese and pro-China Hongkongers (Hong Kong Stock Exchange’s Chairman Charles Li Xiaojia) being appointed to senior positions, to non-Chinese high-profile individuals (Professor Peter Mathieson, President and Vice-Chancellor of Hong Kong University) being criticised with no basis; from gradually eradicating Cantonese by encouraging or forcing schools to use Mandarin as a medium of instruction (making children unable to use their mother tongue Cantonese properly and resulting a drop in overall grade in Chinese language as a subject), to political prosecutions (during the Umbrella Revolution and immediately after the election by arresting a pro-Hong Kong city-state building candidate for suspected money laundering). Not to mention the systematic “dilution of the Hong Kong population” by sending 150 Chinese to Hong Kong a day (one of the many things colonisers do – or in this case are doing) without their identity being checked by the Hong Kong authorities: At least one Chinese murderer of two people in Hong Kong was successfully granted Hong Kong citizenship. Isn’t this the definition of colonisation in any dictionary?
The pan-democrats, supported by the media, began to create new terminology: mild and peaceful localists and radical localists. By these carefully selected adjectives, people are led to believe that there are “sensible” localists (localists were originally labeled as violent and racist) and the word “sensible” is very powerful – a positive adjective. For what it’s worth, these “sensible” localists do not side with the interests of Hongkongers, in fact, in many occasions, some condemn other localists for defending Hongkongers’ rights and alienate these individuals who may or may not be public figures.Localism is a newly created word in Hong Kong, yet it should not have even existed. Since when have local people’s interests and well-being not been the only thing politicians and government of the land should focus on? Localism blossoms in Hong Kong because the vested interests collude with a government which sides with China, a regime that has absolutely zero interest in making the lives of Hongkongers better. The older generation, who benefit from – many still live in – the glory days, suppress the younger generation (politically, economically and ideologically). Localism is not only a political war, but a generational war. This is also why the veteran “democracy fighters” suppress the political greenhorns.
However, without the younger (and often labeled as radical) localists, the “mild and peaceful” (sensible) localists would not be able to retain their power (by assuming the “democracy fighters” halo). The political interests of these veteran politicians and their minions will be threatened if the “radical” localists are not uprooted before they grow their wings and begin to lead the show.