The Only Way to Revive Hong Kong

September 8, 2016 Updated: September 8, 2016

The 2016 Hong Kong Legislative Council election is an obvious victory for Hongkongers who support democracy. About 2.2 million people, or 58.28 percent of registered voters, cast their ballots in the highest turnout for the Legislative Council elections since the handover.

The non-establishment camp won 30 seats, including 19 seats in the geographical constituencies. They successfully maintained the crucial veto numbers, and retained the majority of geographical constituencies, which is a better result than the last election.

The result is certainly a defeat for the administration of Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and the interest groups associated with the Chinese regime’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong.

However, two newspapers backed by the Chinese Communist Party claimed victory for the pro-Beijing camp.

The newspapers deliberately emphasized the fact that pro-establishment lawmakers increased their “super seats” vote count by 16,000 votes, and their winning 41 seats in the legislature. (including Dr Pierre Chan Pui-yin, a Legco member in the pro-establishment camp who shows pan-democrat leanings.) The newspapers hid the fact that the pro-establishment camp lost 3 seats while the pan-democrat camp won 200,000 more votes in the “super seats” than in the last election.

The Leung Chun-ying administration and the Liaison office have to shoulder responsibility and blame for their failures in this election, including the voting in of six candidates who advocate independence or self-determination for Hong Kong. The result obviously weakened Leung’s bargaining power with Beijing for his re-election.

It is likely that the Liaison Office will have some personnel changes in the near future, and Leung’s candidacy for re-election will been known soon. In fact, before and during the Legislative Council election, Zhang Xiaoming, director of the Liaison Office, had cooperated with Leung to create social division and political crisis.

Zhang hasn’t responded to the Chinese-language media outlets Duowei, Jiemian, and Sing Pao Daily News, which recently criticized the Liaison Office director for interfering with local political issues and overly suppressing non-establishment people.  

Wen Wei Po and Ta Kung Pao, two Party-backed media, didn’t refute allegations against Zhang, but wrote stories on old news concerning Sing Pao Daily News’s boss. These stories indirectly confirmed the boss’s military background and the newspaper’s unusual backing, which certainly represents a powerful force within the Communist Party.

Two military tigers, Xu Caihou and Guo Boxiong, have been axed. After a major overhaul and restructuring, Xi Jinping now has firmer control over the military. It can be reasonably concluded that recent media criticism of the Leung Chun-ying administration and the Liaison Office is approved by Xi. If this is the case, a political showdown looms near, given that the Party usually opens power struggles by concocting opinion.

The local pro-Beijing forces suffered a huge loss in the legislature elections. The Hong Kong Federation of Unions lost two seats, and Tang Ka-piu made way for the New People’s Party’s Eunice Yung Hoi-yan. Starry Lee Wai-king made significantly gains in “super seats” votes and Wong Kwok-hing was ousted. The main reason for this outcome is because the Liaison Office promoted their own forces—including Paul Tse Wai-chun, Priscilla Leung Mei-fun, Junius Kwan-yiu Ho, and New People’s Party—to protect themselves and establish their own political teams.

One day after the elections, Regina Ip was summoned to the Liaison Office. Similarly, Leung Chun-ying was also summoned four years ago after being elected. The Liaison Office did this to demonstrate that it is a second power center. If the Chinese central government is keen on changing policies in Hong Kong, it has to restructure the powerful Liaison Office, or no reforms can be passed.

Frankly, the past 19 years since the handover has seen the distortion of the “one country, two systems” model. Now, there are even those calling for an independent Hong Kong. This is the consequence of the Liaison Office accruing excessive power.

The incompetent Tung Chee-hwa administration and the proposed Article 23 legislation forced half a million Hongkongers to protest in the streets. The Liaison Office then used this social crisis as an opportunity to grow. Can Erbao, the former head of the Liaison Office’s research department, advocated for the Liaison Office to be a second center of governance in the city, a proposal that would allow Beijing to flagrantly intervene in Hong Kong’s internal political affairs.

The Liaison Office has expanded to over a thousand people, and is no different from an independent kingdom. The Wang Lijuan incident four years ago coincided with the Chief Executive election period. The Liaison Office had helped underground Party member Leung Chun-ying come to power. Since then, the two have been willfully doing things, eventually sowing the seeds of today’s chaos.

To rectify the current situation, it is necessary to resolve some key issues.

First, the Leung Chun-ying administration, as well as the Liaison Office and its associated interest groups, all have to be purged. Leung must be forced to step down, and the allegation regarding his corruption case has to be thoroughly investigated so that public anger can be alleviated.

Second, the National People’s Congress’s Aug. 31 resolution must be withdrawn to create favorable conditions for political reform.

Third, the next chief executive must be picked from candidates who prioritize the rights and interests of the Hong Kong people, strengthen the “two systems,” reverse the Leung government’s “one country” tendencies, which have made Hong Kong part of the communist regime, and maintain Hong Kong’s uniqueness under the “one country, two systems” framework.

Fourth, the real estate monopoly must be broken, or social vitality cannot be restored. It is most important to solve the local housing (not investment) problem. Over the next decade, the government should make available 480,000 residential units for government rental. The rent can be set to within 20 to 25 percent of a tenant’s household income, and the tenants should be allowed to first rent, and later buy these units. This would create the necessary conditions to revive the market. Concurrently, the government should reform the transportation policy, nationalize the MTR train system and the three undersea tunnels. By operating at cost, transportation and social costs can be reduced for the general public and all sectors of society, and this could energize the local economy.

This is the only way to revive Hong Kong, and it is also the fundamental way to solve deep-rooted social conflicts and restore the Hong Kong people’s confidence. Only genuine democracy will allow Hong Kong to enjoy long-lasting prosperity, and keep intact the “one country two systems” framework. Thus, Hong Kong can play its role as an international financial center.

Lai Chak Fun is a Hong Kong Media Professional, Commentator, and Radio program host.  He is also a special columnist with the Chinese edition of the Epoch Times.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.