Hope of a new beginning

The 82,000 people who turned out for the June 4 candle-light vigil called for the vindication of the June 4 massacre and power to the people. This, the highest turnout in the special administrative region’s short history, was a response to Beijing’s ruling against universal suffrage, and a sign of protest against diminishing freedoms.

Beijing’s furious assault on Hong Kong’s aspirations for democracy can be traced to last July 1, when 500,000 people took to the streets. The democratic aspirations of the people were grossly misconceived by the central government to be a quest for independence.

Driven by the fear of losing control over political development in Hong Kong, Beijing responded by ruling out universal suffrage in 2007 and 2008. With the tacit permission, if not the express consent of Beijing, officials, senior ex-officials and late-night callers alike began to exert political pressure on talk-show hosts. Now, even the sanctity of the ballot box is at stake.

The Tung administration’s response has been frustrating. It neither stands by its people, nor tells Beijing that no one in Hong Kong wants independence. Above all, it fails to defend the core values and interests of Hong Kong.

To add fuel to the flames, pro-Beijing critics have smeared the intentions of peaceful and rational protesters. This will only deepen misunderstandings. Protesters and democrats are using the most peaceful means conceivable to convey their democratic aspirations, and our clamour for direct elections is a quest for better governance, not independence.

The core values that we cherish so much, and which make Hong Kong tick, are being eroded as a result of Beijing’s hardline policy. This will undermine Hong Kong’s survival as a free and vibrant city. For Hong Kong to continue to thrive, it is imperative to bridge the mistrust and misunderstanding through genuine and sincere dialogue. The democrats have never opposed the central government, or the Tung administration, for the sake of it. Our actions are driven by a commitment to better and more accountable governance. Above all, no one in Hong Kong has ever sought to usurp power, nor have they called for independence.

Signs abound that the militant approach adopted by Beijing and excessive interventionism have alienated many in Hong Kong. Dissatisfaction has reached alarming levels. The trust that the central government was at pains to build is now being eroded. If there has been a communication breakdown between Hong Kong and Beijing, and the misconception of our democratic aspirations has led to this stalemate, it is high time to stand together and rebuild trust.

And this involves open-mindedness and an appreciation of differences on the part of all parties. Differences can only be bridged by a sincere attempt to understand the mindset of Hong Kong people. By the same token, the policy of sidestepping the Democrats and barring us from entering our motherland should be reviewed. In this connection, I hope Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa’s offer to meet us on Friday will mark the beginning of more regular contact. Now that we have taken a step forward, he should act as a bridge between the Democratic Party and Beijing, and enable us to engage in a dialogue.

For historical reasons, we have a unique relationship with our sovereign. We share a unity of purpose with our motherland – we all want Hong Kong to continue to thrive and become Asia’s world city. Our past and future success rests on our ability to preserve the freedoms we enjoy, and the rule of law.

A democratic majority in the Legislative Council will enable us to better monitor the administration and improve governance. It will also correct the systemic flaws by making the government more accountable and responsive to public opinion.

I urge you to demonstrate again on July 1, to show the people’s power. Voice your democratic aspirations. Show your commitment to defend the core values that we cherish so much.