On China Transcript: Hong Kong

Democracy for Hong Kong
Democracy for Hong Kong


    Democracy for Hong Kong


Democracy for Hong Kong 01:39

KRISTIE LU STOUT: Michael Degolyer, Albert Ho and Douglas Young, welcome to On China. Now since the handover in 1997, Hong Kong has been governed under the principle of "one country, two systems." How does it work?

DOUGLAS YOUNG: Well I think the whole point of the "one country two system" is so that life can continue, cause' Hong Kong under the British would enjoy a high degree of autonomy, luxury, freedom; everything. So what happens when China take over, that mechanism has to ensure that we can live the way we've been living for the last 150 years under the British rule, and may that continue. That's the "two system" part. But the "one country" thing is that Hong Kong is back to the motherland and Hong Kong is one of the many Chinese cities we have in China. So how do you deal with that? How do you deal with the fact that Hong Kong is in itself, with its own identity, but then is also a part of China? How do we integrate?

KRISTIE LU STOUT: Now recently, Beijing released a white paper clarifying its latest position on "one country, two systems". What's your read on it?

MICHAEL DEGOLYER: Well I think the most interesting aspect of this is two things. One is that it was for external interest as well as internal interest.

KRISTIE LU STOUT: Because it was released in seven different languages.

Is Hong Kong in decline?
Is Hong Kong in decline?


    Is Hong Kong in decline?


Is Hong Kong in decline? 01:58
Tracing Hong Kong's antagonism
Tracing Hong Kong's antagonism


    Tracing Hong Kong's antagonism


Tracing Hong Kong's antagonism 01:08

MICHAEL DEGOLYER: Yes, seven different languages. So it's not just for Hong Kong Chinese or even for Mainland Chinese. It's for Chinese, it's for everybody. It is kind of an international statement about this is the way we see it. Because the way the language from the State Council reads, it basically regards patriotism, which is the love of the mainland, which also means obedience to the dictates of the party which is running the mainland. Okay. And that Hong Kong administrators said the fundamental requirement is to be patriotic, i.e. take orders.

KRISTIE LU STOUT: And this is Beijing basically telling Hong Kong: "we call the shots."

MICHAEL DEGOLYER: In no uncertain terms, "we call the shots."

ALBERT HO: The message is quite clear. Hong Kong people are now being reminded with this particular emphasis, that you have to be subordinated to the central government. And in the times to come, and if necessary and appropriate, all the powers previously given, delegated or authorized to Hong Kong could be taken back. Now this message is now passed on the Hong Kong or imposed on the Hong Kong people at a very sensitive time when Hong Kong is facing the situation of having to make a decision on the political reforms, as I said, which is very very controversial because Hong Kong people are demanding true universal suffrage, to elect the chief executive in 2017 as promised by Beijing.

KRISTIE LU STOUT: Let's talk about that. What are the prospects for universal suffrage 2017 in Hong Kong and will a vote take place without Beijing screening the candidates?

ALBERT HO: That is the problem. They can give you the right to vote, one person one vote, but subject to a specially designed screening process. So you can only be given the choice to vote for persons previously anointed by Beijing before open the election. I think it is a problem.

MICHAEL DEGOLYER: This is why the definition of patriotism and the requirement is so interesting, and so critical. Because clearly they are saying that's the fundamental requirement and we have to be assured that whoever is being nominated to run is patriotic.

DOUGLAS YOUNG: Doesn't that seem reasonable? I mean it is a country after all. You don't want riot; you want a reasonable degree of stability. I'm not really into politics or anything, so maybe I'm not the expert on this. But what you just asked reminded me of what my mother reminded me of yesterday, which is to "come and have lunch with me at least once a week; or else you know." I'm an artist; I'm a rebel. I have been arrested by the police over some designs so I know what censorship and restriction is all about. I expect a high degree of freedom in Hong Kong but I don't expect it to be infinite.

KRISTIE LU STOUT: And now we have this "Occupy Central" movement, and Albert is one of the organizers. And you want more electoral reform, more democracy; and you are willing to get arrested for this, and to go to jail for this. You feel that strongly about this.

ALBERT HO: Yes, because we have to make it absolutely clear to Beijing that they have to honor their promise given to the Hong Kong people; and to meet the expectations and aspirations of the Hong Kong people, which has to be well sounded, clearly sounded out to the whole world and to Beijing for many, many years. And all we ask is universal suffrage as promised to Hong Kong people.

KRISTIE LU STOUT: Douglas, your thoughts.

DOUGLAS YOUNG: But haven't you made it quite clear already? I think you've made it quite clear already without actually having carried out. I think a lot of issues about it, and I'm in support of that. What I question is the action itself cause' I think you guys are gonna bring out, create more enemies than you would create supporters. At the end of the day, especially in an Asian society, I think people don't react very well to aggressions. I think it's soft power, it's persuasion. If you can appeal to them. If you can appeal to the Hong Kong public, I think you will get much more sympathetic support.

MICHAEL DEGOLYER: I agree with you and I don't agree with Albert on this one. I also think, since I work at a university and I'm surrounded by the youth of Hong Kong, younger people of Hong Kong, it's very clear that younger people of Hong Kong, people under age 40 particularly under age 30, this is according to our survey work too, are extremely dissatisfied. They are high disaffected, they're very alienated; they are certainly feeling incredible pressures, economic, as well as cultural. And old folks like Albert are going to be peaceful. But young people may not be.

KRISTIE LU STOUT: Another key date in Hong Kong is 2047, cause' it was back in 1997 when Beijing promised 50 years of no change for Hong Kong. So there's 33 years from now. What's it gonna look like here?

DOUGLAS YOUNG: I hope there'll be change, my god. If Hong Kong has no change.

MICHAEL DEGOLYER: That's what I'm going to say. At first it was a promise; and now it seems to be a threat. Of course the original intent was to give 50 years when Deng Xiaoping talked about this. So that Hong Kong and mainland China could kind of catch up with each other. Now if you go all the back to 1997, and even earlier into the 1980s when they were developing the basic law, Hong Kong had an economy which was like a third or fourth the size of the rest of China. Now China, it has the world's largest economy by some measures; and Hong Kong's role in that has shrunk and shrunk and shrunk proportionately.

DOUGLAS YOUNG: But I think Hong Kong has experienced stagnation because of all the infightings and all these protests and maybe "Occupy Central"? I don't know. But I think too much debate and less action.

ALBERT HO: The basic problem is the ability to govern Hong Kong effectively and wisely. At present our government is not accountable. So that's why people are very very apprehensive of the risk that Hong Kong would become ungovernable without democracy.

[Commercial Break]

KRISTIE LU STOUT: When we talk about representation for the Hong Kong people and what Hong Kong people want, we also have to answer the question: what is Hong Kong's own culture and identity. How would you answer that?

DOUGLAS YOUNG: That is a very interesting question. I'm still looking for it; my life's work is about the search for it. I think in the past, we've been just throwing away anything that is sort of old and out of date, and start from afresh or import and all that. And as a result, I think we've lost a sense of our own characteristics. I think Hong Kong people nowadays are mature enough to realize that we have heritage, we have something that we can be proud of that we want to pass on to our future generations.

KRISTIE LU STOUT: And is that true that for many ethnic Chinese in Hong Kong they call themselves, not Chinese, but "Hong Kongers"?


KRISTIE LU STOUT: And why is the distinction?

ALBERT HO: Well actually these two concepts, or these two identities, are not in conflict with one and another. You can be New Yorker and you can be U.S. citizens, right?

DOUGLAS YOUNG: Absolutely.

ALBERT HO: But nowadays the young people find this Chinese nationality quite alien to themselves, but I think at a deeper level, it shows, it exhibits there is certain antagonism against the mainland.

KRISTIE LU STOUT: There is this antagonism.

ALBERT HO: Antagonism.

KRISTIE LU STOUT: There is this tensions in recent years...

ALBERT HO: Tension, yeah.

KRISTIE LU STOUT: Between the Mainlanders and between Hong Kongers. What's fueling that tension?

ALBERT HO: It's not only competition; but also the dislike of the system, the policies that is not in place in the mainland. I think that also to a certain extent shows that we hold values which are quite different, and even distinctly contrary to what is now being kept in China.

DOUGLAS YOUNG: There's a lot of envy as well though, you must say. Yes I agree with you.

ALBERT HO: You've got jealousy.

DOUGLAS YOUNG: There's jealousy and envy because the Mainlanders come down with all that cash and buy all that luxury products, you know.

KRISTIE LU STOUT: And when this wave of mainland tourists, they come through Hong Kong.


KRISTIE LU STOUT: And they're buying the luxury goods, or some of them being caught behaving badly; and there are video clips of it and they go viral. There is this, and you use the word, antagonism between Hong Kongers and mainlanders. So much so, that the word locusts, and dehumanizing word has been used to describe Mainland visitors. I mean, how is it that it's gotten that bad?

ALBERT HO: And it is not only about conducts or behaviors as we complain about quite a few.

KRISTIE LU STOUT: And competing for resources.

ALBERT HO: No, we are simply frightened with people.

MICHAEL DEGOLYER: Yeah, it was like 22 million.

ALBERT HO: On public transportation, you can see the toilets in the shopping arcades are crowded. There's a big queue of people waiting. It simply is squeezing beyond our capacity to receive so many visitors. We are now coming close to 15 billion visitors.

MICHAEL DEGOLYER: That's right. And the government is anticipating 100 billion.

ALBERT HO: 100 million. And so this becomes a question of governance. It's incompetent governance. If the government had better planning, they can build more outlets, shopping malls. They can cater for, they can build more facilities to cater for this growing number of visits. It won't arouse so much antagonism. I would blame the government rather than the visitors.

KRISTIE LU STOUT: Last year in the census that was taken here in Hong Kong, Putonghua, Mandarin Chinese surpassed English as the second most spoken language in Hong Kong. And as we have more and more mainland tourists coming to Hong Kong, and also more mainland Chinese to come to live here and to work here, will the culture of Hong Kong change or will it evolve into something new and different?

MICHAEL DEGOLYER: Well, we've had huge waves of mainland immigrants that fundamentally made Hong Kong going back to the fifties or sixties; and even up into the seventies and eighties we've had wave after wave after wave. The current wave is very different. We are not talking about poor people coming in at the bottom of the society climbing the way up the ladder; we are talking about really extremely rich people coming into Hong Kong and effectively crowding out the top.

KRISTIE LU STOUT: Are you already feeling this change? This change in Hong Kong cultural identity?

DOUGLAS YOUNG: Yes of course, and long may it continue. I think it's wonderful that Hong Kong is continually changing. I mean, every time I visit China, China is different; every time people overseas come to Hong Kong, they say it's different. It's wonderful that we're able to change. Won't it be terrible if we're just stuck?

[Commercial Break]

KRISTIE LU STOUT: There's been a lot of discussion about the decline of Hong Kong. The economic decline of the territory because it has not been able to keep pace with mainland China and its rise and rise and rise in its economic power. How has that affected the mood and the hopes and dreams of the people of Hong Kong?

ALBERT HO: In my times, when I were young, I heard a lot of people saying that, not only that they would not complain against the rich people, including the tycoons like Lee Ka-shing or some other big entrepreneurs, but they would say that: "one day I would become one of them." But nowadays, sadly, I heard a lot of voices showing discontent, showing complaint, or even to certain degree antagonism or hostility against the rich people. It seems that they are complaining that they are totally deprived of opportunities and they were victimized by unfair exploitation.

DOUGLAS YOUNG: You say is Hong Kong in decline? I think decline is a relative term, but yes, I think China is on the rise and it looks as if we are on decline. But I feel that Hong Kong has a very important role to play within China, as the third city and it's the city of soft power. China is a country that's rising militarily, economically and culturally. But I think it has a lot of issues, PR issues, such as fighting over islands, or Chinese tourists going overseas and behaving badly, that sort of things. I think Hong Kong could play a role in helping to resolve the issues. Countries that are able to deal with soft power and military power and economic power in a dexterous kind of way are the ones that make the most friends.

ALBERT HO: But I think it is more than a PR issue. We uphold and espouse universal values in Hong Kong.


ALBERT HO: And that make Hong Kong a cosmopolitan city.

DOUGLAS YOUNG: That's the strength of Hong Kong. A sense of openness. Our sense of openness and the rule of law.

ALBERT HO: And Hong Kong as I see it in the foreseeable future, Hong Kong cannot be replaced by any other major city in China, including Shanghai, because it lack the rule of law. The most precious asset in Hong Kong is the rule of law, independent judiciary, and the freedom to import information.

DOUGLAS YOUNG: And a sense of openness.

ALBERT HO: And the sense of openness, and a relatively clean government.

KRISTIE LU STOUT: Having this strong regulatory system and rule of law, Hong Kong can continue to attract investment and be a role model, but how are you going to create employment and jobs? In terms of key industries, what's the future for Hong Kong?

DOUGLAS YOUNG: Hong Kong should be the cultural hub of Asia. Asian culture is on the rise; within our lifetime, we will see it growing stronger and stronger. And Hong Kong is the perfect place to be the cultural hub. Geographically we're right, in terms of history, in terms of our sense of openness we're right, in terms of the people who live here, so many international people, English is so readily spoken. Hong Kong has that enormous potential to be that.

KRISTIE LU STOUT: Now I'm gonna ask the final question for all three of you. I think I got a sense of what your answers is because we've been listening to it. But what is your vision of what you want to see Hong Kong become by the deadline 2047? How do you want to see Hong Kong grow and develop in the next few decades ahead?

DOUGLAS YOUNG: We should integrate with China. We shouldn't see the differences. We should connect; we should make the border more porous so the people could cross. I think in that way we'll solve the housing issue as well because land is available up there; and kids will be able to make their homes and businesses. Cause' what we suffer from is a lack of space in Hong Kong to play.

MICHAEL DEGOLYER: And I totally agree the integration into the Guangzhou delta. It has to happen. But it can't happen until you basically have your patents and trademarks protected and you can shop in Macau or shop in Zhuhai or shop in Shenzhen or shop in Guangzhou, and be assured that what you are buying is good. And then instead of having massive floods of people who are here only for a purse, we actually can get this cultural tourism from all over the world and make Hong Kong basically the Manhattan, if you look how Manhattan works. I think that's why the Central Government even in this White Paper was saying that: "we are committed to reform and democratization and direct election." They know that they've got to make changes, and they know that yeah, all these tourists coming to Hong Kong is kind of a measure of their failure, their regulatory failure. They know it.

ALBERT HO: We all hope that Hong Kong would continue to be a free, open and pluralistic society where we also have a caring government and accountable administration. Now, all these is essential to make Hong Kong continue to be competitive. Hong Kong can continue to be a uniquely interesting place, attracting talents, and also a place where we can have more creative industries. And also we can afford to have more technology and information-based technology. All these we need government's commitment. Because we need to create the necessary infrastructure.

DOUGLAS YOUNG: To attract people from all over the world.

ALBERT HO: All these would drive us to the necessary conclusion, I would say, that we need good governance. And that must be based on a truly democratic government.

KRISTIE LU STOUT: We'll have to leave it at there. Michael Degolyer, Albert Ho, and Douglas Young. Thank you for joining me for this vibrant discussion, I really enjoyed it, on the future in Hong Kong.