Zhang Dejiang’s three-day visit to Hong Kong was useless, and to be frank, that’s putting it mildly.
When Zhang arrived here earlier this month, he claimed that he had “come to see, to listen and to speak”.
But how much did Zhang, who is chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, see and listen? The security around him had made any chance of expressing opposite views impossible. In fact, the police were so concerned about Zhang’s “safety”, they posted officers on top of Lion Rock to stop people displaying banners.
Zhang met some people in an elderly care centre to learn about the city’s welfare system and ageing problems. But he still has little idea about the difficulties faced by those who live in sub-divided flats while struggling to make ends meet.
Even though he met four opposition lawmakers, that’s not enough to learn what Hongkongers think about the city and their government. Traditional pan-democratic parties have put their faith in Beijing to improve Hong Kong’s political environment, but others are not so patient. In fact, some Hongkongers, especially young people who no longer trust the Communist Party, have called for independence from China after 2047.
By not meeting people who support localism, it’s impossible for Zhang to know Hongkongers’ views about the central government.
Having not seen nor listened, the top mainland official did not improve things with his speeches.
Zhang said he had “cooperated with the people of Hong Kong to fight the Sars epidemic”. But the reality is that when Zhang was the party secretary of Guangdong back in 2003, he helped cover up the fact that a deadly disease was spreading. This probably caused the epidemic to spread to Hong Kong, killing 299 people.
Sars is a sad memory that Hongkongers do not like to dwell on, even more than a decade after the chaos. Zhang was just rubbing salt into the wounds of many Hongkongers, especially the survivors and the families of Sars victims, when he claimed that he helped fight the epidemic. Instead, many victims feel that he actually contributed to their pain and suffering.
I believe Zhang’s trip was just an elaborate masquerade by Beijing to demonstrate its rule over Hong Kong. It is clear that Zhang hadn’t either seen or listened to any of Hong Kong’s wants.