Speech – Facing up to the aspirations of the people participating in the march on 1 July (Priscilla Leung)

President, I do not agree with Dr LAM Tai-fai to cancel the public holiday on 1 July, nor do I agree with Mr Charles Peter MOK that no more processions and demonstrations would be held if there is dual universal suffrage.

I think 1 July may have different meanings for different people. For many Hong Kong people, 1 July is a day to celebrate the reunification of Hong Kong with China, and it should be a happy day. In the history of Hong Kong and China, both places had times of frustration in connection with the issue of sovereignty. Therefore, for many people in Hong Kong, Hong Kong’s smooth reunification with China is worthy of celebration.

Sixteen years ago, many people expressed their aspiration on 1 July, reflecting that a group of people did not emotionally accept the reunification or the “one country, two systems”. On that day, many people also expressed their dissatisfaction with their livelihood and the political system. No matter in what way people choose to express their views, I think we have to show respect.

According to the statistics provided by the organizer, 220 000 people participated in the celebration activities on 1 July. The Civil Human Rights Front declared that 430 000 protestors joined in the march. Some academics estimated that there were about 60 000 to 100 000 protestors. I think 100 000 is already a very big number. These people …… Like everyone else, I joined the celebration activities in the Kowloon City District. While the protestors braved the wind and rain in procession, people participating in the celebration activities also braved the wind and rain. As a matter of fact, they represented the different views concerning 1 July. I absolutely oppose to the cancellation of this holiday because on this day, people can celebrate the reunification and participate in demonstrations. All these are acceptable, and that is the edge of Hong Kong.

As regards the demonstrations that took place on 1 July this year or that had taken place in the past 16 years, I respect them and attach great importance to them. As people express their aspirations in a legal, tolerant and peaceful manner, the Government should listen to them and face up to their aspirations and grievances.

One of the celebration activities was a concert …… it was not to celebrate the reunification. On 1 July, a concert was held, some eateries offered discounts to their customers and an “Anti-Occupy Central” activity was held in Tsim Sha Tsui. We are more used to large-scale processions and demonstrations. I heard Mr Charles Peter MOK read out the voices of many people just now and I can also say a few words on that.

Some restaurant owners told me that they did not understand why some organizers of the processions and demonstrations phoned in radio programmes to exert pressure on them, accusing them of licking the boots of the authorities or supporting certain political actions. I have also heard some people urging, through radio programmes, other people to remember the names of these restaurants and not to patronize them again. Such acts, in my view, totally disrespect the spirit of freedom of expression and freedom of choice in Hong Kong. When we say that we cherish and strive for democracy, what is the most important spirit of democracy? It is to respect the different ways of living of other people. What was wrong with restaurant owners choosing to offer a discount to their customers on that day? If they had confidence in themselves ― I have great confidence in the participants of the demonstration ― they would not be affected. Why should they continue to exert this public pressure? To some people, this was a kind of white terror and they did not want to see such kind of democracy hegemony. Some restaurants dared not open for business on that day. Why should you force people to do so? Everyone can do whatever they prefer.

Moreover, yesterday, a foreigner phoned in an English radio programme, asking why Hong Kong people’s discussions …… he talked incessantly for a long time, querying why we only talked about fighting for democracy. There were many democratic countries in the world and he was from one of them. He said that even for issues about people’s livelihood, there were also many conflicts and we should not cover up the facts. Yesterday, Prof Joseph CHENG said that if we were able to attain dual universal suffrage, we would have collective bargaining power and we could bargain for universal retirement protection. This is not true. We should present a true picture to the general public. In fact, the democratic system can improve the governance but it cannot do miracles and resolve all people’s livelihood problems in one go. I think his remarks were somewhat misleading. We should do justice to the people.

We can make it a tradition to stage a large-scale demonstration on 1 July every year and we can also make it another tradition of celebration on that day. Many people like celebrations. That should not be a problem. At this stage we should sit down and take a look. After the demonstration or celebration, the people’s emotions have been vented. The Hong Kong community does have very diverse views. One of the points that I should also face squarely is that apart from many livelihood issues, people do aspire for a constitutional reform.
I also think that the Government should consider carefully whether it should expeditiously provide a platform for dialogue, even if it cannot put forward a very concrete proposal right away. I also think that this issue cannot be handled in one go. Since Secretary Raymond TAM has also involved in the work of the Commission on Strategic Development, he may have to deal with dozens of proposals. Even so, I think consultation can commence because it takes time to carefully listen to the views of various groups and stakeholders.

In fact, after the demonstration on 1 July, I learnt from the press that a certain association of real estate agencies will also stage a protest on 7 July. As we can see, no matter what policy is implemented, the interest of certain groups may be jeopardized and this is not an issue that can be tackled by a constitutional reform alone. In fact, it is not the problem about the difference between the Central and local authorities, but it involves the entire community. Hong Kong is a capitalist society that implements a low taxation policy and free economy.
Great disputes and controversies may arise if we are to increase welfare benefits and meet all the aspirations of the people. I believe we have to solve the problems with the pubic in a more rational and objective manner.

President, I so submit.


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