Self-determination : all HKer's right
"I am what I am, and what I am needs no excuses..."
-Gloria Gaynor (song lyrics)
Do you know this song? Don't you just wish that people in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and Hong Kong (HK) government knew and understood a bit more of popular culture?
How about your parents? Would they know this Gloria Gaynor number? Do you know anyone who is controlling and domineering?
An idiomatic expression like "Live and let live" has much to offer humanity, reminding us to be tolerant of each other. Its origins go back even before 1622!
Under the UN international treaty ICCPR signed and ratified by Hong Kong (HK) everyone in the SAR has the fundamental human right of 'self determination'. That sounds just like 'live and let live' to me.
Yet, despite this, a recent opinion piece published by Hong Kong Free Press highlighted how much time, money and effort the government is spending to combat the inevitable march towards such right for LGBT+ equality in HK:
Hong Kong’s gov’t must stop squandering taxpayer money on multiple, futile attempts to hinder LGBT+ equality
There has been a string of court cases over different issues ranging from spousal visas to inheritance laws and housing in recent years, and without exception the HK government has lost the legal arguments.
To many HK people this is all the more important, because while the HK government is often heard to champion "the rule of law", its track record of understanding what statutes mean in practical terms and of upholding those rules leaves a lot to be desired.
In 2019 a report commissioned by the city’s equality watchdog identified nearly 100 ways that people in unconventional relationships – including same-sex marriages and LGBT partnerships – are treated differently under HK law. The Equal Opportunities Commission, examined more than 1,700 provisions across the city’s 537 ordinances and subsidiary laws. Legal researchers then studied how the laws treated same-sex civil partners and cohabitants compared with heterosexual married couples.
With so many issues being raised by the both the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) and the LGBT+ community itself, it would seem natural to ask where the matters to be resolved lie amidst HK government's priorities. It failed to raise any hope of positive change whatsover when a newly appointed head of the EOC said that his organisation should stay “neutral and unbiased,” adding there were no immediate plans to push for legal protection for sexual minorities.
..... ooooo OOOOO ooooo .....
Well, how about other minorities then?
Do they have equal rights?
WTPOHK have previously pointed out the plight of minorities living in the city who contribute to its cosmopolitan cultural mix [see some of our blogs listed below]. We have also taken pains to explain how under the governance of CCP, all the people of HK are in effect a minority within greater China. Most aren't of Han descent. Few if any are signed up members of the CCP. HKers also prefer to use their mother tongue Cantonese rather than China's official Beijing dialect of Mandarin or Putonghua used on the mainland (see this blog).
The point is that in general HKers embrace the notion of 'self-determination'. The right of self-determination for all peoples was first enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations.
All peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they ought to be able to freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development. Not in HK, however! In the face of CCP's bristling initiatives to enforce assimilation of mainland culture in HK, the people of the city cringe.
The right to self-determination is stated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (the ICCPR), but it has been purposefully omitted from constitutional documents such as the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance. A major fraud has been carried out by CCP and associated legislators to deny HKers their rights, and subsequently dash their hopes (see blog listed below) !
If the people of HK were minors, it might be deemed appropriate that some adult or other caregiver assumed responsibility for key choices and decisions impacting their lives. However, despite Chief Executive Carrie Lam's (CLam) once assumed position as "the mother of HK", her subsequent characterisation of protesters opposing dubious 2019 legislation as "wayward children" was more than most could stomach! Not surprisingly HK's own Mamas protested in response.
The people of HK were tired of the rich and those with vested business interests holding sway in the city's governance. The fact is HK's 'mother' in government never died, but somehow the 'loco parentis' role was assumed by Chinese central government and CCP. It could hardly have been an attempt to act out a paternal role!
CLam has all along kowtowed to CCP and become their puppet, denying the people of HK any say in how they are governed, how their lives would be shaped, how their kids would be educated, how public money would be spent, and so on.
And now in HK and mainland China there is state orchestrated drive for 'stability' using coercion as a means of torture caused by the structural violence of CCP's feudal Chinese plutocracy. Simply explained, if you want 'prosperity' then you must accept and support CCP's actions for 'stability' which include arbitrary disappearances, murder, Tiananmen massacre, COVID-19 pandemic source and spreading, Xinjiang genocide, etc.
There is no freedom when bossy parents want to control what you own and who you mix with!
There are written conventions that clearly assign the people of HK the right to own their own property, and also grant freedom of association.
What CCP struggles to come to terms with is the tension that exists between people's right to self determination on the one hand, and its own reluctance to allow any measure of independence or autonomy. Its vocal rejection of international criticism and demands that others butt-out of its "internal affairs" are at odds with rational observation and conversation about the conventions contained in the ICCPR. The CCP often responds irrationally, mechanically or nervously, as if deeply threatened and powerless when others show any signs of dissent, of unity, strength, or tenacity. CCP, that always wants to save its own face, operates on the flawed mantra of 'might is right'.
It is a problem for CCP that people like Jimmy Lai can own and run a mighty influential newspaper that challenges the CCP and its cadres (see this blog). Certain 'yellow' businesses known to support pro-democracy movement, such as children's clothing shop "Chickee Duck", have been subject to harassment by government agencies and security forces. Even people in mainland China can find their financial and property interests scrutinised, sectioned off, or confiscated by the state e.g. Alibaba, Tencent, Liquor-Giant Moutai, etc.
Similarly, people who mass together in groups of any size represent an organised threat to the party and are variously shut down using the party's nefarious tactics. Consider the plight of Falun Gong in mainland China, bullied and hounded beyond the border by CCP for years. We won't even expand further here the issue of organ harvesting of the spiritual group's practitioners that other journalists have documented. In 2019 there were reports of nuns and monks in western China's Sichuan province being forced out of the Yachen Gar Tibetan Buddhist Center by authorities, being dispossessed of their belongings and being rounded up for "political re-education".
In HK we have already seen University Student Unions and Trade Unions disband, the activities of Church groups probed and blocked, with many charitable and political organisations unable to function under the climate of fear established under the guise of CCP's national security law (NSL) imposed on the people of HK in July 2020.
It must be understood that CCP's inability to resolve this critical tension, its reluctance to allow self-determination, poses some serious threats going forward:
Shareholders and those with like business interests may no longer rally together as stakeholders to protect and work for their vested interests, when all the time the fists, eyes and manipulating hands of authoritarian CCP governance could intervene and disrupt their commerce at any time it chooses. Even the equitable operation of the stockmarket is at risk.
Any alliance or loose association can be deemed inappropriate or illegal for whatever reason. The NSL has supposed 'red lines', but its vagaries that suit CCP keep expanding! Simple correspondence between journalists and informants or people of interest, can be defined and labelled by authorities as something treacherous and dangerous. Social media is already drawing the angst of pro-Beijing loyalist lawmakers in HK, and the HK police. Similarly, international organisations with reputable track records of defending international law, human rights, justice and democracy can easily be labelled and treated as pariahs by CCP as it assumes it can do no wrong. Governments that are critical of China risk a rough treatment in response.
The persecution of minority groups in HK looks set to increase as the values, beliefs and cultural norms of the ruling CCP who aspire to its Han origins act to assimilate (or eliminate) those who are different.
HK was once considered a great place for business because of its strong laws governing financial and business matters that were backed up by an independent judiciary. The world has, however, changed and it's not just because of the current pandemic. No one can ignore that there has been a paradigm shift, hence businesses and investors have to take a wider view to be competitive.
These days businesses have to be sustainable - you can't operate businesses that ignore their impact on the environment, for example. Also, importantly, businesses have to come to terms with corporate responsibility to owners, to shareholders and to wider society. It's no longer acceptable, for example, for businesses like coffee shops to exploit the farmers that grow their beans by paying them poorly for their product. It's not ethical for clothing or shoe manufacturers to exploit child labour, or forced labour just to keep down their costs.
Numerous big name corporations and manufacturers have been ensnared in PR crises over their use of the Chinese state’s forced labour schemes that are part of the industrial-scale persecution of the Uyghurs and other indigenous groups. It's not only the growing number of consumers and investors worldwide that are critical of unethical business practices that stem from rampant greed and exploitation. In the interests of fairness and equity for all, the protections offered by commercial or business law and those of civil or common law can no longer be considered in isolation.
What many businesses and investors now understand is that HK does NOT have strong laws protecting human rights and the freedoms of those who live and work here. HK has clearly lost its competitive edge. It's an inconvenient truth for many businesses heavily committed to the city, that they now face the awkward fact they have in effect become an accomplice to ongoing human rights abuses, and the disparity between rich and poor. Their presence in the SAR gives tacit support to a government that maintains inequity, and has priorities that ignore the will of the majority - that even fails to respect and uphold international conventions! Plus, there are rumblings from the U.S. warning American interests in HK of "sweeping financial and regulatory risks" (16 July 2021).
Latest news reports indicate that under the pandemic and political upheaval poverty in HK has only gotten worse. Over the last two years the number of households earning just HK$9,100 or less a month has doubled to more than 149,000, according to a recent HK government report.
Under the paradigm shift previously mentioned people are increasingly dependent on one another. For the good of the planet and all of us who live on it, businesses, governments and individuals have a responsibility to understand, maintain and respect the "international rules based order". While such an order is embroiled in political one-upmanship, it is the individual rights and freedoms of each of us that are suffering, that are being denied. While nationalist pro-CCP lawmakers are all about "loyalty", demanding people swear solemn oaths of allegiance to China, no one in HK wishes to be a slave to the government.
In HK the battle for LGBT+ rights is also far from over. The city is set to host the 2022 Gay Games, however with vocal pro-Beijing opponents like Priscilla Leung and Junius Ho slinging vulgar homophobic comments ad infinitum who knows what might happen in the ensuing months.
The international Federation of Gay Games (FGG) is the global governing body for the quadrennial Gay Games, the world’s largest sports and cultural event that is open to all.
The problem is that it could so easily draw the ire of the CCP, or HK authorities policing their precious NSL. It seems plausible that organisers could be arrested or charged on a number of grounds, including "colluding with foreign forces".
It has to be noted that in the first week of July 2021dozens of LGBTQ pages were deleted from one of China's largest online social networks - WeChat - raising fears of a government crackdown amongst activists. It could only rate as just another of those similar government-initiated crackdowns, possibly intended to keep the populous in check. Many of the wiped web pages had been operating for years, harmlessly providing support, ranging from book and movie recommendations and resources for psychological help as well as places to converse about LGBTQ issues or for organizing group outings.
We also don't know how international participants travelling to HK are likely to fare. In June 2021 the U.S. issued the following travel advisory :
Since the imposition of the National Security Law on June 30, 2020, the PRC unilaterally and arbitrarily exercises police and security power in Hong Kong. The PRC has demonstrated an intention to use this authority to target a broad range of activities it defines as acts of secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign entities. The National Security Law also covers offenses committed by non-Hong Kong residents or organizations outside of Hong Kong, which could subject U.S. citizens who have been publicly critical of the PRC to a heightened risk of arrest, detention, expulsion, or prosecution. PRC security forces, including the new Office for Safeguarding National Security, now operate in Hong Kong and are not subject to oversight by the Hong Kong judiciary.
Of course, by way of contrast, CLam can only speak of HK in glowing terms, and about the fantastic "success" of the NSL. She has been known to claim pride in what she has achieved as Chief Executive, and echoes the CCP party line about the west trying to block China's path to greatness.
All governments, but authoritarian ones especially, have to be constructive in contributing to the realization of their citizen's uniqueness. It's about realizing people's potential, for their own good and for the wellbeing of others. It's about allowing people to make their own choices, to reach for their dreams, their aspirations, and having hopes fulfilled. It's about people determining and achieving their place in the life of the universe.
FRAUD : CCP thwarted Hong Kong peoples' UN rights to self-determination & independence
Everyone in HK is a minority in China (part 1) : Language is the issue
Paradigm shift : Inter-dependency means the end of patriarchy
CCP's Apple Daily takedown an attack on private property
The Yellow economy and the frontline
Opposition to LGBT+ legal rights in Hong Kong at historic low – CUHK survey (HKFP, 8 January 2020)
Hong Kong: LGBT couples are treated differently by the law in nearly 100 ways, report finds (Equal Eyes, 27 July 2019)
From defensive, to apologies, to doubling down: How Carrie Lam’s response to Hong Kong’s protest movement evolved over a year (HKFP, 4 September 2020)
Dismantling a Free Society (Human Rights Watch, June 2021)
AP Interview: US Firms in Hong Kong Face Risks, Says AmCham (USNews.com, 19 July 2021)