CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 16 February 2019

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One country two systems fades into the distance

Nineteen years have slipped by since the handover of Hong Kong to China, but the city today is a vastly different place from what it was in 1997.

Complex social issues have left people with mixed feelings towards the handover, even though they do identify themselves as Hong Kong-Chinese, which is a unique cultural identity.

A peep at attitudes in the Church in the former British colony is typical enough. Social justice concern groups, like the Hong Kong Federation of Catholic Students and the Hong Kong Catholic Youth Council, are two civic organisations that strongly supported the severance of ties with British colonial rule.

Nineteen years ago, few people in the city would have expected to see Hong Kong independence flags waving in public within two decades.

It was even unimaginable that slogans like Hong Kong Independence could attract so much attention or gather so much momentum, which was by no means negligible during the Legislative Council New Territories East by-election.

This indicates that we are not talking about the social implications of political concepts like independence.

Nevertheless, we believe it is lamentable to see that the authorities, who are totally opposed to concepts like independence and autonomy, fuelling and aggravating the call of Hong Kong Independence.

The disappearance of the Causeway Bay booksellers is still simmering. Thanks to some outrageous events, selling the banned books, which is really a fundamentally unimportant business, has become a political storm for the government.

The ironic thing is that it was caused by the mentality of the authorities, who assume that any dissenting voice can and must be silenced.

The Church encourages people to fulfill their civic responsibilities. In chapter 13 of his letter to the Romans, St. Paul reminds his readers, “Let every person be subordinate to the higher authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been established by God.”

However, the relationship between obligation and right is bidirectional. Those in power also have the duty to construct a fair and open society to enable citizens to enjoy their freedom without political pressure.

If a government that considers its own security to be the ultimate bottom line repeatedly violates personal freedom and attempts to subdue its citizens through autocratic means, grievances will mount and eventually explode in uncontrollable chaos.

The founding father of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, who passed away last year, used his famous two bowls of rice to illustrate the distribution of interest between the government and people.

Lee pointed out that if the bowls were placed before two people, the weaker one will refuse to take part in the meal if the more powerful one demands both bowls.

If those in power hold excessive concern for their own security and ignore the personal rights of the people, a mass uprising is on the cards and society will slump into a lose-lose situation.

In a democratic society, those in power must listen to the people. Hong Kong has lingered on the path to democracy for many years.

The powers-that-be should heed the people’s voice and, if government remains negligent, the people must unite for the common good. SE