Monday, 16 February 2015

Chan Ya-ming: Dared to Be Separated - No Stress, No Reform in HKFS

Dared to Be Separated - No Stress, No Reform in HKFS
Translated by Chen-t'ang 鎮棠, Edited by Karen L., Written by Chan Ya-ming (HKFS full member, Year 3 student in HKU)
Original: http://localpresshk.com/2015/02/change/
Hong Kong Umbrella Revolution #umbrellarevolution #umbrellamovement #645z
(Photo source: Pasu Au Yeung)
[Translator's note: HKU has already withdrawn from HKFS at the time this article is fully translated. Even we cannot do anything to overrule the decision, it is vital for all of us to understand the whys, and what are in front of us, so that we can prepare ourselves to the challenges ahead.]

I have studied in HKU for several years, and this is my first time speaking as a full member of Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS). I almost forgot I have such an identity, so do many of my classmates in HKU. It is understandable though, as all HKU students become full members of HKFS automatically since day one there, and the fees are handed yearly as a habit, so naturally it comes a born-to-be identity that no one realise its existence.

The referendum on whether HKU students should withdraw from HKFS makes us all think upon the following two questions which I suppose there is no easy answer to many: What is HKFS? What are the rights being a HKFS full member? Truth be told, before the withdrawal discussion started, I, too, have no idea where the answers lie. But now, as a member member, I hope the following I am about to say can shed light on the matter, so that you vote according to the sense.

Most students started to realise there is an organisation called HKFS since 28th September 2014 but only a few precisely understand its system. For the test of the people, the impression over HKFS merely focuses on the "Five Leaders of HKFS". On the stage of the occupied area, they spoke with moral halo. At the time, their halo, so as their authority were unprecedented. But the question is, where does their authority come from? Theoretically, it should be empowered by us, the full members. But when and in what ways did we empower them with such authority?

Sec-Gen: Generated by Coterie Election
The "Five Leaders" include Alex Chow (Secretary-General), Lester Shum (Vice-Sec-Gen) and Eason Chung Yiu-wah (Standing Secretary of the Secretariat), combined with Yvonne Leung and Nathan Law (both chief spokespersons), who are elected as the presidents of the Student Union in HKU and Lingnan U respectively. Being not the presidents of the Student Union, the former three from the Secretariat which I assume most members have no idea what it is somehow hold the main titles. Why?

According to HKFS's Charter, the Secretariat is the supreme organ of the HKFS. Metaphorically speaking, the Secretariat is the counterpart of the HK government, and the Sec-Gen acts as the role of the Chief Executive of HKSAR. Knowing that the Secretariat is such powerful, it leads to another question — Were Chow, Shum and Chung elected for the positions? No. Before 28th September 2014, I believe most students in HKU do not know who is Lester Shum nor Eason Chung.

A Sec-Gen, without the foundation of a legitimate electorate, bearing potent responsibility on not only the enforcement of certain decisions, but also decision-making itself, resembles the selection of the CE. At the time when Alex Chow was elected as a Sec-Gen, he received some 60 votes — much lower than 689 (CY Leung). How embarrassing it is for an organ pursuing democracy?  Who were the voters? Ordinary members like you and I were not given the right to vote, but only the Delegation of HKUSU and other schools' SU have such a privilege.

The delegation of HKUSU this year includes Yvonne Leung and other four delegates, who by the way are not elected, but appointed by the HKUSU Council. Having a low legitimacy, the Council still is to vote for Sec-Gen on behalf on all full members.

That is to say, the Sec-Gen and other major posts in HKFS are elected through indirect election, rather similar to the existing election system of the CE in HKSAR. If the HKFS acknowledges the legitimacy behind the election of Sec-Gen, they are to acknowledge that of the CE as well. This is apparently at odds with our pursuit of democracy and freedom.

HKFS Cannot Even Represent Full Members
During the occupy movement, many said "HKFS does not represent me". Indeed, HKFS cannot represent all Hongkongers. Worse still, under its current system, it is no way that HKFS can even represent its full members. Full members should have the right to elect major positions, such as the Sec-Gen, and the right to monitor them. Without such fundamental rights, we have paid the fees for years for nothing. It is the top priority for HKFS to undergo an overhaul — establishing universal suffrage for major positions in the Secretariat. To fundamentally temper HKFS thus and so, democratic spirit is enhanced, the full members' hearts will stay, and above all, it will proved to be beneficial for later social movements.

After weeks of debates, I would say I do not entirely agree with the points made by the Withdrawal Concern Group, nor the claim that HKUSU can be on a par with HKFS or the Scholarism. Yet, still, I hold my doubts over Alex Chow's claim that the internal reform of HKFS towards universal suffrage can solve all problems.

It is not Alex Chow's determination that makes me hold back, and in fact I do believe his spirit. But the fact that "power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely" implies that the reform can never be underway automatically. There is always conservative power and vested interests in an organisation. In the world history, it is seen that reforms often take place due to external pressure. And for a person who is about to retire from the seat, how is he going to guarantee this promise?

It Is Now the Time for Reform
Without this referendum towards the withdrawal from HKFS, people would not know about the pedantic system long existed in this organisation, nor have the chance to express their dissatisfaction over HKFS's performance. We should know that the referendum is a pressure encouraging HKFS's internal reform. The extent of such pressure hinges on the votes of supporting withdrawal. If there are too few, the motivation to reform will remain low. There is no need to worry rapprochement — According to the HKFS Charter, HKUSU is free to come and go.

It is the era of reform. Before the huge project reforming Hong Kong, we should start with the HKFS. The problematic system in HKFS has existed so long, and it needs to be cure through such a surgery. The malicious attacks towards the withdrawal are no more than CCP-style tactics. As students in HKU, we shall, with conscience and rational judgement, decide the future of ourselves, of HKFS, and of Hong Kong!

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