Monday, June 26, 2006

A Rebuttal in Defense of Hong Kong...

A long essay response I've written to Janice Tse over at Diuman Park - ostensibly in regard to the scientist Stephen Hawking's recent visit to Hong Kong, but in effect a rebuttal of her views on private-sector-funded education and the assertion that toeing the Chinese Communist Party's line is in the best interest of Hong Kong and that to suggest otherwise is unpatriotic...

Hi Jane, it's nice to read your thorough comments on the topic, but whilst I agree with your general point that Hawkings as a guest speaker for HKUST really didn't and shouldn't require any welcoming intervention from the HKSAR government (thus the reason I haven't participated in this thread until now), as well as your argument for sustainable policies rather than once-off grandstanding gestures from the government, there are quite a number of points in your essay that I heartily disagree with.

"由一個做了幾十年殖民地高官的人帶領的特區政府,你想它的眼光要幾遠大?有幾多獨立自主的創意?眼光遠大,有獨立思考能力,以人民為福祉的公務員又怎可以受殖民地統治者重用?這類人最容易做反,用得多此等人,連治權也不保。"

I seriously dispute your assertions that civil servants who worked under the UK colonial administration necessarily lacked independent thinking and the interest in serving the public good. You failed to acknowledge the many policies initiated pre-1997 that made HK the international financial centre it is today (the rule of law, state-sponsored free primary and secondary education, low taxation, subsidised social housing, infrastructural development, etc. etc.) No matter how hard people tried to spin otherwise, these are solid achievements that HK people should be justifiably proud of, and these are precisely the kind of far-sighted policies created and implemented by 殖民地公務員. Don't knock everything we've ever achieved in the past just because you happen to think it's in the best interest for HK to follow the Chinese Communist Party's line given the new political context HK people found themselves in. Compared to what CCP has done for its own people in Mainland China, with rife poverty and corruption even to this very day, HK people have done themselves proud. Somehow you forgot that those civil servants you're so disparaging about are actually HK people also.

"再者,活躍與強大的公民社會,才是民主的必要條件,民主要由下而上才能堅固,為何這學術交流也要為政府馬首是瞻?"閙"政府的同時,請思想一下自己想要什麼。君不見美國的名牌大學不是清一式靠企業與私人捐助嗎?君不見特區目前的教育與學校體制不是給政府高官越搞越亂嗎?"

While I whole-heartedly endorse your point that democracy needs to be developed from the bottom-up and that this starts with encouraging citizen participation, I completely disagree with the way you've illogically applied this argument to your assertion that universities should be solely funded by the private sector.

Your cited example of U.S. universities is extremely telling actually. The U.S. third level education system with its polarisation of state-funded community colleges and expensive private Ivy League education is precisely the kind of thing that we do NOT want to see happening to the HK universities. The situation in the U.S. resulted in an ever-increasing gap between the rich and the poor not only in terms of actual material ownership but also in terms of equality of opportunity for all citizens when it comes to education.

What you've failed to notice is that many top quality universities in Europe are largely state-funded, where there is an explicit political doctrine for social progress as well as economic progress. Equal access in education for all is not something that would be provided under a private-sector-funded education system - I know, because I have experienced both the European and the U.S. top universities first-hand. The top U.S. schools require their students to pay fees up to tens of thousands of dollars a year; while some Scandinavian countries have free third-level education and in Ireland we have highly-reduced fees because of government funding (and if you're a citizen from other EU countries who come to Ireland to study you can pay these significantly-reduced fees also). This will NEVER happen in a private-sector-funding scenario.

The reason for such divergence in education funding within the West itself is that there are actually different models of democratic capitalism - the liberal democracy of the Anglo-Saxons (i.e. US and the UK) and the social democracy of Continental Europe. And when you actually examine the extent to which there is genuine civic participation in societies, the European model of social democracy wins - just compare the current situation in the U.S. and the U.K. where voters are disenfranchised; to the situation broadly in Europe where an active citizenry is not only allowed but actively encouraged, where the tripartite model provides the framework business, trade unions and the government to work in partnership on economic matters.

"香港的公民與民主意識,何其薄弱?我想,這才是中央不敢放膽給特區直選特首的關鍵。試問一群不肯為保障國家安全的法例也不肯立法的一群,歸屬感與國家認同有多大?我想,假如選出一個陳水扁,到時香港重亂,冇眼睇!"

I laughed out loud when I read the above line: "香港的公民與民主意識,何其薄弱?我想,這才是中央不敢放膽給特區直選特首的關鍵" When has the CCP ever wanted to concern itself with democracy?????? What has the CCP ever done for its own citizens in Mainland China to develop their 公民與民主意識???????? You're not too brainwashed are you that you forgot 1989 Tianamen massacre where innocent and PEACEFUL student protestors were slaughtered because they demanded freedom and democracy?????? And you're not too blinkered to notice the iron grip on free-flow of information and the limit on press freedom CURRENTLY still being exercised by the CCP???????

Your second question about linking the national security legislation with patriotism is the SAME KIND OF RUBBISH that's propagated in the U.S. by the Bush administration which tries to equate criticisms of its nefarious policies (such as the highly restrictive and liberties-destroying Homeland Security Legislation) with an unpatriotic, ungrateful populace. When in fact, NOTHING COULD BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH. It is an EXTREMELY PATRIOTIC thing to do to hold your own government to account, and to NOT allow the government to pass legislations that curb civil liberties in the way that the 國家安全法 is trying to do.

If you're actually serious about protecting and enabling 公民與民主意識 , then you would NOT be supporting 國家安全法, in the same way that the US and the UK populace are currently vociferous in decrying the terrorism laws that their current morally-bankrupt governments are trying to pass.

"也順帶一提,李家成一心捐款港大,卻引來商界與學界對抗,是否捐錢做善事都要受清算?港人真的要改變港大命名事件、盧少蘭事件等思為,少猜忌,多持感謝之心,不以自己的狹隘利益為依歸,多思想社會的共同利益。"

Nobody is arguing against corporate philanthropy, but the tags and conditions that come with it. If Lee Ka Shing is a true philanthropist, then he would have just made an anonymous donation, rather than tried to change the name of the college and more to the point trying to influence the academic agenda with the soft power that his huge donations bought him. The billions that he gave then is not philanthropy so much as soft money trying to buy academic freedom.

盧少蘭事件 is another curious example for you to cite if you're indeed serious about protecting and enabling 公民與民主意識 and arguing for 民主要由下而上才能堅固. What's wrong with protesting against privatisation plans that have NOT gone through proper public consultation with the very residents of those social housing that are to be privatised? Shouldn't the residents have a say in how things are run for their very own homes?

Your problem is that you've equated promoting the private sector with promoting democracy. The two are NOT the same. In fact, far from it. A business-driven administration is not democracy - it's simply corporate plutocracy, the kind of thing we're seeing happening in America right now.

I really feel that there are many people on both sides of the political spectrum who do genuinely and fervently care about Hong Kong, but much of the fervour often came from distorted information, an ignorance of international political models and a touching naivete either about the CCP or in relation to the U.S. and the U.K. A civics education of the basics of democratic principles and its various implementation forms around the world is sorely needed. Until we all understand the basics of democracy and concepts of civic participation and civil liberties, and the merits and demerits of different democratic election models, we would forever be hurling insults at each other with such unsavoury epithets as "British poodles!", "British and American lap-dogs!", "Traitors to the Chinese People!", "Western Co-conspirators!", "Communist Zombies!", etc. etc.

Would anyone think this could be a topic under the "common curriculum" that ALL secondary school students have to learn? (or is it "common knowledge"? Anyone could kindly give me the official English translaton to this "Tone Sik" subject)?

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