Hong Kong Youth’s Declaration of Joining the CCPTranslated by Bernard Wong, written by There’s Still the Party [Undergrad, April 2018]
I am increasingly concerned that society should do away with the stigmatisation of the term “Useless Youth” (Or Fai Ching in Cantonese).
Is it really appropriate to generalise the younger generation in this manner?
Are Fai Chings bound to be complaining about the injustice of society, or indulge in the pointless fantasy of Hong Kong Independence? Are young people bound to oppose the government, be anti-China, set to disrupt Hong Kong and provoke hatred? Do you honestly believe there are that more Edward Leung, Andy Chan and Ernie Chow? On the contrary, young people in Hong Kong are an obedient bunch, with no lack of patriots. They yearn for all the “benefits" of China, from easily realisable opportunities such as cultural exchange tours between China and Hong Kong and internships up north to long-term goals such as a seat in the establishment. They may have always supported their motherland with banners held high, or had their eureka moment and saw the red light.
Therefore, I say there are many types of young people. In 2014 it might seem like there are lots of zealous youngsters, eager to change the society. Yet when you look at Carrie Lam’s campaign last year and see the familiar young faces among her campaign, you have to "appreciate" these smart timeservers, the future pillars of society.
When Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, the world believed that Hong Kong youth is at the forefront of the battle for freedom and democracy, oblivious to the fact that these youngsters are one of a kind. Believe it or not, give it a decade or so and the course-mate who sat next to you in SOCI1001 will manage to get his spot in the Establishment. Your comrades who charged the metal blockades along your side during the Umbrella Movement have already pledged his renewed allegiance to the Hong Kong communists, transforming himself as a well-off young elite. Chinese colonisation would not turn Hong Kong into Xianggang, it was by the "locals".
Accumulate the Fruits of United Front Efforts,
Reap when it's ripe
The CCP is good at conducting a "United Front” (tongzhan). There has been no lack of studies on how China throws its weight around in Hong Kong. For example Christine Loh’s “Underground Front: The Chinese Communist Party in Hong Kong” pointed out how the CCP as the ruling party and an underground organisation interfered in Hong Kong all these years, lasting long before the transfer of sovereignty. On the social level, Chinese corporates or organisation branches devoted cash and effort to build community networks, and would even take in “loyal oppositions” to consolidate their power.
Dr Lam Wai-man, Honorary Assistant Professor from the Department of Politics and Public Administration at the University of Hong Kong and Dr Kay Lam Chi-yan published “China's United Front Work in Civil Society: The Case of Hong Kong” in an academic journal in 2013. It illustrated how the CCP does not conduct its united front work in detail. Five measures have been adopted instead (integration, cooptation, collaboration, containment, and denunciation), covering areas including the media, legislature, community organisations and education… etc., successfully realise the coordination of different organisations, allow them to absorb young people to join the ranks of government supporters, whilst weaken the strength of the democratic camp. The endeavour is well structured and organised.
We have been told that there’s a thing called ‘Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong and guarantee for our way of life remaining unchanged for 50 years’. Yet to prepare Hong Kong’s transition into just another city of China, and to ensure Hong Kong becomes connected will be connected) with the Motherland it is in its culture, politics and way of thinking, the effort of United Front becomes quintessential. Most importantly, they are exporting Chinese population to homogenise the peripheral place of Hong Kong, while ensuring the younger generation will not become a challenge to China and disrupt its policy in Hong Kong.
Twenty Years of Endless Inducements
Approaching young people, controlling the curriculum, developing youth organisations and recruiting potential talents to catch the baton became tasks of “greatest importance”. Hong Kong people, in their naïveté, believe that they have stopped the brainwashing project from becoming part of daily life by winning marginally in the battle against ‘National education’, yet they cannot stop the party from luring the younger generation.
Let us talk about the exchange tours to China and the “Mainland internship programmes” which we are more familiar with.
We say the pro-Beijing parties give out some goodies (such as dumplings) and subsidised banquets from the Party to buy hearts and minds in elections, and then get the elderly to the polling stations by coach buses. Aren’t the younger generation also lured by these goodies of a different kind? Opportunities to exchange and do internships in the Mainland are plentiful. For example, before the beginning of the second semester, the Internet is flooded with promotions of "Mainland internship programmes”, driving many university students wild. Just to declare, I am not looking at these internships through red-coloured lenses. I would just like to use this example to show that there’s nothing to stop the humongous and systematic communist-backed organisations attracting talents with economic incentives. To participate internships in China and appreciate its natural beauties and grandeurs are unavoidably becoming the “collective memory” of the new generation of youngsters.
I wonder if participants know that the hosting organisations are from the pro-Beijing camp or are the underlings of the CCP, and that the participants need to express their “takeaways”, their new insights of the nation and sentiments towards the development of the nation with reflections/ video… or to be drunk, to lick the boots of these communist-backed organisations, why are so many university students so eager to participate? I think there are two reasons:
First, the practical consideration: why not if it’s so cheap?
The activities hosted by the harmony-inducing organisations are insensibly cheap. Participants can choose different major cities in China, participate in internships lasting one to two months, and get more than half of their deposit back upon completing the internship. All things considered, the cost is practically free. Beyond exchange tours to keep you up to date on “national conditions”, there are tours that are responding to China’s policies such as “the Belt and Road Initiative”, offering low-cost opportunities to visit Central Asia and Eastern Europe. High cost-to-return ratio becomes the greatest incentives. Even if one has to sit through the masturbatory seminars on China and play along at sharing sessions, it is all minor costs to pay. Some students claim to participate only to take advantage of its cheapness and make some friends. University students can discern truth from falsehood and cannot be so easily influenced(manipulated).
Coming to think of it, how do the hosting organisations know if the students are being sincere? Referencing The Stand News’s feature, “Mind Supplements for Youth”, interviewee Crystal is a frequent participant in these exchange tours. She claims(claimed) her participation in these events have absolutely zero influence on her, and that her participation saves another person from being ‘educated’. At the same time, she gets to “deplete the Liaison Office of its resources”. Of course, I believe many participants are rational, but the CCP is not stupid either. The CCP expected the participants to only seek a comfortable escape. The CCP pumps such vast amount of resources; even if it only affects a handful of people, if that can create within them a flicker of changing thoughts towards the nation, such as “China is not that bad” or “Chinese development is so good”, and allow them to catch up to pro-China people’s way of thinking, or to alleviate the anger towards China’s human rights and injustices by appealing to those who are after a good deal, would that be a phasic victory for the CCP from their perspective? This soft-handed approach gnaws subconsciously, yet it can bring more unexpected, deeper and more far-lasting impacts than the heavy-handed approach of 'National Education'.
Second, there’s no reason to be patriotic? Hong Kong has no lack of genuinely patriotic youngsters?
Terrance Au Yeung Kwong-wing,
an interviewee of Hong Kong Connection who decides to join DAB.
Practically speaking, there’s nothing one can do for the good youngsters who genuinely love the ‘Motherland’; on the other hand, we don’t need to worry about those who are only going to leech off a good deal being brainwashed. So is there any harm done by these ‘harmony-inducing' activities, and may even be worthy of our consideration?
I have not participated in internships in China or the "harmonious" cultural exchange tours, but many of my friends have. They have been normal so far. Perhaps there is no need for us to completely boycott these activities; on the contrary, we should understand the social, political and economic situations in China through these activities (even though we can expect whitewashing from the process). A person with international vision should not neglect China. If these activities do actually have a brainwashing element to them, participants can share their first-hand experience online, revealing the process and raising everyone’s awareness and alert towards these activities.
The Problem To Address: The Silent Youth Makes Up the Majority
Actually, why are we worrying about these brainwashing tours being effective? At its core, it’s because we lack confidence in the young people of Hong Kong. After all, those who have their own views and stance and are audacious and critical of the politics of our time are the minority, the silent and easily influenced are the majority.
It is difficult to overview the identity recognition of the younger generation of Hong Kong. From like-minded friends on Facebook, labels from the media and the various opinion polls, we pretty much get the conclusion that “Young people generally disapprove of the government.” Taking Hong Kong citizens’ “ethnic identity indices” survey as an example, generally, people understand the drop since 2008 as a response to the various social crisis in China, the influx of Mainlanders in Hong Kong, the scandals of senior government officials, the sluggish development of democratic reforms… etc. What follows is a formulaic transformation of how young people view identity concept; patriotism shifts from the normative sentiment to have to a vulgar one.
I believe this is the new trend of identity recognition for the young generation, but does that impression align with the facts?
Indeed, more and more millennials are referring to themselves as Hongkongers instead of Chinese, a divide between Hong Kong and China have also been advocated by university students. Yet ironically, the apathetic ones still make up the majority. Referencing official surveys, young people on average do not actively exercise their civil rights. Take the age group between 20-30 years old, the population of which exceed one million. Yet the number of “young voters” is approximately 640 thousand (18-30-year-old voters fall under this category), this shows how the politically apathetic and the self-declared neutral always makes the majority. Even though it is hard to deduce the values and attitudes of these people, we can assume these people probably care about what is closest to their own interest only, yet they would not speak up against injustice or problems that do not directly affect them. They are the easiest bunch to influence and can be said to be the CCP’s target.
When we feel today that the pro-establishment camp has amassed the elderly voters with little trinkets and perks, establishing their strong voter base, would it be the case that the young generation, which we regard as equipped with civil awareness, will become the next generation of pro-establishment camp supporters? I really don’t know. Think about the Umbrella Movement in 2014, how many people changed their profile pic to a yellow ribbon to follow the trend, yet many people continue to live their ordinary lives as if nothing has happened after a year or two. They have claimed the moral ground, and exempted themselves from civic engagement. If most people go with the tide, and that one day to join the CCP becomes the norm and to oppose the government makes you the odd one out, would this law of people going with the tide apply in the opposite situation? The silent and the self-deemed apolitical/ apathetic is the most worrying bunch, because they are a force can be used at any moment. If most youngsters don’t speak of idealism, and only of tangible “benefits”, the force of opposition would have dug its own grave; what a lovely world.
Enkindle a light; they will come when there’s light (?)
Of course, we cannot neglect the new generation who are making their effort in silence, and would even gamble their future for a political ideal. To think of it optimistically, the situation cannot that bad, right? At least there are some who are willing to counter the “China factor”. Take the legal support for social movement activists, or those who are on guard for the student unions, preventing red influences from seeping into the power structure of universities. Yet in the foreseeable future, how can we capture the wandering hearts and minds of the apolitical and fickle-minded young people, and prevent them from being a bargaining chip or chess piece of the Establishment? If there are more young people who bear a sense of duty and aspiration to Hong Kong, I can very well suggest everyone exert their influence at their own posts, and support social movements by all means available. Yet when there are more and more youngsters who are patriotic/ patriotic when needed, what can civil society do? Can we still rely on the power of the media? The state controls education, but civil society and control the dissemination of information. I believe that reinforcing the public’s awareness of localness is the only way to counter the CCP’s United Front efforts. Only when the people here have a determined will to be rooted in this place, and love everything about this place, that they would stop selling out the city’s interest and betray the remaining values this city stands for.
As cliché as this may sound, there is light at the end of darkness. It has only been a couple decades, how can we despair and submit so quickly? We have to believe that with more unorthodoxy, the greater the resistance it will inspire. The CCP wishes to boil the frog slowly in tepid water, homogenising Hong Kong with a soft hand, and make young people lean towards the North, yet at the worst hour, there will be outrage. Yet this prophecy rests on the premise that we have to equip ourselves well. Because of this, we must not give up the fight on communication; we must persevere in using culture and knowledge to counter the multidimensional, seeping influences from the CCP.
I remember there was an interview with Jasper Tsang Yok-sing. He mentioned that one of Hong Kong’s biggest problem is that “since the handover, national consciousness has not been effectively constructed.” Actually, this national consciousness has already taken root in many people’s heart in many ways. This bunch of people will not be patriotic unconditionally, but would be willing to be patriotic because of perks from the North. Yet, the same sentence can be rephrased as Hong Kong’s biggest problem is “the ineffective construction of local consciousness”. If more people are willing to put Hong Kong’s interests and values first, then we can oppose the anaconda that is China, and not have it be a desperate attempt in vain.
I am not great enough to light the path forward for future generations. I can only wish to be like Stephen Shiu Yeuk-yuen, the anti-prophet, and that none of the above will come true.
Sometimes I wonder, I despise those who bury their conscience to lick CCP’s boots and sell Hong Kong out, but would I do it myself if the opportunity presents itself? If you cannot beat them, then join them? My fear of the future lies not only with the fear of Hong Kong becoming more and more unfamiliar, but also that I would become fatalistic, or even if I do not go to such extreme as to join the CCP, it is possible that I would become a Kongformist, submitting to reality.
Hopefully, another decade will pass and we will not turn into those whom we once fulminated, despised and even hated. Do not end up as a conspirator to put the nail on Hong Kong’s coffin.