Like millions of others, no doubt, I was inspired by the photo in yesterday’s South China Morning Post showing a cheerful woman engaged in what I suppose is a variant of grave-sweeping: fetus-dusting…
It just goes to show that all of us, in any walk of life, can always find something to smile about. In the beaming young lady’s case, perhaps she was thinking of the spaghetti meatballs she had planned for supper.
Not all of us, however, are of such a sunny disposition. Despite the cheeky grin in the China Daily photo, patriotic commentator Lau Nai-keung seems to spend his whole life in a ranting, sulking, blustering sulk about ‘dissidents’ – his term primarily for pro-democrats, but more broadly for anyone among that overwhelming majority of the Hong Kong population who do not bow down faithfully and worship the Chinese Communist Party. His column today is yet another salvo in the intense, orchestrated and increasingly tedious barrage by official and pro-Beijing media against publisher Jimmy Lai and his donations to such pro-democracy figures as Cardinal Joseph Zen.
The thing that stands out in this particular diatribe is the assertion that what Jimmy Lai did would be illegal under the security legislation required by Article 23 of Hong Kong’s Basic Law or in “any other country” (loyalists are allowed to get away with accidental implications that Hong Kong is independent)…
China’s requirement following 1989 that post-1997 Hong Kong pass a serious-sounding law against treason, secession, sedition and theft of state secrets was always controversial and sensitive. The hapless administration of Tung Chee-hwa increased anxiety through clumsy attempts to reassure the public there was nothing to worry about. It then tried to ram the bill through the Legislative Council at just the time the city had run out of patience with its floundering leader, and it all blew up in Tung’s face.
Since then, Article 23 has acquired a sort of mythic, cursed status. Clearly with Beijing’s blessing, Chief Executive Donald Tsang has been allowed to disown the issue throughout his one and a half terms. It is only a matter of time before someone asks CE hopefuls Henry Tang and CY Leung what their policy will be.
Left to their own devices, Henry will say whatever the audience wants to hear (one of Tung’s weaknesses), while CY will consistently reply that a security law is unfinished business. If Beijing wants to bolster Tang a bit, it could let CY sound hawkish and scary before letting Henry know he can follow in Donald’s footsteps and tell us we can forget the whole thing for years and years. After all, the longer we go without a replacement for the archaic and unused colonial security laws still on the books, the more obvious it seems that Hong Kong’s standard criminal laws against violence and theft protect the state perfectly adequately.
Alternatively, an increasingly paranoid Beijing could decide that the lack of a security law that can be used to suppress bad elements makes Hong Kong a glaring chink in its armour and needs to be fixed. This would imply that what they would see as turmoil within the city – Tung’s attempt got some 10% of the population onto the streets in 2003 – would be acceptable for a greater national purpose. It just doesn’t wash; life doesn’t get that interesting around here.
So we can probably, as Deng Xiaoping said, put our hearts at ease and dismiss Lau Nai-keung’s ravings as one of his frequent hate-filled, mouth-frothing loon acts. He is saying that Article 23 would make you a criminal either for financing the legal political activities of people whose views are not correct (donating to the pro-Beijing camp is OK) or for making donations to someone who sends the funds across the border to religious groups not authorized by the Chinese government. Such a claim would set alarm bells off, if Lau were worth bothering about. The fetus-dusting lady would no doubt assure us that he isn’t.