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Global Times

Color revolution will not succeed in Hong Kong: Exclusive interview with Ian Fok, one of HK's most influential figures

Global Times

By Zhao Juecheng, Bai Yunyi and Wang Cong in Hong Kong Source:Global Times Published: 2019/10/18 17:03:24 Last Updated: 2019/10/19 0:41:29

Editor's Note:

Since violent protests first broke out in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) four months ago, radical voices and actions advocating for the destruction of the Asian financial hub in a so-called fight for "democracy" seem to have dominated headlines.

However, endless voices of reason and rationality are calling to rebuild the city and for an end to the violent unrest. Ian Fok Chun-wan, CEO of the Fok Ying Tung Group and one of the most influential figures in Hong Kong, is among those who dare to speak out and criticize the rioters and their backers.

He spoke to the Global Times in a recent interview. Fok, who is also a deputy of the National People's Congress, China's top legislature, condemned the violence and the ill-intentioned political goals of some radical elements advocating for the independence of the HKSAR.

"A color revolution will definitely not succeed in the HKSAR and in China," Fok said, urging Hong Kong's society to understand the "one country, two systems" principle and work with the mainland to protect the city and the motherland.

The following is an excerpt of Fok's interview with the Global Times (GT) on Monday:

GT: The anti-mask law has now taken effect. What direction do you think the situation in Hong Kong will take? Do you think the unrest will end by itself or that the HKSAR government will need to use more powerful measures?

Fok: After the anti-mask law was implemented, there was a short-term, very strong rebound of street violence and the intensity of violence also increased, which led many in the opposition to feel [the protesters] went overboard. For instance, the incident in which a radical protester slashed a police officer's neck on October 13 is just unbelievable. How much hatred is there? So, the number of protesters has gone down. I believe that more people will, over time, realize the peaceful and rational spirit of Hong Kong has been damaged, and more people will be willing to sit down and resolve the problem, pushing the situation toward a positive turn.

On the other hand, I also hope the HKSAR government will step up their actions in various aspects. First, it should enhance communication. Second, we see that the police bear tremendous pressure and hope the government will coordinate more agencies to support the work of the police.

GT: In your view, what long-term, deep-seated problems in Hong Kong have been revealed in these riots?

Fok: First, our educational system has some serious problems. This has led to some young people having strong, unthinkable hatred toward their country. Before, the British government always limited Hong Kong people's understanding of China, so many young people lack an objective, accurate understanding of China.

I first went to the mainland in the 1970s, and I have witnessed the earth-shaking, great development there over the years. I have seen that Chinese people's level of happiness is completely different to how it was decades ago. Certainly, there are also imperfect areas in China but I am sure that this generation of Chinese people is the happiest yet.

The media in Hong Kong is also problematic. In some cases, the irresponsible [exercise] of the right to free expression has failed to comprehensively reflect the truth. That has led some to believe blindly that Western democracy is the best form of democracy.

From an economic and social standpoint, since the global financial crisis in 2008 and the US Federal Reserve's adoption of quantitative easing, the wealth gap in Hong Kong has been widening like in many places around the world. On top of that, with the rise of social media, many young people have grown more self-centered. Some have started to lose hope for their future and feel that they have not benefited from the economic development of Hong Kong. Therefore, they feel that destroying [Hong Kong] has no impact. That is also why they are willing to accept the idea of "mutual destruction" (a slang term that implies the promotion of social destabilization and a collapse of Hong Kong's economy is a necessary step toward "real democracy").

Young people have many grievances about the status quo and feel that nothing goes their way. [They feel] that the previous generation consumed all the benefits of the development. In reality, Hong Kong's development did not come easily and was very hard-won. Living conditions were also very tough. I remember we lived in a transitional house which had no toilet. But now, no matter how unsatisfied they are, [young people] can afford a trip to Japan.

[They] are not willing to do many jobs, such as construction and working on boats. These jobs actually pay quite well but they require tough work. I think that many do not possess the fighting spirit of Hong Kong like [people did] back in the day.

GT: The opposition and protesters claim that they are protesting because they are unhappy with the level of democracy. What's your take on that? How do you see the direction of Hong Kong's democracy and political process?

Fok: Hong Kong's democracy needs to progress step by step. I do not believe that Western democracy is a perfect fit for Hong Kong. Also, there is a precondition for Hong Kong's democratic progress that must be realized. Hong Kong is not an independent country but a city in China. The chief executive we elect must be recognized by the country. Otherwise, it would be more disadvantageous for Hong Kong. In fact, we once had a very suitable plan of universal suffrage in 2014 but regrettably it was not adopted due to opposition from the pan-democracy camp.

In Hong Kong's democratic progress, I think we must better and more comprehensively understand the "one country, two systems" principle. At the moment, we are focused on "Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong" and "a high degree of autonomy" but lack consideration of our role under "one country." As recently as within the last century, Deng Xiaoping made it clear that Hong Kong can criticize the government but will never be allowed to be turned into a base to counter the country and overthrow state power.

Therefore, I think we should push forward legislation regarding Article 23 of the Basic Law in order to bear the responsibility of safeguarding national security. Hong Kong cannot become a pawn for foreign penetration to be used to undermine China's security. Although we see the shadows of many foreign powers in the riots, I want to be clear that a "color revolution" will definitely not succeed in the HKSAR and in China.

GT: If the social unrest continues, how will it impact Hong Kong's status as an international financial center and global commercial hub? Some argue that, as China's only international financial center, Hong Kong's status will not be impacted by the unrest. What's your take on that?

Fok: The most important thing for an international center is stability. Without stability, investors will lose confidence, which will lead to capital outflow. Instability will also lead to the loss of talent. In fact, one of the main reasons behind Hong Kong's success over the past few decades has been its ability to attract talent for all sectors from all over the world. If the unrest persists, many workers might choose to leave. How will Hong Kong remain an international financial center then?

We must know that there are many cities that want to replace Hong Kong and rely on the massive Chinese market to become global financial center, including Singapore and London. Are we really going to destroy ourselves at this time?

GT: During the early days of the reform and opening-up, Hong Kong was already one of the "Four Asian Tigers," while the mainland's economy was backward. Within four decades, the GDPs of mainland cities such as Shanghai and Shenzhen have exceeded that of Hong Kong. How do you view that comparison?

Fok: In the last century, Hong Kong's GDP was larger than that of Singapore, but Hong Kong has been slowing down in recent years. Not only did Singapore surpass us in GDP, our neighbor Macao has also seen fast growth due to its gaming sector. One of the most important reasons behind this is that we have devoted too much energy to fighting among political parties and to the so-called fight for "democracy."

A case in point: it's not that we don't want to resolve the land-supply issue - but when the plan involves land reclamation, some oppose it, citing environmental protection. Expropriation of land also faces various difficulties. And the bottom line is that some don't dare to challenge [their opposition] because of the Legislative Council election.

On the other hand, what I have seen on the mainland over the years is a completely different scenario. I visited the new Beijing Daxing International Airport. Such a massive infrastructure only took a few years [to build]. In Hong Kong, it could take decades. I was in Chengdu (Southwest China's Sichuan Province) a few days ago. I heard the local government was discussing a plan to build a new, high-speed rail line. They were also very efficient. But there are no such efforts in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong's system once helped economic development, but now we realize that after a certain period, it does not work if the government is not proactive. The boldness and spirit of the mainland is something from which Hong Kong should learn.

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