Hong Kong is slowly inching its way towards “Singaporisation”. This is no statement of joy, because I’m not talking about Singapore’s affordable housing or high-tech industry. I refer to its restrictive political climate in which the opposition is discredited and government officials are required to pledge allegiance to the ruling regime.
There are similarities between Hong Kong and Singapore. Take the case of youth blogger Amos Yee, for example. Amos was convicted of “wounding religious feelings” after he uploaded a video to YouTube comparing the city-state’s founding father and former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew to Jesus Christ. Meanwhile, our Education Bureau has banned support for Hong Kong independence on school campuses. Both cases involve a systematic approach to silence political debate.
While some claim that the criticism of a leader cannot be compared to the support for self-determination, the central argument is the same – censorship should be limited to matters concerning national security or an individual’s protection from harm.
Even if the idea of independence goes against the Basic Law, the mere discussion of it does not amount to a serious breach of social order, because there are no cries for an uprising or violence. Vague guidelines warning teachers to discuss independence “in accordance with the Basic Law or risk losing professional qualifications” only serves to deter reasoned discussion in classrooms. Ironically, the government’s hardline approach may only convince localist student groups in secondary schools not to change their views.
Here, we also see the government “manipulating” Hong Kong’s political environment. They have disqualified six candidates from taking part in this Sunday’s Legislative Council elections because they support independence.
Then there were reports that the Liberal Party’s Ken Chow Wing-kan was threateningly told to withdraw from the Legco election. This was followed by his tearful announcement during a televised debate that he would stop all electioneering.
Such incidents only add fuel to the conspiracy theories.
Hong Kong is at a crossroads. Whether we descend into the slippery slope of Singaporisation, with limited free speech and political manipulation, will depend on the upcoming Legco election.
It is difficult to be optimistic.