Hegemony is everywhere in Hong Kong, impairing the autonomous life of the people. Lining up with the Hong Kong people, NWSC hopes to make use of the power within and beyond the Legislative Council to continue to fight against the various forces of hegemony and regain autonomy in our life.
There are roughly two forms of hegemony in Hong Kong: Hegemony in capital and in politics.
Hegemony in capital is almost everywhere and is controlling Hong Kong people’s daily life. Examples are the Link Reit’s monopoly over the shopping centres and markets in public housing, the MTR Corporation that raises the fares every year, the developers who store up land to make huge profits. These kinds of hegemony monopolize most of the daily necessities. The public are left with no choice and are exploited.
Political hegemony arises from the unjust and undemocratic constitution. The functional constituencies allow the pro-establishment camp control the Legislative Council and make it a rubber stamp. The Chief Executive came to his power by a small-circle election. He and his cabinet disregard the people’s views. The government officials have committed many faults but are not accountable. Examples include Leung Chun Ying’s receipt of $50 million from UGL, an apparent transfer of interest, and the case was not pursued further. Beijing is putting its hand on Hong Kong’s internal affairs without any concern of the high degree of autonomy that Hong Kong should enjoy under “one-country, two systems”. The NPC’s 831 resolution has closed the door on the constitutional reform and genuine suffrage is not possible in near future. Politics is interlinked with people’s living. Under the political hegemony, the views of Hong Kong people are never taken seriously.
NWSC has been upholding the principles “To Speak Out for the Disadvantaged; To Support the Poor; To Stand Up for the Labour; To Fight for Democracy”. This year “Autonomy for the Grassroots; Against Hegemony of All Kinds” shall be our campaign motto. Through our struggle and fight with the effort of Hong Kong people, we hope to overturn the two forms of hegemony in Hong Kong and let the people live an autonomous life.
This is the 14th year since I enrolled in NWSC. I would like to look back on those 14 years of work, to review my experience and feelings, and to let them be my new momentum to move forward.
I was aspired by my mentor Mr./Dr. Mok(莫慶聯) in 2002 to changing the society through community development work. Thereby I joined NWSC. In 2003, I walked with the Hong Kong people in the July 1 march. I witnessed how all the eggs rallied against the wall of power and won a battle. I was overcome by this united force of the people. Since then, I hold a strong belief that the hope of social change lies in the power and courage arising from the people.
In 2004, Legislator Leung Yiu Chun asked me, “Would you like to run for the election?” I hesitated. Common as I am, I never thought of running for an election. I just wanted to serve the community and stand up for the disadvantaged people, especially when I saw the many difficulties of them: Those who were injured at work, being owed wages, living poorly in old age, subsisted in sub-divided flats, having a broken family. I always asked myself, “Why Hong Kong is such a prosperous city but the grassroots are living so miserably?”
Leung Yiu Chun’s question caused me to reflect: Once a government and the legislature are being controlled by the wealthy and powerful, and they’ve got hold of all resources, interfere in government policies and even twist the public’s view, all our effort in the community – no matter how much we’ve put to it – shall be in vain. Finally, I decided to run for the District Council election, hoping that the public resources acquired shall support the community and link up more people with the same belief to form concern groups and workers’ societies to participate in the community affairs and make changes to our society.
The council should be a place for discussion whereby different views are accommodated to develop a better society. The reality is, some people do not care about justice, the public’s view and values, but their self-interest. They claim themselves as the people’s representatives, but disregard the people’s voices and cut off the channel for exchanges of ideas, preventing people of different social standings to understand one another. Sometimes they even trigger opposition between different social groups: The elderlies’ grumbles against the youngsters, the betrayal on the workers by their counterparts, the harm to our culture by overdevelopment, the middle class’s bias to the grassroots, the local people’s discrimination to the refugees.
I was distressed and puzzled with the situation and couldn’t help questioning, “Aren’t there somebody from all these political elite really care about Hong Kong people? Just when I was overwhelmed with sadness, Leung Yiu Chung sent me the words “Choose what is right and persevere in your way”. As the privileged class distorts the truth to deceive the public, we should even more be on alert and stand firm.
I am just a common Hongkonger who wants to have a good job, live happily, see my son growing up and grow old with my wife. When my son was diagnosed with speech disorder, I wanted to spend more time with him. However, this city is full of problems: The young people find no way to move upward, the elderlies cannot sustain a living, insufficient resources for family caring, the economy is monopolized by the capitalists, price level is ever so high, workers are being exploited, the collusion between government and business consumes the labour of the workers, the practical death of “one country, two system”, the threats to HK people’s safety, and many other constitutional and welfare problems that need imperative solutions. Life is difficult and the people are suffering. There in this city are many parents who have little time to spare with their children and many children who want their parents go home earlier. I am not the only one, and I feel the pain and sorrow of the Hong Kong people. I cannot just quit them and turn away from the happenings in my society and stay aloof.
My son was born five years ago. When he learnt things and knew his dad always came home late, he started complaining over the phone, “Why you are so late? I am going to bed. Why can’t you come home earlier?” I gritted my teeth and suppressed my longing and guilty feeling. Late in the evening at home, I caressed my beloved son’s head, kissed his face, and swore to myself: I shall make him and other children a home of comfort and happiness, help their parents regain their family life, and enable Hong Kong people to have a future of their own.
Surely, those are not questions for politicians only. Every Hong Kong people should give them serious thought. Everyone of us has a right to electing qualified politician, someone not selfish, keeps his promises, stands with the people and acts for their interest. So I affirm you: Every vote you cast has an impact. With it, you can change the politics, you can change the community.
Having said the above, I declare today, I, Wong Yun Tat, shall run for the Legislative Council election this year, to enact my belief of “Autonomy for the Grassroots and Fight Against Hegemony of All Kinds”.
We shall let the elderlies who have worked a lifetime be protected upon retirement and enjoy their life in old age.
We shall let the workers receive fair salaries and due respect.
We shall urge for rent rise mechanism review to lighten the housing cost burden of the grassroots.
We shall terminate the monopoly of the conglomerates to our daily life and regain control of our community economy.
We shall defend in the Legislative Council, pull down the political hegemony and fight for constitutional democracy.
I and my comrades shall devote our time and effort to unite the people into a greater force. Within the legislature, we shall put forth better policy changes; Beyond it, we shall forge community network and encourage civic participation. Political and social change can only be achieved by solidarity of the people, their power and courage. I undertake to walk further in this political journey with the wish that my predecessors shall have greater room for creating a brighter future for our children, for regaining the rights of every worker, and for acquiring the autonomy of the life and future of every Hong Kong people and the city.
It is never easy to take the path to politics. A colleague recently asked me, “Ah Chung, did u ever think of quitting politics?”
It did not take me a second to answer, “Never!” Honestly I did not ever think of quitting.
The campaign slogan I used when running for the Kwai Ching District Council Election in 1985 was “Bring the Voices of the Grassroots to the Council”. It has been 30 years since. This year, our campaign motto is “Autonomy for the Grassroots and Fight Against Hegemony of All Kinds”. We still stand by our line “For the Grassroots; For the Labour”.
Throughout the years, I saw people come and go in the political arena: Some quitted, some changed their stances, some left and then returned. In 1991, I ran for the Legislative Council Election for the first time but lost. A lot of my friends and colleagues left me one after another. NWSC membership dropped from 20-30 to a handful. It was a huge blow to me and the most depressing moment in my political career. I was dismayed but I did not give up – Perseverance is the only option. Because we are a member of the society, we do not have the right to escape from social problems but to face them.
A few years ago, I wrote a book on the stories of the five people I’ve helped. It was entitled “The Five Tastes of Life”, though the so-called “tastes” are nearly all bitter. Hong Kong is a highly civilized city but it is overpowered by hegemony and merciless systems. Many people are deprived of their rights. They are helpless and hopeless. What we can offer them is not much. However, the little help we make has brought a taste of sweetness to the life of them. Therefore, I persevere in bringing this sweetness to the people and hope to rectify the injustice of our society.
My body is reminding me of my age every day. Yet I am still vigorous and shall do more. I am glad to know our young people are taking up the responsibility to engage in politics. But to fix our social problems is not the responsibility of just one generation. There should not be any generational difference in fighting for democracy, in voicing out for the grassroots, the labour, and our society.
I have decided to run for the Super District Council functional constituency this year. A soldier does not have the right to run away from the battle.
And I believe in perseverance.
Tax Reforms, Redistribution of Wealth
The Hong Kong government continues to linger on the idea that the only formula to the city’s economic prosperity is low tax rates along with a pristine taxation system, without realizing that this is in fact the very reason behind the astounding economic disparity within the city. John Tsang had suggested in the recent budget speeches that the government is looking to broaden the tax base through the implementation of sales tax, a strategy that would once again let the wealthiest tycoons off the hook but instead further burden the general public. Such are evidences that the government stands together with the capitalists on the issue of redistribution of wealth.
Appreciation of capital is the most common way to accumulate wealth, yet our taxation system does not impose a direct tax on capital; hence a blatant bias towards such mechanisms to gain wealth. If we take the richest man in Hong Kong, Lee Ka Shing for example, we would see that his annual salary is listed as $5000, meaning that he does not have to pay any salaries tax under the current allowances. His annual dividend income, however, counts to the billions. But since the taxation system does not impose any tax on dividends, capital gains, or capital, it is possible for people like Lee to make billions of dollars without paying a penny in tax. Such is an injustice against every hardworking laborer who’s also contributed to the city’s prosperity.
The government not only condoned such injustices, but actively participated and contributed to the problem. Tax dollars continue to be squandered on white elephant projects that, again and again, fall into the chronic cycle of enormous cost overruns and approval of additional funding. Meanwhile, the government would also limit recurrent expenditure on livelihood projects so that these white elephants become prioritized. The livelihoods and conditions of the grassroots remain the same if not worsened, and the consequences of economic inequality has begun to emerge. The worst has yet to come, and it will be difficult to reverse if proper means are not taken to ensure a redistribution of wealth.
Hence, we advocate the following policies:
Living with Dignity
The elderlies and senior citizens should not only be guaranteed the security of their livelihoods, but a dignified and autonomous day to day life that does not constantly put them in anxiety over the future.
We are anxious about the future. We hear of incidents of elderlies being abused in homes, incidents of senior citizens falsely reporting their age only in order to be hired, and we continue to bear the humiliation of the "declaration of not providing support to parents" in the CSSA. The population is aging rapidly and our public health care is nowhere near catching up. One cannot live in his/her old age without worrying about the vulnerability of their dignity. The government must cease to treat its elderly policies as poverty alleviation; the unnecessary asset tests should be removed in order to provide for our elderlies their basic income, social services, and medical care. We must ensure that they are provided with the security of their livelihoods.
The autonomy and dignity of one’s subsistence is subjugated to their financial autonomy and security. Our elderlies worked their whole life to create enormous wealth for the city, they deserve a better life upon retirement and should not be viewed as burdens and liabilities.
Hence, we advocate the following policies:
Defending the Grassroots' right to housing
For the past few decades the Hong Kong government had consistently participated in the privatization of housing. Since the 1987 edition of The Long Term Housing Strategy, the colonial government had upheld a market-driven mindset in solving the city’s housing issues. The result was the implementation of policies such as privatizing public housing, the “well-off” tenant policy, and the tenants purchase scheme to shift the housing responsibility to the market.
After the 97 Asian Financial Crisis, the government had stalled all constructions and sales of Home Owner Scheme Flats in a desperate attempt to rescue the private housing market. The result of the policy was that citizens became further constrained by the private market, thus leading to future consequences such as the current lack of housing and the subdivided flats phenomenon. The general public have its housing rights dictated by the market, and have to endure high prices and rents that almost acts as a universal property tax. As stressful as housing as a problem had already became for a large population of the city, the government continued to tighten the rules for public housing, dividing the queue into categories such as “well-off tenants”, “under-occupation”, and “single persons” and hence stirring unnecessary disputes within the grassroots.
It is an often neglected fact that the number of flats in Hong Kong is greater than that of tenants, which once again strongly reflects the consequences of housing speculation in the past decades. The government must aim for a substantial increase in the supply of public housing while restricting resale to separate the public and private housing markets and avoid the speculation of subsidized housing if we are to steer away from market-driven policies and defend our citizen’s housing rights.
Hence, we advocate the following policies:
Under the current trend of global capitalism, the use of short term contracts and false self-employment to marginalize workers has become more common amongst employers. Workers under such conditions have to worry day and night about their future and immediate livelihood as they struggle to hang on with little to no labor benefits. We seek to safeguard the rights and interests of the workers and to put them back in the driver’s seat, where they could once again gain control of their own fates and not become disposable tools of the employers.
The massive wealth of our society is in fact created by these hardworking souls through day to day labor, but the current political system belongs not to them but a class of bourgeois and elite capitalists. Through the functional constituencies and through the undemocratic “elections” monopolized by a small circle of powerful elites, the power of the people had been transferred to an unrepresentative regime that is willing to corrupt and form collusions with capitalists in order to exploit the workers and further monopolize every bit of wealth in our society.
As chaotic and disastrous the current situation already is, it is possible for us to turn the tides; if the workers unite to combat the tyranny formed by the bureaucracy and the capitalists, and if we strengthen the organization of the working class and become a joint force of unions and concern groups, we can and we will reconquer the fruits of our own labor.
Hence, we advocate the following policies:
Stand Strong Against Tyranny, Fight Hard for Democracy
Hong Kongers have strived for decades to achieve universal suffrage on election of the Chief Executive and Legislative Council. The “8.31 Decision” from the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress have crushed the hopes of democracy in Hong Kong and provoked an active involvement of Hong Kongers in social movements. 79 days of occupancy during the Umbrella Movement had become an unforgettable experience for a great portion of the population.
Though the movement have not reached its original aims, the participants have learnt to actively search for ways out of the current crises even in times of disappointment. The desire for legitimate and democratic elections have never been more apparent. Meanwhile, the Hong Kong government continues to favor tycoons and monopolists through policies and mechanisms that are strongly biased towards capitalism; the workers are not protected on issues such as working hours, rent, and retirement pension, and are hence doomed to be the most vulnerable group when it comes time to the inevitable economic crises of capitalism. Since the taking of office by CY Leung, not only has such existing crises not been resolved, underlying social conflicts have been provoked and political intervention on different levels within Hong Kong have brought destruction to the city’s autonomy.
Politics; we are all affected by it, and we will look to change it while we continue to care for the people’s livelihoods, we will not, for a day, forgo our aims to achieve democracy, neither would we fear the tyranny and its machines, but combat it we will, and fight for Hong Kongers’ autonomy we must.
Hence, we advocate the following policies: