The End of Hong Kong’s Third Way

該內容僅提供英文版。

The Best China

Lee Yee (李怡, 1936-) is a veteran journalist and commentator who has has been writing about Hong Kong’s relationship with the People’s Republic of China for over forty years. His work has featured in Hong Kong: The Best China section of China Heritage from 1 July 2017. During the Hong Kong Uprising of 2019-2020 he has expressed his views, his concerns and anguish, in the regular column that he contributes to Apple Daily, a leading independent media outlet in the city founded by Jimmy Lai (Lai Chee-Ying 黎智英, 1948-), one of the fifteen pro-democracy advocates arrested on 18 April 2020.

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The ‘Middle Way’ 中間路線, or the ‘Third Way’ 第三條道路, are terms with a long and tragic history in modern Chinese politics (the ‘Third Way’ has enjoyed a differently beclouded reputation in Western political discourse). Advocates of a middle way, that is a political and economic strategy aimed at finding a meaningful way forward between the Scylla-like monstrosity of hard-line communism and Charybdis whirly gig of laissez-faire capitalism, flourished during China’s Civil War era (1946-1949). After the Communist Party established its People’s Republic, Mao Zedong took great relish in the gradual persecution and eventual brutal elimination of liberal thinkers and academics of all persuasions (many of whom had lent their support to his cause). In particular, he identified and purged with great fanfare the remnant influence of the Third or Middle Way during a nationwide campaign launched in late 1954. (Ostensibly the campaign was about literary criticism but it quickly developed into an assault on Hu Shih (胡適, 1891-1962), the May Fourth-era champion of Chinese liberal thought, and his residual pro-Western supporters in academia, government and the media.)

Although the Hundred Flowers Movement of 1956 and the Anti-Rightist Putsch of 1957, which was stage-managed by none other than Deng Xiaoping, is often seen as a turning point in modern Chinese political and intellectual history, it was in fact the end point of a decades-long attack on liberal and Third-Way thinking. During the 1980s and 1990s, that old campaign was resumed involving both old and new protagonists struggling yet again over China’s political future. Ill-informed, or willfully ignorant observers of court politics in the People’s Republic would be taken aback, yet again, in 2013 when the latest round of anti-liberal, counter Third-Way thinking, enjoyed the poisonous attention of Xi Jinping, Wang Qishan and Wang Huning, among others.

The 2020 assault on Hong Kong is a continuation not only of a long-term struggle in the former British colony that dates back some four decades, but can also be seen as integral to the Communist Party’s one-hundred-year rejection of humanism, liberal values and the non-totalitarian path to modernity.

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We are publishing this essay by Lee Yee both as part of our series Hong Kong: The Best China, as well as including it as a chapter in ‘Viral Alarm’, which takes as its focus the 2019-2020 coronavirus crisis. Lee Yee’s observations may also fruitfully be read in concert with recent work by Mainland writers such as Xu Zhangrun, Xu Zhiyong, Ren Zhiqiang and Tsering Woeser (links to their writings are provided below).

— Geremie R. Barmé
Editor, China Heritage
22 April 2020

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Recommended Reading:


Source: Apple Daily, 21 April 2020

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The End of the Third Way
再無中間路線

Lee Yee
李怡

Translated by Geremie R. Barmé

 

The most significant thing about the sweeping arrests carried out by the Hong Kong-Beijing authorities on 18 April was the fact the majority of those detained have been, by and large, advocates of ‘Constructive Democracy’; they were essentially supporters of ‘Greater China’. [Note: On 18 April 2020, fifteen high-profile democracy figures were arrested ‘on suspicion of organizing, publicizing or taking part in several unauthorized assemblies’ between August and October 2019 in the course of the 2019–20 Hong Kong protests]. Their number included some of the founders and leaders of the Democratic Party and the Hong Kong Alliance [in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China]. Over the years, they have directly participated in the deliberations of the governing Legislative Council and have called for the implementation of Article 45 of the ‘Hong Kong Basic Law’ that favours universal suffrage [Note: Article 45 stipulates that, eventually, the Chief Executive of the territory would be elected by universal suffrage on the basis of a field of candidates proposed by a broadly representative nominating committee. In reality, the post remains an appointment/ puppet of the Beijing government.]

[Note: Antony Dapiran recorded that the event was ‘one of the largest mass arrests of pan-democrat legislators and figureheads yet. The list of 15 people arrested was a roll call of the most senior pan-democrats and protest leaders, including father of Hong Kong democracy Martin Lee, Lee Cheuk-yan, Albert Ho, “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, Margaret Ng, Cyd Ho, and Jimmy Lai (again), among others.’

Antony Dapiran, ‘The Reckoning, 
In which the usual suspects are rounded up’, 20 April 2020]

Similarly, during previous pro-democracy protests this disparate group, taken as a whole, have advanced their cause by means of calls for peaceful protest; they had in the past opposed mass demonstrations; assiduously disassociated themselves from the taint of ‘Hong Kong independence’ and maintained a studied distance from localist activists. Moreover, they have been a voice of compromise when it comes to the role of the Beijing-controlled Hong Kong and Macau Liaison Office in regard to local elections; they have been critical of popular protests that targeted parallel traders or who agitate under the banner of ‘Reclaim Hong Kong, Defend The Local’. They have also supported such proposals as granting to new immigrants from the Mainland access to Hong Kong’s Comprehensive Social Security Assistance after only one year of moving to the territory.

Supporters of Hong Kong localism have generally regarded the stance of the majority of those arrested on Sunday 18 April as being nothing less that ‘selling out Hong Kong’. Indeed, during the administrations of [the first Mainland-appointed Chief Executives] Tung Chee-hwa [1997-2005] and Donald Tsang [2005-2012] members of this group particularly attracted the attention of the Beijing-Chinese authorities in their efforts to get independent-minded members of the local elite to collaborate. Following the rise of Xi Jinping in late 2012, however, and with the tenure of the new brand of chief executive — first Leung Chun-ying [2012-2017], followed by Carrie Lam [Cheng Yuet-ngor, 2017-] — all of that changed.

4.18大濫捕的最大特點,就是拘捕的大多是民主派中的「大中華派」、「建設民主中國派」,包括民主黨、支聯會的創設者和領導人。他們過去參與議會,推動實現《基本法》的普選條款,以和理非宣示訴求,反對街頭運動,與港獨割席,也和本土割席。走進中聯辦就選舉議題作妥協,譴責反水貨光復行動,為新移民爭取到港一年即可取得綜援。這些行徑被本土派年輕人指為「賣港賊」。在董建華、曾蔭權時代,他們是特區政府爭取合作的對象。但自習近平上台,香港密切配合的梁振英和林鄭相繼主政,一切都改變了。

Many of the arrested people had not limited their partisanship to opposition to Hong Kong independence. Back in the year 2000, some even expressed agreement with a government proposal advanced by the then chief executive Donald Tsang to condemn formally ‘Taiwan independence’. Of their number, only Margaret Ng [Ng Ngoi-yee] took a principled stand and abstained from the vote on the grounds that such a resolution regarding the ‘Taiwan Issue’ had no place in the deliberations of the Legislative Council. 

這些人不僅反對港獨,更於2000年在立法會附和曾鈺成提出的反對台獨的動議,只有吳靄儀一人清醒,以解決台灣問題跟香港立法會「格格不入」為由投棄權票。

As I have been saying for well over a decade, the only way Hong Kong can achieve democracy is for its citizens to snatch political power from the hands of the all-powerful Communist Party. For their part, the Chinese Communists are of the opinion that, regardless of any claim about being ‘patriotic’ or in support of the ‘Great Unity [of China]’ people like you are, in the final analysis, nothing less than agitators supporting Hong Kong independence. And, when push comes to shove, even those who have doggedly supported the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ governance framework, or who favour the avowed policy about ‘Hong Kong people being in charge of the administration of Hong Kong’ on the basis of strict adherence to the letter of the ‘Basic Law’ — they too will eventually be labelled as pro-Hong Kong ‘splittists’. I would therefore observe that, in reporting on the sweeping arrests of Sunday 18 April, the official Chinese media was entirely on message when it labelled those who were nabbed as ‘Hong Kong independence gang leaders’.

我十多年前就說過,爭取香港民主就是要香港市民從中共絕對權力手中取得政治權利,對中共極權政治來說,不管你是否「愛國」、是否主張「大一統」,都會指為港獨;到最後,堅持一國兩制、港人治港,嚴格按《基本法》辦事,也會被指為港獨。4.18大濫捕後,中國官媒迅速跟進報道,且多將被捕者冠以「港獨頭目」名銜。

For Western countries like the United Kingdom and the United States, the mere existence of high-profile democratic activists like Martin Lee [Lee Chu-ming], Margaret Ng and Jimmy Lai [Lai Chee-Ying], founder of Apple Daily, a major pro-democracy media outlet, has been proof positive that  the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ set-up [agreed by Beijing and signed into a law that stipulated that the arrangement would continue up to 2047] is still in operation. The tireless efforts of these individuals in advocating for democracy — despite of their endless frustrations and defeats — has also served to validate Western optimism. Stemming from that there has been ample confidence in the West that a whole range of activities, from investments to business ventures, dating from well before [the Beijing takeover of the territory in] 1997 would continue to be vouchsafed by the undertakings specified in the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration. Now, the arrest on 18 April 2020 of prominent public figures like Lee, Ng and Lai was a brazen act signifying that Beijing has decided to abandon the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ arrangement. In fact, I’d go even further and say that, taking into account the Sino-US trade war, the response to the Wuhan Influenza crisis and this present round of repression in Hong Kong, the Chinese People’s Republic has effectively signaled its split with the West.

對於英美等西方國家來說,這些民主派知名人物,特別是李柱銘、吳靄儀,和民主大報創辦人黎智英的存在和持續爭取民主,即使節節失敗,但存在就意味香港仍然實行一國兩制,因此,西方九七前在香港的所有投資與活動,就仍然有理由在《中英聯合聲明》的基礎上進行。而這些頭面人物被捕,意味中國決定拋棄一國兩制,由美中貿易戰至武漢肺炎戰爭,中國在香港下手,表達了與西方的決裂。

The response to the events of 18 April in Western political capitals was instant, broad-based and outraged. Even Joe Biden, the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee for the US presidential election [in November 2020], a politician consistently opposed to President Donald Trump’s trade war with China and a man who advocates continued pressure on Beijing in support of democracy and basic freedoms, spoke up and expressed support for Hong Kong. In declaring himself to be on the side of the Hong Kong people Biden also criticised Trump for having repeatedly remarked that Xi Jinping is his ‘friend’ and that he stands with China. Thus, it appears that one of the policy debates that will feature in the lead-up to the November presidential election will centre on who is tougher on China.

因此,4.18在西方引起的反應,可以說是迅速、廣泛而激烈。連反對特朗普對中國開展貿易戰、主張在民主自由等方面對中國繼續施壓的民主黨總統參選人拜登,也明言支持香港,跟香港人站在同一陣線,反而批評特朗普經常說習近平是他朋友,是與中國站在一起。美國大選看來會以互相表現對中國強硬作為主要議題之一。

Beijing made a serious miscalculation if it launched this police action against these Hong Kong democrats out of the mistaken belief that the West was too preoccupied by the coronavirus pandemic to pay any attention to the former British territory. The reality is that many Western nations regard the devastation wrought by a virus originating in Wuhan on the Mainland and the brazen authoritarian repression of Hong Kong as two sides of the same coin.

如果中國認為西方這時候忙於應付疫情,不能顧及香港,那就打錯算盤了。西方國家反而會將武漢病毒的輸出,與中國專權政治在香港的肆虐,視為一個銅板的兩面。

For the international community, the detention of Martin Lee in particular carries symbolic weight. Ever since supporting the Sino-British Joint Declaration in the 1980s Lee became increasingly involved in the territory’s political life. Aware of his willingness, Beijing then coopted him into the Basic Law Drafting Committee [appointed in late 1985] and then he played a political role in a ‘functional constituency’ [set up to represent professional or special interest groups involved in the electoral process]. From there he went on to seek election as a member of the Legislative Council [in which he served in various capacities from 1985 to 2008]. Moreover, in 1994, he was the founding chairman of the Democratic Party. Famed as ‘The Father of Hong Kong Democracy’, Lee may rightfully claim a considerable international profile and a vast global network of contacts, one that includes many former and active Western politicians and heads of government. His arrest signifies in the most concrete way the end of the line for democracy in Hong Kong and the demise of ‘One Country, Two Systems’.

對國際社會來說,李柱銘的被捕最具象徵意義。李柱銘自中英談判時已經介入政治,他支持《中英聯合聲明》,被中共延攬至基本法起草委員會,先後循功能組別和直選進入立法局和立法會,是民主黨創黨主席。在國際上地位高人脈廣,被稱為香港「民主之父」,西方許多新舊政要都是他老朋友。他的被捕就意味香港民主之路已死,一國兩制已亡。

Another important figure swept up in this wave of arrests was Margaret Ng. Arguably, she has been fighting for an independent judiciary in Hong Kong even longer than Martin Lee. Her activities and advocacy have straddled the mass media, the legal world and practical politics itself. During the negotiations between London and Beijing [from 1979 to 1984], Ng published numerous commentaries and analyses of developments; she was a member of the Legislative Council for eighteen years during which time she brought to the task of interrogating the legislative documents that passed over her desk an incomparable eye for detail and dedicated seriousness of purpose. Her political memoir — On the Fulcrum — is a superlative account of her political career. For decades Margaret Ng has been nothing less than Hong Kong’s guardian angel of legal autonomy and judicial independence. She remains a tireless advocate worthy of the highest respect.

另一個被捕的重要人物是吳靄儀。她為守護香港的自由法治,可以說比李柱銘更早,並且跨越傳媒、法律、政壇三界。她在中英談判期間已經發表許多中英文政論,她在立法會擔任議員18年,審核所有文件的精密與認真程度無人能及。後來寫下《拱心石下》一書,記敍從政所歷,寫得極好。她是幾十年來香港自由法治的守護女神,至今堅持不懈,令人敬佩。

Since the evolution of a localist mentality in Hong Kong [from c. 2010], even though my views have been at variance with the majority of ‘patriotic democrats’ in the territory, I have nonetheless always respected their unswerving support for and advocacy of democracy. From the start of the Anti-Extradition Law Protests in June last year, most pro-localist young Hong Kongers laid aside their previously negative opinions regarding this group and participated enthusiastically in the non-violent mass demonstrations and the local council elections that unfolded. Recently, LIHKG [連登 or LIHKG 討論區, the online mobilisation network widely used by protesters] has even published an appeal to the international community calling for support of those detained on 18 April.

These days, Hong Kong people are very much of a mind when it comes to protecting the value of freedom and the rule of law in Hong Kong. It is the same when it comes to the view of both authoritarianism here and totalitarianism in China itself. As the Communist authorities have directed the local authorities to arrest men and women such as these — remember, they have consistently been the most mild advocates of democratic norms in the territory — they have, in effect, wiped out what remained of a middle ground. Now the only choices open to Hong Kong people are: align yourself with a totalitarian regime or rise up to resist and oppose it. There simply is no Third Way.

自香港本土思潮興起,我儘管與大多數愛國民主派意見不同,但尊重他們的苦心和始終如一對民主的堅持。反送中運動開展後,大多數本土派年輕人也不計前嫌,積極參與和理非大遊行和區選。日前,連登有人發文,表示要力推國際社會對4.18的聲援。在維護香港固有的自由法治的價值觀方面,對抗專政極權再沒有分哪一派。中共既然把最溫和的民主派都指為港獨並予拘捕,那麼等於摧毀中間路線,香港人的選擇若不靠攏極權,就只有起而反抗,再沒有其他去路。

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Source:


Viral Alarm, a China Heritage Series