Decades after the cries of the “End of History”, we are so obsessed with idea of finding the modern strawman in the a form of fascist, that we shut down any rational discussion on policy.
Labels and facts
I noticed that it is very common for Western passer-bys to shrug off any serious Hong Kong Localism discussions as being “discriminatory” or “racist”. This is because they have mistaken the political disputes in Hong Kong as the one they are familiar with, such as the racial tensions in America.
Let’s not talk about labels, but of facts. Hong Kong has a un-elected government body that is de-factoly appointed by Beijing – fact. Hong Kong has no control on immigration, that power is in the hands of Beijing – fact. Hong Kong has seen extensive manipulation in the legislature election process, where voters are shipped into marginal constituencies by hordes of subsidized transport to vote – fact.
The fact is, at its very heart, the so called “localism” discourse in Hong Kong has nothing to do with anything discriminatory, but a deep dissatisfaction of Hong Kong citizens being under-represented in all scopes of public sphere. Localism is essentially about the democracy for the Hong Kong people, in opposed to extension of Beijing’s oligarchy powers in Hong Kong.
Failings of the fourth estate
Take Alibaba for example, their takeover of South China Morning Post and alleged talks with Ming Pao is met with a backlash of criticism. But those short-minded critics seem to forget that South China Morning Post and Ming Pao, both once prided as the “Times” of the Orient are actually purchased by pro-Beijing tycoons years ago. Those clear-minded readers would have smelt a subtle change in editorial that is increasingly warming towards Beijing for years already, but they are as powerless as a boiling frog.
In a city with no democratic representation at the administrative level (we have some democracy in legislature, but not really, because the functional constituency bloc can veto all proposals brought up by democratically elected legislators), you would have thought the fourth estate is something we ought to treasure.
But look at TVB, the only television channel that is operating in Hong Kong (which makes us slightly worse than North Korea in television broadcast media competition, by three television stations) has been presenting an extremely biased news against democratic protesters for years. This is eclipsed by the leaked internal reprimands issued by the news chief producer Mr. Yuen Chi-Wai, who heavily criticised his staff for airing live the torture of a protester by seven policeman – while Mr. Yuen is asleep.
This infamous piece of leaked audio, which is worthy of a Python-esque dark humour sketch, is an absolute insult to the standard of media reporting. Its absurdity is only surpassed by TVB’s refusal to verify the authenticity of this broadcast when those seven policemen are sued.
Traditions of consultation procedures
Or if the fourth estate is failing, perhaps we can turn to the consultational traditions of policy making in Hong Kong, which has been so wonderfully implemented by the British in their last decades of colonial rule.
In such a system, some of the government’s consultation process would be handled by people of respect and often with a sense of neutrality. Those academics, businessmen, lawyers who headed committees and public enquiry groups in the past, possesses the spirit of the British civic society that is modelled on, and are dedicated to public service. However, when Mr. Leung Chun-Ying stepped into power, he has awarded many of these posts to pro-Beijing puppets.
This is not a Southern white man shouting hate speech towards a black community. This is a deep resentment towards the ever-extending claws of Beijing trying to control everything in Hong Kong. From media, political system, realist political maneuvers to demographic policy, which manifests in forms of education changes (the National Education fiasco), legislation (as recent as the limitation of derivative works under copyright laws), government hardline reaction against the Umbrella revolution, refusal to award more media licenses (DBC and HKTV), and the list goes on.
What is Localism?
So what does Localism mean? Localism means that Hong Kong public policies must represent the interests of the Hong Kong people, not the interests of Beijing. Why did it emerge? It is a reaction against the unelected government’s biased policies towards Beijing’s interests and the increasing presence of Beijing capital in Hong Kong that would undermine the liberal fabric of Hong Kong, with some examples listed above.
And some ill-informed passing-by commentator would simply ignore all of these and say “you’re just being racist”.