Local Trumpism is rooted in fallacy

Editorial | 5 Jun 2017

People who have been criticizing the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China since it held the first candlelight vigil to commemorate the brutal crackdown on students in Tiananmen Square in 1989 should be elated after seeing our young people apparently giving up on the cause.

But should they be pleased at all?

Aren't there far greater reasons to be concerned with the apathy that students are showing toward that tragic historic period in modern Chinese history, for it is a plain expression of a sentiment - that they want to split from the motherland 28 years after the Tiananmen Square killings and 20 years after the 1997 reunion.

A survey conducted by the Public Opinion Programme of the University of Hong Kong found that while 55 percent of respondents backed the call for an official review of the June 4 crackdown, 27 percent opposed it, a seven percentage point increase over last year and the highest since 2006.

Yesterday's vigil at Victoria Park was boycotted by student leaders of the major universities.

A statement from student leaders of the Chinese University even called for an end to the annual memorial activity, chastising the alliance for making the event a ritual and using it to tap political capital. In addition, they said, what had happened had ceased to be meaningful to young people here.

That sentiment was arguably the most radical of all stances taken by the student leaders. It is shared by the other student leaders, although they might not have been so explicit about it.

What does it all mean?

Rather than an identification with Beijing's policy of giving that sensitive period in Chinese history the cold shoulder, it is actually evidence of the increasing alienation that youngsters here feel toward the nation.

Shouldn't that be cause for greater concern from policymakers?

Why are our youngsters drifting away despite the huge resources the authorities committed to promoting the Basic Law? Could the isolation be related to setbacks suffered by locals in their fight for greater democracy, like electing their chief executive and legislature by universal suffrage?

The causal relationship is complicated and one that the next government needs to address.

If Trumpism is synonymous with isolationism, what we're seeing is an expression of a Hong Kong version of Trumpism in which its supporters aim to disconnect themselves from the rest of the world to focus only on their own situation, without reference to the past or the future, just the present.

Many turned up at last night's vigil. Like in the past, they held up white candles to mourn students and workers who died at and around the Tiananmen Square that brutal evening in 1989.

If student leaders at CUHK and other universities said they can forget that momentous period in modern Chinese history, those at the vigil showed that they can't.

Our student leaders are steeped in a pretty basic fallacy.

Why do they insist on thinking the SAR can break away from the country when even its bid to elect the chief executive and lawmakers by universal suffrage remains a far-fetched dream?

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