Ernie Chow: Illusion No More - Speech on 9 Nov Rally

Speech by Chairman of CUHK Student Union Ernie Chow at the rally against NPCSC’s interpretation of the Basic Law on 9 Nov
Translated by K Li, spoken by Ernie Chow 周竪峰 on 9 November 2016

Standing on this stage, I would very much like to follow the example of veterans in the democratic camp and shout with all my might “China has no right to interfere Hong Kong’s domestic affairs”, “uphold the rule of law” and “safeguard judicial independence”, and chant thrice with everybody here “shame on the Chinese Communist Party for destroying One Country, Two Systems and our high degree of autonomy”.

For many of you who took it to the streets today, I know it's the slogans of upholding the rule of law and safeguarding judicial independence that got you here. But we students want to tell you clearly that the concepts of “rule of law” and “judicial independence” you want to guard against, and the so-called One Country, Two Systems principle or high degree of autonomy have never existed here right from the beginning.

Former deputy secretary-general of the HK Federation of Students Lester Shum said yesterday, “HK’s rule of law did not die. It has never even existed ever since the Basic Law came into force”. With the NPCSC overriding HK laws with a free rein, even the basic requirement of the principle that “no one is above the law” could not be achieved here. In other words, so long as Article 158 stays in the HK Basic Law, HK could never enjoy the rule of law.

In the past 20 years, we have been deluding ourselves. We have been deluding ourselves into thinking that the CCP would not use up all its powers. We have been deluding ourselves that HK enjoys an independent judiciary that is independent from the CCP’s rules. We have been deluding ourselves that the BL can protect all the freedoms and rights we should be entitled. We have been living in denial about the cruel facts behind this illusion. The rule of law we prided ourselves with or even One Country, Two Systems itself are at the mercy of someone else.

I want to tell you a story here. Back in the 80s, when the Basic Law was being drafted, Albert Ho from the Hong Kong Affairs Society suggested to write into the Basic Law that “residual powers” shall belong to Hong Kong, in order to achieve “a high degree of autonomy” in real terms. What are the “residual powers”? These are those powers not codified in the text of the Basic Law. If the history were to change and these residual powers were given to Hongkongers then, the CCP would no longer have the right to interfere in anything other than such specified areas as diplomacy, military and national security. This has been the dream of all Hongkongers, including everybody here, in the past twenty years when we think about our high degree of autonomy.

However, the reality is that the CCP stated explicitly at a meeting of the Basic Law Drafting Committee that the issue has no room for discussion as China is not a federation but a unitary state, and all residual powers belong to the central authorities. And so, the reality of One Country, Two Systems became a complete opposite of what we have dreamed of: even the expectation that the CCP has no rights to interfere in anything except those stated to be in their domain by the Basic Law is not true. The truth is that except those rights explicitly stated in the Basic Law, Hongkongers enjoy no other rights and the CCP has the full power to manipulate us in whatever way it wishes. We don’t even have the right to say no.

You might still have the hope that the CCP could not strip you of those rights explicitly safeguarded by provisions in the Basic Law. Sorry, I tell you with regret here that CCP could still take these rights away easily with an “interpretation”s of the Basic Law. So long as the power of interpretation is within the hands of the CCP, the Basic Law is nothing but a pile of scrap paper.

It is 2016 now, and Hongkongers have deceived themselves for nearly 20 years. We cannot continue to delude ourselves and must open our eyes wide to recognise the ugliness surrounding us, to look at this era when all conventions are challenged, to identify the CCP’s deceit over its promise of One Country, Two Systems and high degree of autonomy. No, we do not have the rule of law, we do not have a high degree of autonomy, and we do not have the protection of the Basic Law. But from today onwards, if we could realise what is behind the facet of our enemy, and stop expecting that CCP would give us democracy, and not dwell on the illusion of One Country, Two Systems, and stride along our own path, then we will have the power to rebel, to revolutionise and to overthrow the unfairness and unjust here so we can free ourselves from the grasps of the CCP. If we can figure out what our enemy is really like from today onwards, we will know how to better utilise our power in achieving self-determination, independence or even in starting our own country. We will one day be able to overthrow the Hong Kong communist regime that has long suppressed us.

If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change. If you want Hong Kong to maintain its prosperity and economic stability, our officials to remain clean and follow the law in discharging their duties, our people to live well, you will have to fight! Put your illusions aside and look at the truth: what is before us is unprecedented darkness in Hong Kong. But if we resist being hypnotised by the darkness and oppose to being engulfed by despair, we will see unprecedented brightness after such darkness. May God bless Hong Kong, may we unite in saving ourselves!

Thank you very much.

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