POLITICS – Interests of Conflict Weekly Digest #7

Interests of ConflictBelow is the latest digest from our political commentator ‘Tony Wong’. Hong Wrong publishes a selection of his musings each week, but you can sign up for his full, daily newsletter by emailing ‘subscribe’ to [email protected] It is “aimed at informed residents who are encouraged to further develop and rebut the arguments made here, and in the media, to create actual, honest and productive political dissent.”

Thursday, 7th Nov – HK’s Status: While Hong Kong argues about what the government can should and must do the director for publicity, culture and sports affairs of the Liaison Office, Hao Tiechuan reminds us in the China Daily about the political realities of our legal system. Even more so, he explains to us why that is and where it comes from.

It might be the best political article published in Hong Kong this month, but definitely among the best published by the China Daily (in Cantonese by Ming Pao last week) this year, if not ever… Hao explains to us that contrary to what we might think Hong Kong does not have a strict separation of powers, and that even though it might look differently, eventually all branches answer in some form to the Chief Executive who spends that much time in Beijing for a good reason.

With its sober and demure descriptions it is a clever article, especially the part where he is not only able to argue that Hong Kong’s political system exists the way it is because that is how Deng Xiaoping wanted it, but also because that is how the British created it, meaning he not only presents the current status of Hong Kong as the one most favorable to Chinese loyalists, but also to colonial romantics and those insisting on upholding the Basic Law… But as much as it is an interesting read, we already know that our political status quo is the result of one colonial power caring too little and the other caring too much… So how can we get out of this situation? As Hao explains it, the system inherently favors and favored the interests of away overlords, be it in London or in Beijing. It is a system that makes it impossible for the populous to overturn any decision made by the Chief Executive, and therefore by the CCP government. Hao explains to us that our system would never hold up to the standards of ‘rule of law’ or ‘democracy’. If neither the law nor the people can keep the government in check, then we don’t need to pretend that we can change the government by following the law, or the guidelines of the Basic Law at least.

When we call for constitutional reform we do not need to orientate ourselves on an unjust constitution, especially if it is that very constitution we are reforming. How much are we bound by the law if the law is created to bound us? Aren’t we rather bound by our morals instead, by the values that we want our constitution to enshrine, by the morals that we want to bind our government with?… It is very refreshing to see the China Daily publish well thought-through articles and arguments. But any good argument is unlikely favoring the government’s elites in Beijing or Tamar.

Monday, 11th Nov – China Daily/Slapping video: We all remember the video of the boy who was being humiliated and physically abused by his girlfriend in the streets of Kowloon City. Now, about a month later the ‘current affairs commentators’ over at the China Daily have apparently found the video, and what they see is fascinating. What seems to have caught most of their attention is the bag of rapidly cooling fast food that is placed next to the boy’s knees, and it suddenly becomes the theme of the story.

Just when we thought we understood the minds of these ‘current’ affairs commentators a little bit we are thrown back by some obscure articles into a reality far far away… Bad enough that they have to phoneticize Gong Loi as ‘Gang Nu’, but what is the connection between the video and Hong Kong boys looking for a girl that they can have fast food with? Why is the price of fast food a price we need to pay to keep the country parks intact? What does that reference to the new Android operating system mean?

Gay Pride: While thousands marched for happiness and gayness and the wonderful world we probably all want to live in, the Liberal Party further taints its name by showing up and collecting signatures against marriage between homosexual partners. Why would they possibly think this is a good idea?

But in my honest opinion, I don’t think allowing homosexuals to get married is the right step forward to an equal society. We should rather remove government-sanctioned marriage altogether. What is the logic behind giving tax breaks based on marital status? If this were part of a population growth strategy, why not give tax breaks based on the number of children somebody has? Without the government being involved, individuals would be free to draft up any private contracts that they wish and seek their wedding accreditation elsewhere, in front of a priest, among their closest friends or an Elvis Presley impersonator. With each of the hundreds of thousands of unique marriages in Hong Kong, why do we think they can all be summed up with the same set of laws and regulations? In our quest for equality we shouldn’t be so shortsighted to simply demand the same privileges that previously existed, especially since we very well know that in our diverse crowd of people on Saturday there would be many people who would still not be included, even if the Legislative Council were to sign marriage between two homosexual individuals into law today.

Tuesday, 12th Nov – Mainland students: Linda Yeung writes in the SCMP about the masses of Chinese students that are graduating from the city’s universities and colleges. Numbers for admission overall and specific programs seem to be scarce, but are as high as 99% for the Master of Science in Finance at the Chinese University in Sha Tin and 80% overall for City University.

But what is the real story here? We can easily see how the topic raises emotions in a climate where people fear their resources are being taken away by a horde of uncivilized foreigners, but when looking further this subject hardly fits in… Around 4,000 people seem to graduate every year from these programs, most of which will gain the right to settle down in Hong Kong using the Immigration Arrangement for Non-local Graduates (IANG). Under the IANG anybody who studied for at least one year in a full-time program at a local University gains the right to freely work or join businesses in Hong Kong, without further need for sponsorship. The visa is initially given out for 12 months and re-assessed every 24 months based on whether the graduate has enough funding.

That is considerably attractive and means that universities have been able to make it their central point of sale. They significantly cut resources for the master’s programmes knowing that as long as they still fulfilled the minimum requirements their degrees will be attractive to foreigners. The low cost of these programs meant universities could use these to subsidize their expensive elitist expansions and prestigious positions and construction projects… I doubt that the universities care much who they sell these degrees too, but demand naturally would be much larger from China… If the student sees the value of the Hong Kong residency as larger than the cost of the program, there is not necessarily something wrong with it. Distinguished and smart students are usually not only more willing to adapt to Hong Kong’s culture, but I assume they bring with them the same individualistic spirit that many Hong Kongers see in themselves. Career- and research-driven students made a conscious decision to come to Hong Kong for their personal betterment.

I do however observe that universities seem to become a little uncomfortable with the success of their programs. At least City University has introduced double-degree programs where the students spend six months in a university overseas, and six months in Hong Kong. As the degree is issued for a 12 month degree by a Hong Kong university the graduates still qualify for IANG, and yet the program is only accessible to non-Chinese students, often through the additional requirements of being a student of the overseas university, or additional language requirements.

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