Sunday, August 29, 2010

Hong Kong and us

Hong Kong residents plan to have a huge indignation rally today on the bungled rescue of a tourist bus in Manila's Luneta park which resulted in the deaths of 8 hostages. This according to my good friend and UP Viasyas history professor Bruce Hall, is not really a cry for justice but to express sorrow cum outrage.

Staging rallies like these are one of the few real liberties that HK citizens have. The China-UK treaty that ceded the territory back to Beijing in 1997 guaranteed that the capitalist system be maintained for 50 years. Take note of the word CAPITALIST. Capitalism in order to survive does not need DEMOCRACY. However DEMOCRACY in order to flourish requires CAPITALISM.

Hong Kong citizens still cannot elect their Chief Executive (CE) directly. An election committee whose members come from HK's functional constituencies elect the CE who in the end is still a Beijing appointee. Limited direct democracy elects legislators but majority have to be vetted by Beijing. Although the Basic Law (constitution) allows for a directly elected legislature, Beijing decides when that will be. The Basic Law also can be reviewed the the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress which is China's parliament.

So that in a nutshell is what democracy in Hong Kong is. Hong Kong can express its indignation on June 4's anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre because BEIJING allows it. Now no Chinese citizen can do that on Tiananmen itself.

However the British left an independent civil service based on meritocracy. The Philippines has little of that even if the Americans tried to leave something like that. The Brits also left a Common Law system of justice independent from that of China and that allows foreign justices from the British Commonwealth to sit in the  Court of Final Appeal something unthinkable in the rest of China including Taiwan. This and a politically neutral civil service ensures that the Court is free from political interference.

The Pinoy reader should know what Hong Kong has and what the Philippines has in terms of democracy and rule of law. As far as we can recall no journalist has been killed in Hong Kong for reporting on a political matter. Pinoys can show indignation almost anywhere and Malacanang can't do much about it. Hong Kongers can show indignation in selected places and Beijing can do much about it! Pinoys can run to the Courts and can get a dose of injustice, but Hong Kongers can run to their British style Courts and can get justice. Now isn't Representative Singson an example of the rule of law? Can he get bailed out on the mainland on a drug trafficking charge?

I have been many times to the SAR many times and I admire how the "one country, two systems" worked and how HK has managed to be Chinese and residually colonial at the same time. I was a victim of pickpockets and I reported the incident to the HK Police. The police were efficient and courteous in dealing with the matter. A police officer also assisted me in contacting my bank's HK office so I can cancel out my credit cards. All these were accomplished within 30 minutes.

This is perhaps why the Hong Kongers are so appalled at what happened in Manila last Monday. The Pinoy press, social and mainstream media failed to get this idea, except perhaps the patriotic Filipino woman called Ms Tessie Ang-See.

And the hysteria that the Pinoy economy will sink without HK tourists is greatly exaggerated. HK cannot survive without Filipinos. Kowloon will hit the doldrums without the Pinoy tourists who come every Christmastime. And take note HK is given a run for its Pinoy money by Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Bangkok, Singapore, Ho Chi Minh, Hanoi and even Phnom Penh!

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