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Moral authority on parade

The annual July 1 rally marking the anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong from British to Chinese sovereignty is a mixed bag. However, its ability to attract crowds each year makes it a significant event on the annual calendar.

Although billed as a pro-democracy rally, people express their grievances in a wide variety of areas; from labour relations to monthly pay packets or housing problems; and politics to the administration.

At times, its numbers have reached the half a million point, which makes it a highly significant event, as, with few exceptions, such rallies in most parts of the globe rarely attract so many.

Of further significance is that when discontent among the population is high, a bumper crowd is always expected and, barring exceptional circumstances, turns up.

People from all sectors of society join in. They come from the business world and professional ranks; those who work with their hands and earn their living from the sweat of their brows; as well as families, students, migrant workers and people on the job hunt.

The rally also reflects the highly organised nature of Hong Kong society. The high number of people who join in not just as individuals, but as members of a group walking under the banner of their organisation shows the high value that people place on the community nature of life.

Although the run up to the event may see disagreements over slogans or themes and critics may point to the plethora of issues portrayed on the banners at the rally, the overriding dynamic giving it its energy is the moral authority of the people.

In this sense it is truly a democratic event, as what gives any democracy its bite is ultimately the moral fibre and authority of the people, which is clearly put on display by a highly significant percentage of the population in the streets of the city on July 1.

The rally rises above squabbles over transition from a basically appointed administration to an elected one and clearly states the people’s aspirations for a decent society that embraces the values of families, work and human development.

Speaking at a seminar on relational poverty sponsored by Caritas in Tseung Kwan O on May 16, the chief executive of the special administrative region, Leung Chun-ying, admitted that no government can administer effectively without the support of community organisations.

He also noted that one of the main functions of a government is to make money, in order to facilitate people in fulfilling their aspirations.

While making money certainly is a major responsibility of any government, in itself it is not sufficient to establish a moral authority. While it may help its popularity when times are good, it also has to lead when times are tough and be credible when hard decisions have to be made.

At these times, platitudes do not suffice. A government needs credibility before its people so they understand decisions are being made with justice, especially when someone is going to be hurt.

A few gifts at Christmas do not earn a father his children’s love and a government does not earn respect from facile threats of doom or even promises of a heaven to come.


Jesus spoke with authority, because when people heard him they recognised that he understood their plight. JiM