Vic, 4 October 2014
It saddens me to read Martin Jacques’s article entitled “China is Hong Kong’s future — not its enemy”, published on The Guardian on 30 September 2014.
Two days before the publication of this article, tens of thousands of Hongkongers took to the street to fight for universal suffrage. The police fired 87 canisters of tear gas at peaceful protesters but failed to clear the streets. Since then, protesters have been occupying some streets in Admiralty, Causeway Bay, Mongkok and Tsim Sha Tsui.
On 3 October, thugs in cooperation with the police punched and kicked pro-democracy protesters, drawing blood as they tore down demonstrators’ tents and attempted to force them out. (See report by The Guardian)
The world's media are mostly in sympathy with Hongkongers' struggle for democracy, yet a “renowned British academic” (in China Daily's words) like Mr Jacques has relentlessly belittled and slandered these brave and honorable people, claiming that they are driven by a crisis of identity and a sense of displacement, and more importantly, resentment at mainlanders’ success.
I am not sure if Mr Jacques' hatred of Hong Kong has anything to do with the tragic death of his wife there in 2000, but he is no doubt a Sinophile. His one-sided views in praise of China's rise are presented in his book When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order. Unfortunately, as a Chinese reviewer on Amazon.com commented: "This is another typical book by someone who lacks fundamental understanding of China and Chinese people."
As a Hongkonger who has lived for 15 years in mainland China, I find Jacques' views in his Guardian article eerily similar to Beijing's propaganda. No wonder the China Daily happily quoted him in claiming that Beijing has undoubtedly honored its commitment to the principle of “One Country, Two Systems” since the handover.
To the enlightened Hongkongers, this could not be further from truth. Had Beijing truly honored its commitments, there would not have been such massive protests currently going on.
In his article, Jacques stressed that "for 155 years until its handover to China in 1997, Hong Kong was a British colony" and "all its 28 subsequent governors were appointed by the British government". His tone is identical to Beijing and the majority of mainlanders who are fooled by Beijing's propaganda into believing that Hongkongers need to thank "the motherland" for having any kind of democracy for the first time ever. The mainlanders can be forgiven for being fooled by a dictatorship which imposes the strictest censorship regime on its people, blocking Google, Facebook, Twitter and Youtube on the Internet. Yet, Jacques as a “renowned British academic” cannot be forgiven for his ignorance of history.
As early as 1946, there had been The Young Plan, which was a constitutional reform proposal named after the then Hong Kong Governor Mark Young attempting to introduce representative democracy in Colonial Hong Kong (see Young Plan on Wikipedia). The Young Plan unfortunately failed, and Beijing killed Hong Kong's hopes of democracy under the British afterwards (see a study of the related British files in Chinese here).
Mr Jacques made many mistakes in his Guardian article, which I don't want to refute one by one. It appalls me (forgive me for my ignorance) to know that someone so well educated in a free and democratic country could so ardently embrace a regime that massacred its own people with tanks and machine guns back in 1989 and has continued its brutal suppression of dissidents to this very day. Maybe his hatred of the west and his anger at the deficiencies of democracy has muddled his head. If not, how come he, as a Marxist, would support a regime that has totally betrayed Marx's ideals?
Mr Jacques reminds me of Eric Hobsbawm, who hated Britain and excused Stalin's genocide. But Hobsbawm, for all his faults, is truly a renowned academic, and Jacques is at most a pseudo-academic.