After the pan-democrats’ resignation en masse in November 2020, the news that caught the attention of the political circle was the establishment of Bauhinia Party — led by a number of pro-China businessmen, with a target of recruiting 250,000 members as stated in its constitution. There has been a lot of talk about the party, with suspicions that it is a formal 'surfacing' of underground members of the Chinese Communist Party in Hong Kong to establish a 'governing echelon' to replace the traditional pro-Beijing faction, or that it is Beijing's attempt to “gaitu guiliu
” (read: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/30/opinion/china-hong-kong-xi-jinping.html
) and achieve ‘Beijingers ruling Hong Kong'. The background of the 3 founders, being Li Shan, Clement JW Chen and Wong Chau-chi, led to some imaginations.
However, since the news of the founding of the party was out in December 2020, Bauhinia Party has remained low-profile, with no public activities or speeches, and no official website or dedicated page. Only a few of the founders were occasionally interviewed by the media, which gradually led to questions about whether the Bauhinia Party was more like a showy display. Jasper Tsang, the founding chairman of DAB, once laughed that the Bauhinia Party was nothing to be afraid of: “What reason is there for the Central Government to trust these ‘drifters to Hong Kong’ more than the traditional patriots born and bred in Hong Kong?”
In the past 2 months, as the news about Bauhinia Party turned from hot to cold, one of the founders, Wong Chau-chi (56yo), chairman of CMMB Vision Holdings Ltd (0471), was interviewed by Stand News. He revealed that Bauhinia Party will soon be officially launched, and it is expected to be officially operational after Lunar New Year in February.
Wong knows all the questions and speculations people have at the party. Yet, the most obvious thing is - he has no intention of distancing himself from Beijing, or even, he purposefully creates such an impression.
“There is no reason Beijing would not give their blessing to what we do,” said Wong, founder of Bauhinia Party.
One reason why Bauhinia Party has attracted so much controversy is that it was founded by 3 people whose backgrounds are obviously close to Mainland China. According to Bauhinia Party’s constitution, the party supports One Country Two Systems, promotes universal suffrage, improves China-Hong Kong relation, supports democracy and rule of law, and also supports party members to run in elections at all levels.
Li Shan, Clement JW Chen and Wong Chau-chi are the permanent members of the committee, and Li Shan will be the chairperson of the party in the first 5 years of the party’s founding. Li Shan is a member of CPPCC. He and Wong were both born in Mainland China, while chairman of Bonjour Holdings (0653), Clement Chen, is also the chairman of Chinese Academy of Governance (HK) Industrial and Commercial Professionals Alumni Association, which has close ties with the Liaison Office. Chen also led a group to Kwun Tong Police Station in August 2019 to join an event to support the police.
Born in Guangzhou, came to Hong Kong at the age of 12, Wong speaks fluent Cantonese. He revealed that Bauhinia Party has 13 founding members and fewer than 100 members have been recruited for the time being. They come from different places, there are Mainland Chinese living in Hong Kong, Chinese who studied overseas and people born and raised in Hong Kong, yet most of them have ties with people in China or hold important positions in different government agencies. "We can't deny that we have a good relationship with the Mainland and understand it well", he said, describing the relationship between the party members and Mainland China as “having smooth communications”.
Wong stressed that the relationship with China would not affect Bauhinia Party's stance, that there was no need to speculate whether they had Beijing’s support, and that their goal was to protect Hong Kong's interests, return Hong Kong to stability and prosperity, and promote youth participation in politics. He said that Beijing would not refuse to support these ideals, "How could Beijing have a different position? If it’s not (for) the good of Hong Kong, what is it?” Similarly, he refused to deny whether they had Beijing’s "blessing", “but I think there is no reason Beijing would not give their blessing to what we do”. He also said that although the party had not deliberately "consulted" Beijing, there were always channels of communication, hinting implicitly that he visited "different departments" after Bauhinia Party was formed to "understand what we are about”.
“Doesn’t Really Care” If Members Are From CPC
By the same token, Wong refused to respond directly to whether there are CPC members in Bauhinia Party. “Which party you are from, what political inclination you have... our party doesn’t really care.”
He only repeatedly emphasised that Bauhinia Party "does not care about political inclination, cultural backgrounds or social classes", and that its members are "Hong Kong people" who consider Hong Kong as their home, love and contribute to the city, “It is not important to us whether you are a CPC member, a member of the US Democratic Party, or whether you are from Kuomintang.”
But with the obvious Mainland background, are “Hongkongers” or “new Hongkongers” at the core of Bauhinia Party?
“The label 'new Hongkongers’ is very divisive and unjustified, because we are 'Hongkongers’,” said Wong.
He said he came to Hong Kong from Mainland China at the age of 12 and grew up as a 'grassroots' person, he had "lived in a sub-divided flat and worked as a child labourer”. He said he had not only seen the "hardships of the people”, but also witnessed the most glorious moments of Hong Kong, “If I weren’t a Hongkonger, I don’t know who would be.” After graduating from Diocesan Boys' School after studying Form 5, he went to the United States to study. He never felt discriminated against during his time in Hong Kong, which made him "very willing" to return to Hong Kong after his studies.
Recently, President Xi Jinping and the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office have made it clear that "patriots should rule Hong Kong". He considered it legitimate, “Will there be an unpatriotic person running in election for presidency?” He stressed that this is only a declaration of sovereignty by the Beijing; there is little difference in reality. In his view, the essence of "Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong" and "patriots ruling Hong Kong" are the same; the most important thing is to elect a capable person, “It is totally wrong and ridiculous to say patriots ruling Hong Kong means Hong Kong is not ruled by Hong Kong people.”
However, he did not comment on whether Bauhinia Party was "patriotic" in the eyes of Beijing, "It should be expressed through our actions. It is the others who commend us on our patriotism, We are completely different from those who ‘suddenly become patriotic’.”
Democracy “Definitely” A Feeling; China & Singapore “Uniquely Democratic”
Throughout the interview which lasted for more than 1 hour, Wong indicated multiple times that Bauhinia Party supported “democracy”, they would “protect democracy, freedom, rule of law, human rights”. Yet, his “democracy” was far from the “democracy” which a typical Hong Kong citizen understands. For instance, Wong believed that “democracy” was “definitely not” about the balance of power, but rather, being “people-centred” and whether people’s “livelihood” was well, and democracy was “definitely” just a feeling, “democracy and freedom are the core values of every society, they are also core values of our socialism as well as Hong Kong’s core values”.
Democracy is at the core of socialism, so according to Wong, China has its “unique democracy”, “You should visit China, many places in China have a much higher degree of democracy than Hong Kong: being protected, stable, secure, jobs, housing, all aspects of livelihood… Democracy means being people-centred, after placing people at the centre, then it’s whether people’s livelihood is good, whether they have a good life.” He cited the Constitution of the PRC, which states that democracy, freedom, openness and other values are the most important among the core values of socialism, “I don’t understand why people think the Basic Law does not provide democracy, or China does not have it.”
It follows that, Singapore, which is widely considered as authoritarian, and which the pro-Beijing camp always consider as the “model” of Hong Kong, also had democracy, it even was “the most democratic”. The reason is that Singapore ranked the last among the “4 Asian Tigers” in the 1990s, but now, its GDP is twice of that of Hong Kong, “Will Singaporeans be unhappy? Will they say they don’t have democracy? Singapore is one of the most democratic countries, but their democracy is unique of Singapore, it’s their own special kind of democracy.”
Democracy Still, after Candidates Disqualified & NPCSC’s 2014 Decision
If one understands what he meant by “democracy”, his views on other issues related to “democracy” will not seem surprising, for instance, he considered that Beijing supported universal suffrage at Hong Kong, given that its sovereignty was respected; it was also democracy that NPCSC’s 2014 decision stipulates that the Chief Executive candidate must be nominated by the controlled 1200-member committee before the public may vote. “What’s the problem? Beijing’s basic requirement is to be faithful to One Country Two Systems, love the country, many people satisfy it… Is it not democratic if Beijing stops someone who does not love the country and wish to destroy from running in election?”
When an election is still considered democratic with cherrypicking, disqualifying candidates is naturally part of Wong’s “democracy”. He believed all those disqualified had crossed the red of line subversion or treason, for instance, on former secretary-general of Demosisto, Joshua Wong, who was disqualified from District Council and Legislative Council elections, he said, “It’s his problem being disqualified, you need not rely on him for democracy, right?” He believed the disqualification of those who violated rules would not affect the acceptability of the election or the degree of democracy, “You can’t consider that Hong Kong does not have democracy based on the disqualifications, running in elections and breaking the national security law are 2 separate issues”. Even when all candidates from Civic Party were disqualified collectively, people could still form their own party to represent themselves, “Why don’t you form a political party yourself? Hong Kong is very open, why not?”
"National Security Law Functions to Restore Peace"
Therefore, Wong’s democracy is probably only about people's livelihood; the right to fair elections and does not seem to be relevant. The "democracy" and "freedom" which he said Bauhinia Party must "defend" is actually more like opposing "society being destroyed by rioters“, opposing the self-claimed "democrats" who "destroy society" with violence and incitement. “Much of the violence in the past had rid Hongkongers of democracy and freedom ...... We can't even go out, go to work, the MTR cannot operate, our economy is basically paralyzed, whose democracy is it? It's all the work of a handful of people. Where is my democracy? Where is my freedom?”
Based on this logic, the national security law is definitely something good to them, “I think it's strange that you consider the national security law as a law which oppresses your democracy, because what the national security law is for is to stop violence and end chaos.” As for those who are accused of colluding with foreign forces, subverting the state or inciting secession, be they lawmakers or social activists, they should wait patiently for the judiciary's verdict because "the rule of law in Hong Kong is one of the best places in the world.
Although he has always stressed that Bauhinia Party belonged neither to the pro-Beijing camp nor the opposition camp, that it would not participate in the "yellow-blue dispute", and that it hoped to promote communication and unite "Hongkongers”, the basic arguments of Wong and Bauhinia Party seem to not much different from the current pro-Beijing camp. The founding of this party has caused people to question whether it is to replace the current pro-Beijing camp, Jasper Tsang also made the remark noted above.
Wong considered the remark that Bauhinia Party was to replace the pro-Beijing camp ridiculous, they “respected very much” the pro-Beijing camp’s past contributions. The party was not established to compete with the pro-Beijing camp, because the political parties in Hong Kong were not well-developed, and "even the largest party may have only 40,000 members". Although he did not name it, Wong was referring to DAB, the largest party in the pro-Beijing camp, they had 40,000 members in 2019. “More than 90% of people in Hong Kong are not affiliated to any political party”, to him, the 7 million in Hong Kong without any political affiliation were the silent majority, which was also the source from which the party recruited its members to reach the goal of 250,000, “With 7.5 million people in Hong Kong, this target is not impossible.”
Wong said that Bauhinia Party was looking for a headquarters and hiring for the secretariat. They would actively recruit party members after its operation officially starts, when the time comes, they would send members to participate in elections, “With such a big platform, we can’t say whom we want to replace.”