Hong Kong has seen growing unrest in the past few years, bringing challenges to One Country Two Systems. What will happen in Hong Kong’s political scene with the newly elected Legislative Council?
Savantas Policy Institute held a seminar on “Hong Kong’s Political Outlook” on 23rd October (Sunday). We invited four distinguished speakers to discuss the political outlook for Hong Kong. The guest speakers included Professor Lau Siu-kai, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at CUHK, Mr. Jasper Tsang Yok-sing, Former President of LegCo, Ms. Emily Lau Wai-hing, Chairperson of the Democratic Party and Dr. Derek Mi-chang Yuen, CEO of Path of Democracy. They joined Hon. Mrs. Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, ExCo Member, LegCo Member and Chairperson of Board of Governors of Savantas Policy Institute, to discuss the topic. Mr. Man Cheuk Fei, publisher & CEO of Master Insight Media, was the moderator of the panel discussion.
Starting the event with her welcoming remarks, Mrs. Regina Ip, LegCo Member and Chairperson of Board of Governors of Savantas Policy Institute, said, “Welcome everyone to Savantas’ third seminar of this year. Our topic today is ‘The Political Outlook of Hong Kong’. We began our preparation and liaison work for this event before the LegCo election. There are many new faces and radicals in the new LegCo. Now we are facing a critical moment. The oath-taking saga in LegCo has triggered a constitutional crisis. The Chief Executive’s term is coming to an end soon. We hope our speakers today can shed some light on how the LegCo would function in the coming years. I must express my sincere gratitude to our speakers and our moderator Mr. Man Cheuk-fei for attending our seminar today.”
Professor Lau Siu-kai, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at CUHK, presented the first keynote speech. He reckoned that with less than a year remaining in its term, the incumbent government had become a caretaker administration. In addition, due to the lack of confidence in the current government, it is unlikely for the current administration to initiate any major policy. He expected that the Chief Executive in the coming term would avoid sensitive issues at the beginning of his or her term in order to circumvent any major clashes or conflicts.
Mr. Jasper Tsang Yok-sing, former President of the LegCo, noted that despite Hong Kong’s current political predicament, “One Country Two Systems” is still the only way forward for Hong Kong. That had been mostly successful in its implementation since the handover. However, if “Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong” with a high degree of autonomy could not assure the Central government of Hong Kong’s continued stability, then the Central government and Hong Kong people’s faith in “One Country Two Systems” would be undermined. He believed that the government could no longer seek to keep things apolitical, whilst society should steer clear of meaningless arguments such as the recent, pedantic debate on the separation of powers. Whether the current judicial review initiated by the Chief Executive and the executive branch is in line with the Basic Law is a question much more worthy of discussion and attention. He also hoped that the level of political uncertainty will decrease after the upcoming chief executive election has concluded.
Ms. Emily Lau Wai-hing, Chairperson of the Democratic Party said that Hong Kong people wished to see the government and the Legislative Council do more for Hong Kong. To this end, bipartisan cooperation is crucial. She believed that with the current quarrels in the LegCo and in society, it is hard for the LegCo to focus on in-depth public policy discussion. If the Central government and the SAR government refused to show some goodwill, communicate with Hong Kong’s various political parties and fairly share powers and responsibilities, the future of Hong Kong would be grim.
Dr. Derek Mi-chang Yuen, CEO of Path of Democracy, delivered his perspective on the changes in Hong Kong’s political scene. He observed that since the recent LegCo election, Hong Kong’s political scene had seen the rise of younger generations, the growth of centrism in the pro-establishment camp and the emergence of a left-wing localist faction, which had weakened the traditional labour-focused left wing movement. The middle-left leaning spectrum had long been a political vacuum. After Occupy Central, new left-wing localists had filled this vacuum by using slogans such as democratic self-determination, leftist struggle against economic hegemony, and the quest for social justice. A number of newly elected LegCo members represented this left-wing localist force. He also believed that a left-wing mentality had become a mainstream ideology in Hong Kong, and may become Hong Kong’s new core value.
Mrs. Regina Ip pointed out that Hong Kong’s land and housing shortage is a critical issue. She believed that the Central government did not want to weaken “Two Systems”, but the rise of Mainland China, with its extensive influence in all spheres of our life, might have left some Hong Kong people feeling marginalized. These factors, compounded by the widening wealth gap, could be the root cause of the growth of localism. She noted that in the recent LegCo election in September, many candidates ran on slogans and platforms advocating for change. She believed the Chief Executive would need to get a grip on myriad problems, including those related to the economy, land supply, and people’s livelihood, whilst also having to alleviate the discontent in society. She believed that solving these problems would become the mission of the upcoming administration.
After their presentations, a panel discussion and Q&A session followed. The seminar attracted a 200-strong audience and came to a successful end at 5 P.M.
Dialogue is the essence of quality democracy. It is inspiring to see political figures of different opinions and backgrounds coming together and discuss the political future of Hong Kong and how Hong Kong’s future interest could be best served. Hopefully, this spirit of peaceful collaboration and understanding could flourish and constitute the norm of political dialogue in future.