Auntie Carrie, puh-leeze!

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Hong Kong Apostasy

 

Lester Shum (岑敖暉, 1993-) is an activist and a former student leader of the pro-democracy protests — the ‘Umbrella Movement’ — in Hong Kong in 2014. From April 2014 to March 2015, he was deputy secretary-general of the Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS). In October 2014, he was one of the five-member HKFS delegation involved in ‘Dialogue’ with government officials under Carrie Lam, then Hong Kong’s Chief Secretary for Administration. He was subsequently detained for participating in a  a sit-in that July and, on 26 November 2014, he was arrested for failing to comply with an injunction to clear a protest site in Mong Kok. In 2018, he pleaded guilty to accusations levelled against him but he was eventually handed suspended sentence. He currently serves as an assistant to Eddie Chu Hoi-dick (朱凱廸, 1977-), a prominent pro-democracy lawmaker.

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On 18 August 2019, the day of a mass anti-government rally of some 1.7 million protesters, Carrie Lam-Cheng Yuet-ngor, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, declared that:

‘Work will start immediately to build a platform of dialogue. We hope this dialogue can be built upon a basis of mutual understanding and respect to find a way out for Hong Kong.

‘I sincerely hope this is the start of society returning to calm and turning away from violence.’

In this chapter of ‘Hong Kong Apostasy’, a series devoted to the 2019 Hong Kong Anti-Extradition Bill Protest Movement, Lester Shum discusses the political significance and potential of ‘Dialogue’ 對話 today.

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In the Chinese political lexicon ‘Dialogue’ is a term with a range of particular, mostly odious, associations that have more to do with obfuscation, manipulation and prevarication than with anything related to meaningful and substantive exchanges over issues of mutual interest. As a strategy deployed by the authorities to confound and diffuse protest, ‘Dialogue’ is achingly familiar to Hong Kong activists, as indeed it is to participants as well as observers of the 1989 Protest Movement on the Mainland.

— Geremie R. Barmé
Editor, China Heritage
22 August 2019

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Related Material:


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The Five Fundamental Appeals of
Hong Kong Protesters:
五大訴求:

1. Completely withdraw the Extradition Bill (the ‘Fugitive Offenders Ordinance Amendment Bill’).
一、徹底撤回修例;

2. Retract the declaration that protests on the 9th and 12th of June were riots.
二、收回暴動定義;

3. Withdraw criminal charges against all protesters.
三、撤銷對今為所有反送中抗爭者控罪;

4. Thoroughly investigate the police for abusing their power.
四、徹底追究警隊濫權情況;

5. Dissolve the Legislative Council by administrative order, and immediately implement Dual Universal Suffrage.
五、以行政命令解散立法會,立即實行雙真普選.

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I’m One of the Students Who Engaged in
Dialogue with Lam-Cheng Five Years Ago

And All I Want to Say Right Now Is:
Auntie Carrie, You’ve Done Your Darnedest,
High Time You Just Gave It a Rest

我是五年前曾經跟林鄭對話的學生,

我只想說一句:
Carrie姨姨,辛苦曬,早點抖啦

Lester Shum 岑敖暉

Translated and annotated by Geremie R. Barmé

 

1. ‘Dialogue’ Is About Doing Away with The Questioners, Not About The Questions

I am one of the students who engaged in ‘dialogue’ with Carrie Lam-Cheng Yuet-Ngor five years ago. At the time ‘Auntie Carrie’ put on quite a display of familiarity by making a point of addressing us by our English names — I was ‘Lester’, and my co-negotiator was simply ‘Alex’ [Chow]. (Just thinking about it makes me want to puke.) In reality, what lurked behind the government’s gestures of dialogue was their real aim: to put us in an indefensible position so that it would be easier to obliterate us.

‘Dialogue’ is always a tactic used by the power-holders to embrace Those on the Middle Path — that is, the people occupying the undecided middle ground. They are offered this conciliatory gesture [somewhat akin to the inane ‘listening tours’ of politicians] but in effect it is a gross deception aimed at discombobulating the protest movement. Their ‘Dialogue’ is forever but a vacuous gesture with no substantive content much less any hope of speeding up meaningful reforms to the system itself.

The crux of the matter is that when the authorities propose ‘Dialogue’, it is never really about political negotiation.

一、提出「對話」,其實只是想解決提出問題的人,而非真正解決問題

五年前,我是曾經跟林鄭月娥「對話」的學生之一。當時「Carrie姨姨」「懶親切」地叫我們英文名字「Alex Lester」(諗番起都想嘔),但實質上,政權在對話的背後,是要置我們於死地,把我們往死裡打。

所謂對話,其實從來都是政權用以拉攏和蒙騙中間派、搞散運動的技倆,永遠不可能會有實質內容,更加不可能從中促成一個真正的制度變革。

根本的問題在於,政權所提出的「對話」,其實從來都不是一場政治談判。

What I mean by ‘political negotiation’ is a situation in which those involved bargain or negotiate over substantive issues on the basis of positions of relative advantage and, in the process, discover where there might be room for practical concessions on either side. What the power-holders are proposing in Hong Kong at the moment, at least as it relates to the Five Appeals of the mass protests, is tantamount to a blanket refusal to make any concessions. In fact, the chance that the government is willing to make even the slightest substantive concession is Zero.

政治談判的意思,是大家根據自己的實力,各自討價還價,看看大家各自可以讓步的地方在哪。但在今天政權的立場來說,就是五大訴求,寸步不讓,政府會作出實質政治讓步的意圖是零。

To satisfy the Five Demands, to bring about thoroughgoing systemic reform, allowing the people meaningful political rights — these are things that enjoy an extremely strong consensus uniting both those decried by Auntie Carrie as ‘extremely violent protesters’ as well as peaceful-rational moderates.

[Note: On the two camps — the ‘courageous-militants’ 勇武 and the ‘peaceful-rational moderates’ 和理非, see Yi-Zheng Lian, ‘The People’s War Is Coming in Hong Kong’The New York Times, 21 August 2019]

落實五大訴求,落實一個真正且徹底的制度改革,把權力歸於人民,是不論carrie姨姨口中的極端暴力示威者以及「和理非」當中,都有非常強大而且實在的共識的。

At no point has it been particularly difficult for the authorities to set up some kind of ‘Platform’ for the resolution of political contestation. The crucial point is about whether such a ‘Platform’ is designed to resolve substantive issues or rather to silence the people who have raised those issues?

Looking at the makeup of such ‘Platforms’ and the rhetorical approach taken by the power-holders, it is fairly obvious that this strategy is about dealing with the questioners rather than the questions.

建設一個所謂平台去解決政治爭議,從來都不是一個問題。關鍵在於,這個建設出來的平台,是為了解決問題,還是是為了解決提出問題的人?

觀乎平台的組成,觀乎政權官方的口吻,似乎是要解決提出問題的人居多。

This much-vaunted ‘Platform’ is not there for an open discussion about how to address the Five Appeals. It’s not about confronting the issue of escalating police brutality and their ever-expanding powers with the aim of holding violent members of the police force to account for abusing and breaking the law and vitiating the constraints on them. Even less is it about how the National People’s Congress ‘31 August Resolution’ can be rescinded so that a viable political electoral system [for both the office of chief executive and for the make up of the Legislative Council, Hong Kong’s formal governing body] can be achieved.

[Note: The ‘Decision of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on Issues Relating to the Selection of the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region by Universal Suffrage and on the Method for Forming the Legislative Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in the Year 2016’ 全國人民代表大會常務委員會關於香港特別行政區行政長官普選問題和2016年立法會產生辦法的決定, known as the ’31 August Decision’ 八三一決定, made by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on 31 August 2014 set limits for the 2017 Chief Executive election and 2016 Legislative Council election in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

The decision stated that a Hong Kong Chief Executive candidate has to ‘love the country and love Hong Kong’. For the 2017 Chief Executive election, a nominating committee, similar to the present Election Committee system, would be formed to nominate two to three candidates, each of whom must receive the support of more than half of the members of the nominating committee. After popular election of one of the nominated candidates, the new Chief Executive ‘will have to be appointed by the Central People’s Government’.

The process of forming the 2016 Legislative Council would be unchanged, but following the new process for the election of the Chief Executive, a new system to elect the Legislative Council via universal suffrage would be developed with the approval of Beijing. The decision was deemed by the pro-democracy activists as a violation of the principle of free and fair election and led to the large-scale occupation protests which was internationally known as the ‘Umbrella Revolution’.]

In other words, this newly proposed platform will offer no space for the discussion of the Five Demands, nor will it allow any room for their resolution. Furthermore, the authorities are steadfast in completely ignoring the issue of establishing an independent commission of inquiry [into police brutality] something that has absolutely nothing to do with the above mentioned systemic political reforms [that are part of the protests].

這個平台,不是去討論如何去落實五大訴求,不是去討論如何克服警暴處日益澎脹的權力,從而追究所有違法違憲濫權的警暴人員,更不是去討論如何廢除人大八三一決議、落實一個真正的雙普選。

總之與五大訴求有關的內容,這個平台一樣都不會傾,一樣都不會處理。連獨立調查委員會這個與制度性改革毫無關系的訴求,也完全置諸不顧。

Given that is the case, then what is this ‘platform for dialogue’ going to do? It will respond to garbage matters like making a show of adding a few pan-Democrat representatives to the Police Oversight Commission, or pretending to address some popular grievances — gestures that are little better than silencing disruptive children by bribing them with a few choice treats.

None of this has anything to do with what the people of Hong Kong are concerned about. When you set up a dialogue like this, what actually is there to talk about?

They know full well that it’s just a waste of time. So why then are they doing it? It’s simple: it’s a show being put on for the delectation of those who regard themselves as occupying some ‘middle ground’ as well as the ‘social elites and superior classes’ in order to gain their support for the official policy announced by Beijing to ‘bring an end to the rioting and crack down on chaos’.

這樣的話,「對話平台」處理的是甚麼呢?就是那些應該在監警會加幾個泛民、如何派糖去處理民怨之類的垃圾。

根本跟市民想的完全不是對焦,傾乜?

明知無用,點解還要去做呢?答案很簡單,做給那些扮想解決問題、實質是想投降的「中間派」「社會賢達」去睇,拉攏他們去「止暴制亂」。

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Two: ‘Dialogue’ is a Show Staged for People Willing to be Duped

二、對話是一場騷,做給中間投降派社會賢達睇的「show」

All in all, to my mind ‘dialogue’ or ‘political negotiations’ can only be undertaken from a position of strength. As long as we remain a formidable force, the power-holders will not be able to cope with the pressure, they will have to contemplate finding a way out, whether that be in the form of a bloody crackdown or as the upshot of meaningful concessions. Only when faced with the latter situation can political negotiations really be possible.

If, however, the government remains unwilling to relent in any regard whatsoever, it must inevitably concoct a vacuous ‘solution’ that makes a great pretense of coming from a place of sincerity. In reality, they don’t give a fuck about listening to you. Rather, it is in the pretense itself that they aim to discombobulate wishy-washy middle-of-the-road defeatists who lack the internal fortitude to continue taking up the cudgels against the entrenched power holders, injustice and authoritarianism. The government hopes they will lend their weight to swaying public opinion in the effort to undermine the movement.

總之對我來說,對話,或曰政治談判,都是建基於我方的實力基礎。只要我方實力得以維持,政權再也承受不了那股壓力,不得不思考是要血腥鎮壓,或是作出實質讓步,政治談判就會自然而然地出現。

不然,在政權沒有打算作出讓步之前,政權只會開出一些跟廢話無異的「方案」,「懶係有誠意」、「好認真」地「HEA鳩你」,從而蒙騙沒有意志跟政權、不公、專制博鬥下去的中間投降派,令他們運用他們的輿論力量,企圖從而消解運動。

Take, for example, what happened during the formal ‘Dialogue’ of five years ago [on 21 October 2014]. On that occasion, the government availed themselves of the services of a notable middle-of-the-road figure — a ‘professor’ from a globally recognised tertiary institution [that is, Leonard Cheng 鄭國漢, president of Lingnan University] who claimed a particular familiarity with Lam-Cheng — to propose to us two so-called political undertakings:

  • In the first place, to aid the Hong Kong government in preparing a report on popular opinion in relation to the ‘31 August Resolution’, which would be personally delivered to the premier of the State Council in Beijing or to Li Fei, deputy secretary general of the National People’s Congress. It would be a fundamental document that would help kick-start the reworking of constitutional arrangements as they relate to Hong Kong; and,
  • Secondly, to establish a platform for multi-faceted dialogue which would focus on reforms relating to the 2017 election of a new Chief Executive and LegCo.[1]

[Note: On 21 October, the government and the Hong Kong Federation of Students [HKFS] held an initial round of talks, broadcast as an open debate on television.  The student representatives were HKFS secretary-general Alex Chow, vice secretary Lester Shum (author of the present essay), general secretary Eason Chung, and standing members Nathan Law and Yvonne Leung. They were in dialogue with representatives of the Hong Kong government: Chief Secretary Carrie Lam, secretary of justice Rimsky Yuen, undersecretary Raymond Tam, office director Edward Yau and undersecretary Lau Kong-wah. The discussion was moderated by the president of Lingnan University, Leonard Cheng.

For details, see ‘OCCUPY CENTRAL —  THE DEBATE: Full coverage of student-government talks’South China Morning Post, 21 October 2014; and, ‘The Hong Kong government-protester sit-down finally took place—and nobody is satisfied’South China Morning Post, 21 October 2014]

以五年前的對話為例,政府透過中間人(來自某領先地球的高等學府的、自稱跟林鄭很熟的「教授」)向我們作出兩點所謂政治承諾:

  • 一、為將港府撰寫的831後民情報告,親手向國務院總理或人大副秘書長李飛提交,作為重啟憲政修改的基礎報告;
  • 二、設立多方對話平台,專責討論二零一七年前的特首/立法會改革事務。[1]

At the time, everyone knew full well that these two undertakings had absolutely nothing to do with withdrawing the political framework generated by the ‘31 August Resolution’, or for that matter with the introduction of meaningful elections on the basis of universal suffrage. Among the powerful and influential members of Hong Kong society there were those defeatists who felt that it was ‘high time the things were brought to an end’, and ‘that was the best one could expect’.

Or, to put it another way, the reason the government proposed ‘Dialogue’ in the first place was not so they could address the immediate issues with which they had been confronted by the demonstrators, rather it was a device that would allow them to garner the support of those influential non-committed individuals of note who enjoyed substantial economic and social influence; people who could help sway popular opinion in favour of the authorities. This was a group that, from the start, was ever-ready to surrender to the government; now they played their role in aiding and abetting the authorities in their efforts to undermine the movement despite the fact that no concessions had been made.

但這兩點,大家都知道,跟撤回八三一框架、落實真普選是沒有任何關系的,但社會上總有些有權有勢的投降派,覺得「要收貨」、「好過無」。換言之,政府提出對話,所交出的「功課」、交「功課」的對像,並不是運動的參與者,而是無時無刻打算向政權投降的中間派社會賢達,並且利用他們在社會上享有的權力或輿論影響力,令政府不需要作出任何讓步就能得以消解運動。

Of course, even at the time we didn’t accept those two garbage proposals and that’s why we appealed to everyone simply to withdraw from further ‘Dialogue’. It was at precisely this point that the Influential, Prominent and Socially Significant middle-of-the-roaders had the status to help the government in its attacks on and efforts to splinter the movement.

As a matter of fact, [Leonard Leung,] that noteworthy Middle Path academic silvertail who claimed considerable familiarity with Carrie Lam-Cheng, claimed in numerous media interviews what an extraordinary effort they had put into the process and how profoundly misunderstood their exhaustive contributions had been. Furthermore, they claimed that we the students were unreliable negotiating partners who were devoid of sincerity and who fielded shifting and contradictory demands.

對於這些廢話,我們當年當然不可能接受,並從而呼籲大家「退場」。而中間投降派「社會賢達」這個時候,就有很大的身位去協助政權攻擊和解散運動。事實上,那位來自某領先地球的高等學府的、自稱跟林鄭很熟的「中間人」,後來更多次接受報章訪問,談及自己有多委屈、盡曬力,說學生出爾反爾、毫無誠信云云。

Just thinking about it now literally makes me want to throw up. Despite the fact that that fellow was so obviously a henchman of the authorities participating in their various noxious undertakings, they nonetheless congratulated themselves in the most oleaginous and extravagant manner. And that’s exactly what such advocates of the Middle Path of Moderation, the Defeatists, are really all about. Of course, among their number there is no lack of ‘useful idiots’, men and women who sincerely believe that they are ‘contributing to a positive outcome’.

Following the ‘Dialogue’ session of the 21st of October [in 2014], it would seem that there are always such talents at the ready. The question is: Will we be hoodwinked again?

I very much doubt it.

諗番起,都literally係想嘔。明明是作了政權作惡的爪牙,卻能冠冕堂皇地吹奏自己,這就是中間投降派的樣子(當然他們有的是真心膠、覺得自己真的是「為緊件事好的」)

在1021對話之後,這樣的勢力幾乎是空群而出。

但我們會再上當嗎?大概不。

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Three: And Just Whom Will They Be Speaking With?

三、關於無大台,無談判對像,點傾?

Although there is no identifiable negotiating partner with which the government can have a ‘Dialogue’, that doesn’t mean there is no platform and no organisation. At the present moment, as the movement has evolved, popular forces have constantly adapted according to changing circumstances and in the process a consensus has been reached and this has happened in the context of a formidable environment of self-correction.

As long as you can formulate a means by which you will respond meaningfully to the Five Significant Appeals [made repeatedly during the protests], our popular forces have both the wherewithal and the strength to engage with you and to respond effectively.

That is to say, the People of Hong Kong themselves are the negotiating partners in this movement.

Yet again it must be emphasised, however, the premise is that your government must have a conceptual plan about how to implement the Five Significant Appeals.

而現在雖然無大台,但絕不代表無平台、無組織。今時今日,運動發展至今,民間根據形勢的轉變,從而凝聚共識、自我修正的能力已經極強。

只要你提出如何落實五大訴求的方案,民間是有足夠的實力和力量去跟你互動和回應的。

亦即是說,香港人就是這場運動的大台。

但前題都是,你要有如何落實五大訴求的方案。

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Four: Address the Five Appeals

四、回應五大訴求

Moreover, and more importantly, the People of Hong Kong have witnessed for themselves the shameless behaviour of the Hong Kong government and what amounts to its effective collapse. This was recently patently obvious during the events of the night of the 21st of July when the police conspired with local thugs and gang members to break the law and abuse their power. In response to that the government not only failed to act but through its inaction it effectively offered protection [to criminal behaviour] and encouraged further malfeasance.

In the past, the authorities have availed themselves of ‘systemic violence’ by means of limited elections within functional constituencies to trample on the good will and trust of Hong Kong People. They have within their gift the power to interpret the laws according to their needs and whims; they can twist things and turn them on their head; they can sack people as they see fit and arraign individuals in court on various charges just as they please.

況且,更重要的是,這個政權的無恥、崩壞,香港人是全部都看在眼內的。近的有七二一警黑勾結,警暴人員日日違法濫權,政府不處理,句庇甚至是鼓勵;遠的有透過小圈子選舉、功能組別以制度上的暴力,去一次又一次踐踏港人的胸口;喜歡的話,可以隨時釋法,把白說成黑,鐘意dq就dq,鐘意告你就告你。

I would go so far as to say that as things stand at the moment, the People of Hong Kong are profoundly disappointed in the system as a whole; they have completely lost faith in it. That is why the positive turn around in public sentiment of a kind that Lam-Cheng and the police are counting on is simply not going to appear.

If mass opinion is so determined in its demand for reform to the existing system, and desirous of a profound shake up of the police force, then none of the old tricks and ploys will be effective.

我都幾肯定,去到今日今日,港人對於制度的不滿和失望已經是根深蒂固的了,這是林鄭和警畜期待的民意逆轉不會出現的原因。

如果民意是如此堅定地要求一個制度上的改革、要求徹底地重整警隊,舊的招數、舊的套路,再也不能夠對付我們的了。

Regardless of this reality, the government is responding to the present situation in exactly the same way as it did before [in 2014]. In so doing it is attempting to bring over to its side those occupying the middle ground with the aim of undermining the participants in the movement. You’ve played us all before. The game is up: the whole world has seen through you. No one is going to fall for it a second time.

If you are sincere about engaging in ‘Dialogue’, then please address the Five Significant Appeals and present us with the plan that you have formulated to respond to and satisfy those appeals.

Only if you are willing to do that will the society — the Whole Society — actively engage in a Dialogue with you and respond to your actions. Aunty Carrie, rest assured on this point.

We are the People of Hong Kong: we are constantly evolving, learning and improving.

現在政府又是想用番同一招,拉攏中間投降派,對付運動的參與者。我們都這樣被耍過,全世界都知道政府的套路是如何操作的了。真的不會再中計第二次了:

如果你想對話,請就著五大訴求,逐一交出如何落實、如何執行的具體方案。

只要你這樣做,整個社會都一定會跟你對話、互動,carrie姨姨請放心。

我們是一直進化、一直學習、一直修正的香港人。

Auntie Carrie, you’ve done your darnedest. You’ve worked so hard and so earnestly. Time and again you’ve got so many people to play a part in your little performances. You’ve put so much effort into spinning all of those lies and putting on your act. But no one in Hong Kong is fooled by any of it. It’s time you just gave it a rest!

Carrie姨姨,辛苦曬了,但你咁辛苦、咁認真地找咁多人去做場戲,很認真地講大話、做騷,是不會再呃到香港人的了,早抖吧。

To reiterate: All Five Appeals Must Be Satisfied.

Keep Going, Hong Kong!

This is for all of us the Revolution of Our Times;

We Must Claim What Rightfully Belongs to Us!

總之:五大訴求,缺一不可。

香港人加油,這是屬於我們的一場時代革命,我們要奪回應得的權力。

Fin

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Note:

  1. Alex Chow Yong-kang wrote an essay on the subject of ‘dialogue’ some time ago. For that text, see:

周永康早前就有就「對話」寫了篇文章,可參閱:

https://www.facebook.com/alex.chow.3532/posts/10156898218959143

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Source:

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