Generation 40s – 四十世代

Good articles for buddies


Leave a comment

從刻舟求劍到逆水行舟

明報
觀點
2017-07-03
馬嶽:

 

2017年6月,香港人被各種「回歸20年」的討論和回顧淹沒。我個人對這種年結式/十年結式的「回顧」一直興趣不大。我總覺得年月是時間的單位,從社會科學的角度,和社會變遷沒有因果關係,於是20年不見得比19年或21年更值得反省回顧,12月也不應比11月更有回顧價值。很多社會變遷都是持續性的,用「齊頭」的數字作結不見得是最好的框架。用文件或文字來規定社會在某段時間的變遷,像「50年不變」,本身就是不科學的。

多年來最重要的變遷是什麼?

這篇文章的截稿恰好定在6月30日,好像是某種命定要寫點和「回歸20年」有關的東西。這段日子給人問了很多相關問題,令我不禁想:這許多年來最重要的變遷是什麼?

一直以來,一國兩制的最深層次矛盾,是中港在政治價值上的差距,或者說是中國共產黨領導和港人主流在政治價值上的差距。我會問:二三十年來,這差距拉近了麼?

一國兩制基本構想上着眼的「兩制」差異,最初當然是經濟性的(「兩制」是社會主義和資本主義)。中國內地和香港最大的差異在經濟制度、生產力、發展水平和生活水平上,而原有法制、司法獨立和法治、各種人權和自由,是香港經濟制度重要的政治配件。在一國兩制原構想下,這些政治價值和制度上的差異,都可以在民族主義(「一國」)的大前提下包容。

「50年不變」的假設是,香港的生產力和制度都較先進,但假以時日中國內地在經濟發展、生產力和生活水平會追近香港,差異會因而拉近,可能50年後不需要再一國兩制。這個分析方法,當然是「很馬克思主義式」的。

網絡社會來臨和新身分政治興起

但人類是很難預測社會的長遠變化的。近二三十年世界社會的最大變化之一,用Castells的說法,是網絡社會的來臨和新的身分政治的興起。經濟變遷如後工業化、全球化和網絡力量,加上冷戰結束,令世界各地人民找尋新的身分,令民族國家(nation-state)的影響力下降、人民追求自主自由參與、抵抗父權,各種身分政治的運動應運而生(包括環保、性小眾、各種地域自主的運動等,當然也有向宗教原教旨主義和排外族群主義進發的)。

香港人尤其年輕一代緊貼全球化的趨勢,隨着踏進後現代和網絡社會,走向崇尚自由、自治、自主、後物質主義和平等價值,思考新的身分認同,認同各種後現代的運動,是自然不過的事。

世上不少先進國家面對網絡社會和新身分運動的挑戰,走向權力下放、尊重及回應地方自治的訴求、領導層年輕化、快速回應民意、加強施政的問責性;對各種後現代的運動訴求,例如環保和同性婚姻,也要加倍重視和積極回應。

但我們看中國官員對香港的話語和其盛載的價值,到了2017年卻仍然非常「前現代」。例如經常仍然用冷戰思維看問題:反抗運動都是「西方亡我之心不死」的結果。例如香港年輕人的問題是經濟問題、是不能上流和買房子的問題,對策是給更多經濟援助;「人心不回歸」就加強由上而下的教育,再多加些課時或者從幼稚園開始,例如強調國族主義和民族國家的必要,希望不斷強化國家功能來控制公民社會和民間自主。衡量一國兩制成功的標準永遠是「繁榮」和「安定」,永遠是經濟增長、建設和競爭力,不去問生活在其中的港人是否覺得自由快樂。面對政制民主化的要求,就祭出「國家安全」和「穩定」的大旗。回歸廿年滿街紅旗水馬,滿紙像是工業化初始階段的話語和口號,和香港近年的政治價值走向背道而馳,差距像不止一個世代,真的是「恍如隔世」。

二三十年前,中國政府還會比較虛心地承認香港問題他們不大懂,香港有很多先進的制度特質中國內地需要學習(例如法治、科學管理方法、公務員制度、廉政等等),於是《基本法》會加進不少制度限制,為防止內地影響香港建立一些「防火牆」。今天的中國自居「天朝」,信心滿滿地覺得「中國模式」可以垂範天下,變成了張浚生來教導香港人什麼叫法治、你們不懂管治香港我們來教你。這變成把「中國模式」看成最普遍優越的制度,覺得遠在「天朝國都」的人比香港人更了解香港管治,也不見得有什麼知識根據了。

20年「舟已行矣而劍不行」

10多年前,我就用過《呂氏春秋》中的「刻舟求劍」比喻來說香港的政治發展:「楚人有涉江者,其劍自舟中墜於水,遽契其舟曰:『是吾劍之所從墜也。』舟止,從其所契者入水求之。舟已行矣,而劍不行, 求劍若此,不亦惑乎?以故法為其國與此同。時已徙矣,而法不徙,以此為治,豈不難哉?」

這本來說的是,如果政治價值已經大變,但政制十多廿年都不變,是沒有能力回應新一代的政治訴求的。二三十年前,香港人還可以接受「安定繁榮」的話語,因為當年政治文化還很保守,殖民地的不民主體制邏輯八九十年代勉強還是可以管治的。20年都沒有與時並進,改革政制來跟上人民價值的轉變,就是「舟已行矣,而劍不行」了。

中國官員連與時並進的欲望也沒有

在2017年的今天看來,這個看法竟然還是太樂觀了。劍墜在水底,通常是不會動的。中港的政治價值鴻溝,卻可能是愈來愈闊。二三十年來中國內地的生產力和發展水平當然是大大追上香港,但政治價值差異卻沒有隨之拉近。當香港人的政治價值已經急速地隨着全球化和進入網絡世代而邁進後現代、後物質和新身分政治,中國官員仍然用一大堆工業化初始的概念看世界看香港,不單政治觀念沒有現代化,連與時並進的欲望也沒有了。河底有暗流,劍好像愈來愈遠了。

延伸閱讀:Manuel Castells, The Power of Identity(West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010)


Leave a comment

Why Hong Kong’s property market won’t crash – this time

CommentInsight & Opinion
2017-06-29
Andy Xie says although Hong Kong’s fragile economy remains unhealthily dependent on the property sector, the asset bubble today is unlikely to burst, as happened after the handover. Stagnation is the bigger worry

 

Property is at the centre of everything in Hong Kong today, much like it was 20 years ago on the eve of the handover. Soon after the handover, prices collapsed, hitting rock bottom in the spring of 2003. They have since clawed their way back up, and some. With the 20th anniversary of the handover now upon us, will history repeat itself?

The similarities between now and then are only skin deep. In 1997, Hongkongers were extremely optimistic about the future. Foreigners agreed. The mantra was that China was set for explosive growth, Hong Kong, being China’s window, would be the conduit for all the money flowing to the mainland, and Hong Kong property would rise and rise on that money. Most bubbles occur because people got carried away. Hong Kong in 1997 fell into that category.

When the Thai baht collapsed, it exposed the problems in the East Asian boom. When foreign money pulled out, the Hong Kong property market collapsed. It showed that hot money was the driver for Hong Kong’s property market, not growth.

The collapse of the bubble exposed a greater challenge facing Hong Kong’s economy. The city prospered on China being closed. Arbitraging on China’s inefficiencies was the foundation of Hong Kong’s prosperity – being in Hong Kong offered a seat on the gravy train. The Hong Kong government taxed the privilege through high property prices to fund itself.

But, after China joined the World Trade Organisation, the gravy train was derailed.

Hong Kong has never faced up to this competitive challenge. For years, mainland tourism kept the retail sector afloat. But, is the future for Hong Kong youth to be shopkeepers?

Meanwhile, investment immigration juiced up the property market. It turned a whole generation of youth into property agents harassing pedestrians in the posh shopping districts. The latest financial boom is very much driven by grey income fleeing China. After 20 years, Hong Kong’s economy hasn’t built a lasting foundation.

This economic fragility is reflected in the popular pessimism today, in contrast to the widespread optimism two decades ago. Why, then, is there a property bubble now?

Three forces have been at work.

First, after the property collapse in the late 1990s, the city’s ruling class shrank supply to prop up prices. The initial plan to launch 85,000 public flats, a key component of Tung Chee-hwa’s housing programme, was abolished. Minimum prices were assigned to subsequent land auctions, cutting supply in a low-price environment. Even the land marked for public housing was later sold to private developers. When incomes are not rising, cutting supply can increase prices.

Second, after the 2008 property collapse in the US, the Fed cut interest rates to zero and kept them there for a long time. With an exchange rate pegged to the US dollar, Hong Kong has the same interest rate, and debt demand increased accordingly. Household debt has increased to 70 per cent of gross domestic product from the previous peak of 50 per cent in 1997. The debt, of course, has piled into the property market.

Lastly, China saw a massive increase in corruption in the decade after 2002. The grey income flooded into Hong Kong, much of it enabling cash purchases of properties. The flood of mainland money, in addition to juicing up property demand, has kept Hong Kong’s interest rates even lower than America’s.

However, all three forces are now reversing. Housing supply is likely to increase substantially in the coming years. Though still low relative to the population, the increase will have a big impact, because the prices are so high relative to income. US interest rates are going up. And, China’s crackdown on corruption will last for years to come.

Hong Kong’s property market is likely to behave like Japan’s in the past two decades, not like it did itself two decades ago. The US economy is not as strong today as it was then, and US interest rates may peak at 3 per cent this time, not like the 6 per cent then. Besides, China is much bigger now and will surely intervene if the market collapses like in 1998.

After its property bubble burst in 1992, Japan’s banks didn’t foreclose on their delinquent borrowers. That prevented the snowball effect in a bubble collapse. However, while such a response would save the economy the pain of a 1998-style collapse, the slow adjustment would trap the economy in stagnation, because capital could not be relocated into new productive areas from the bubble economy.

Hong Kong has been trapped in a property curse, which could last another two decades, diverting its attention from the main challenge of meeting the competition from millions of graduates from across the border joining the workforce each year.

Two decades ago, for a similar job, a Hong Kong salary was 20 times that on the mainland. Now it is three times. How long can Hong Kong justify the differential? It is already less competitive in education and infrastructure than tier-one mainland cities. The gap will only widen. Unless big changes are made, salaries in Hong Kong will not rise and may even decline.

Andy Xie is an independent economist


Leave a comment

How Hong Kong’s Basic Law can serve the interests of all China

South China Morning Post
Comment›Insight & Opinion
2017-06-28
Simon Young
Simon Young says a narrow view of the Basic Law is partly to blame for the ‘one country’ versus ‘two systems’ deadlock in Hong Kong. It’s time to widen the perspective to see what the SAR can offer the country

Looking at the Basic Law from different perspectives may yield different results. For the past 20 years, most people, including myself, have understood the Basic Law to be a legal instrument intended to continue and preserve Hong Kong’s way of life for at least 50 years under Chinese sovereignty. I call this the internal perspective, which looks at how the Basic Law serves the interests of Hong Kong and Hong Kong people.

However, the internal perspective has proven to be divisive, one that sees continuous tension and conflict between the “one country” and the “two systems”. The conflict is well known, if not tiresome. One sees it in recent speeches on the success or failure of the Basic Law.

The side trumpeting the “one country” hails the Basic Law’s first 20 years, pointing to Beijing’s restraint and the many ways in which Hong Kong has been allowed to prosper. To this group, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress has made “only” five interpretations of the Basic Law, each measured and made for good reasons. Those calling for independence or self-determination are regarded as ungrateful, spoiled, and soon to be, if not already are, enemies of the state unless stronger measures are taken.

Those trumpeting the “two systems” highlight the “high degree” of autonomy promised to Hong Kong in the Basic Law and the Sino-British Joint Declaration. To them, one Standing Committee interpretation is one too many, and the five we have had have seriously damaged common law judicial independence. What is there to celebrate when press freedom has been deteriorating, Chinese mainland authorities have increasingly encroached on Hong Kong’s autonomy, and the local government has been unable to defend Hong Kong’s interests. The government’s “hardline approach” is to blame for the failure of “one country, two systems”, and independence talk is but a natural consequence of the political reform void.

As the internal perspective looks mainly to the interests and continuity of Hong Kong, there is little room to consider Hong Kong-mainland relations. The two sides are single entities unable to have a constructive dialogue on constitutional development. During the 2014 universal suffrage debacle, the central government’s Standing Committee decision was a top-down monologue, while local protesters’ provocative means drowned out their message and those of others.

In this internal perspective, Hong Kong remains a “borrowed place on borrowed time”, with 2047 standing in the place of 1997.

The two sides have divergent ideas on how to resolve the conflict. The “one country” camp would invest in a kind of brainwashing, and recommend for the incorrigible, first, elimination from the political system, then incarceration. For the autonomy camp, there are different responses: protest, obstruct, disobey, veto and exit. While those in the autonomy camp await a new president, those in the other camp await 2047.

In contrast to the dismal internal perspective, there is another perspective of the Basic Law rarely mentioned. The external perspective sees the Basic Law as serving national interests and the nation’s interests in the global community.

This is not the same as the “one country” camp’s internal perspective of the Basic Law. The words “belt” and “road” do not appear in the Basic Law. Hong Kong is not compared with other parts of China. It is a distinct society with an unrealised potential to furthering national interests. The external perspective sees Hong Kong and Hong Kong people having a greater role in matters of state, as contemplated by Article 21 of the Basic Law. This goes beyond having local deputies in the NPC and ex-chief executives become vice-chairmen of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. The external perspective recognises the contribution that Hong Kong already makes to China’s international standing.

The autonomy camp does not see the external perspective, or they see it as irrelevant, as they continue to fight micro battles with the “one country” camp and the Hong Kong or mainland governments. Some do not see the nation at all, whether because they are legally barred from entering the mainland or figuratively because of pro-independence thinking.

The vision in the external perspective remains largely unfulfilled because there are few opportunities for Hong Kong people to participate in the management of state affairs. It is doubtful that the central government trusts Hong Kong people with such responsibilities. Take the example of having mainland officials in Hong Kong in a co-location arrangement for boundary checks for the mainland-Hong Kong express rail link. It is likely to be one of the most challenging problems facing the new administration. There is, however, a solution to the problem in Article 20 of the Basic Law, which provides that Hong Kong may “enjoy other powers granted to it” by the mainland authorities.

Why not grant Hong Kong officials the power to conduct boundary checks on behalf of the mainland? A select group of Hong Kong officers could be specially trained by mainland officers and sworn to secrecy on the intelligence obtained from the mainland security network. Hong Kong would maintain its autonomy while contributing to a matter of national importance.

While the precise arrangements have yet to be announced, it seems highly unlikely the mainland government would entrust Hong Kong with such powers.

In State Council white papers and the speeches of the foreign minister, Wang Yi (王毅), even on topics of rule of law and human rights, Hong Kong is not cited as an exemplar. When mentioned in a recent speech by Wang, it was only to say that China had opposed “foreign interference in Hong Kong and Macau affairs”. Recently in London, Hong Kong’s secretary for justice lauded the city’s system of overseas judges in the Court of Final Appeal as an “innovative formula” that “proved to be a success”. I cannot recall ever hearing a mainland official giving similar praise. Rather, one hears voices in the “one country” camp calling for the system to be dismantled. The judiciary, which enjoys both public confidence and international repute, should instead be a matter of national pride. One wonders whether such calls do a disservice to the national interest.

The 2014 white paper on “one country, two systems” stated correctly that “Hong Kong’s experience can be of reference for the mainland to pursue innovative ways in social and economic management”. This is an understatement as Hong Kong experience and talent can help the mainland in many other ways if given the opportunity.

As we mark the first 20 years and reflect on the next 20, it is time for all to take a fresh look at the Basic Law to get beyond the conflict of the internal dimension. The very survival of the Basic Law beyond 2047 may well depend on finding common ground in a new perspective.

Simon Young Ngai-man is professor and associate dean in the Faculty of Law, the University of Hong Kong


Leave a comment

愈年輕愈投本土/自決派一票

明報
筆陣
2017-05-11
蔡子強、陳雋文

上個星期(5月4日),通過整理選舉事務處公布的立法會選舉投票數據,點出近年年輕人投票行為模式的兩大重要特徵,分別是:

一、在雨傘運動之後,年輕人無論在區議會選舉或立法會選舉,投票意欲都有明顯的上升,尤其是立選,投票率增幅尤其驚人,遠高於中年及老年人的增幅;

二、年輕人對立法會選舉的投票意欲,要遠遠高於區議會選舉。

今個星期,通過整理兩個於2012年及2016年立法會選舉後所作的研究,再點出年輕人投票行為模式的另外一些重要特徵。

<u>愈年輕愈投票泛民 愈年長愈投票建制</u>

表1是我與同事馬嶽及前同事黃鶴回兩位教授,在2012年立法會選舉後所作的一個研究當中的部分數據。

當中可見,這些數據所呈現出來的圖象,與大家的常識脗合,那就是愈年輕的人,愈會在選舉中投票給泛民;相反,愈年長的人,卻愈會投票給建制派。在青年(18至39歲)組別,有差不多三分之二的人投票給泛民,與投票給建制的,相差42個百分點;至於中年(40至59歲)組別,雖然投票給泛民的仍然佔多,但差距已經明顯收窄,只餘7個百分點;到了老年(60歲或以上)組別,情况更出現逆轉,投票給建制的已經反佔多數,而且多出近12個百分點。

青年人初出茅廬,尤其是剛離開學校(當中相當比例指的是大學),仍比較理想化,心態上仍是比較嚮往民主、自由、人權等理念,對權威反感,因此投票時,也較鍾情民主派;至於建制派那套保守政治論述,不易聽得入耳,亦因此很難投建制派一票。

但中年人要「撐起頭家」,需面對生活壓力,供樓、畀家用、照顧高堂、負擔子女教育開支,慢慢就變得比較現實,亦更易接受建制派強調安定、繁榮、和諧的那套保守政治論述,於是也有不少人投建制派一票。

到了老年人,隨着步入暮年,他們不單心態上變得比中年人更保守,更抗拒轉變以至「激烈」的東西,且很多早年未有機會接受良好教育,對民主、自由、人權等理念比較「無感」,且大多數是早年大陸移民,較易被「愛國」、民族主義那套打動;最後,更是建制派「蛇齋餅糭」政治攻略的主要市場所在,於是更大比例的投建制派一票。

<u>那麼本土/自決派出現之後又如何?</u>

2012年立選,本土/自決派仍未成氣候;但到了2016年立選,卻變得來勢洶洶,他們甚至聲言要與傳統泛民、建制「三分天下」。那麼不同年齡層,尤其是青年人,他們的投票取向又出現了怎樣的變化呢?

表2是港大民意研究計劃在2016年立法會選舉後所作的一個研究當中的部分數據。

當中可見,在青年組別,投給「泛民+本土/自決派」的,與2012年那個研究一樣,都是佔了三分之二左右,且有所上升,由上屆的64.8%,上升至今屆的67.58%;相反,愈年長的人,卻愈會投票給建制派,到了老年組別,情况更出現逆轉,投票給建制的已經反佔多數,同樣多出近12個百分點。

但更重要的是,如果我們把「泛民+本土/自決派」分拆為溫和泛民(民主黨、公民黨、工黨、民協等)、激進泛民(人社同盟)、本土/自決派(熱普城、青政、眾志等)三大板塊,我們更能仔細看到青年人的投票取向。

<u>青年人對本土/自決派尤為鍾情</u>

從表2中可見,青年對本土/自決派最為鍾情,三成人投票給他們,冠於所有政治板塊;如果把「激進泛民+本土/自決派」合併來計,更進一步高達四成多,高於溫和泛民的兩成半,更遑論建制派的不足兩成。

這和大家的常識脗合,那就是青年人是本土/自決派的主要票源,最為鍾情本土、自決及其他激進政治主張,最為躁動不安、急於求變,易為這些激進政治力量所動員和吸納。相反,老年人卻對他們最為抗拒,亦最少投票給他們,只有5%。

我相信有讀者會問,前述我們在整理數據時,把年輕組別定為18至39歲,但如果進一步收窄為18至29歲,那就是真的剛離開校門最年輕熱血的那個年紀,情况又如何呢?表3我們整理了有關數字。

從表3中可見,我們看到情况更加一面倒,18至29歲這群人,有高達八成支持「泛民+本土/自決派」!他們更對本土/自決派最為鍾情,四成人投票給本土/自決派;如果把「激進泛民+本土/自決派」合併來計,更進一步高達五成,即是每兩票就有一票投給他們!

這似乎真的應驗了一句:愈年輕,愈激進。

(本文部分數據由港大民意研究計劃提供,特此鳴謝港大民研計劃以及鍾庭耀和Edward Tai)

(傘運前後年輕人的投票模式剖析 三之二)

2016


Leave a comment

Hong Kong Occupy Central co-founder Benny Tai should come down from his ivory tower

South China Morning Post
CommentInsight & Opinion
2017-05-08

Alice Wu says with his latest idea for yet another impractical voting strategy, the Occupy Central co-founder shows that he does not understand the complexities that come from working with people

Human progress owes a lot to the many who have taken on the rigorous exercise of repeating their experiments, toughing it out through the painful cycle of formulating, testing and modifying hypotheses without any promise of a favourable outcome. It’s not for the faint-hearted.

Benny Tai Yiu-ting cannot be accused of lacking conviction and boldness. The associate professor of law at the University of Hong Kong who initiated the Occupy Central with Love and Peace movement has so much faith in his “path to democracy” that it’s almost of Biblical proportions. Following Occupy, he initiated “ThunderGo, the strategic voting scheme for the Legislative Council election last year, led Citizens United in Action to launch a “civil referendum”, via an online app, ahead of the chief executive election in March, and most recently unveiled “Project Storm” for the 2019 district council elections.

Occupy Central turned into something even Tai admitted was “beyond what [he] imagined”. Though somewhat dulled by time, the emotive reactions evoked by the mere mention of it remain strong today. It was his brainchild. But when it hit the ground in the autumn of 2014, it quickly spiralled out of control. Love and peace were lost in the process. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Unfortunately, Tai seems to have learned little from that. When real people are involved, things get messy; that, in essence, is politics. Subsequently, his strategic voting weapon – ThunderGo – was blamed for contributing to the defeat of a few pan-democrats due to a lack of accurate information flows, which is a very practical problem that should have been foreseen. Similarly, his civic referendum for the chief executive election this year failed because it did not address the security risks involved when handling people’s personal information. So, in short, it was again inexecutable. One cannot simply ignore the human factor – people can get hurt, for real.

And now, there are reasonable grounds to suspect the practicality of Project Storm. What Tai proposes – for the pro-democracy camp to try to field candidates in all constituencies in the district council elections – is simple fantasy. Political parties field as many candidates as they can in elections, as that is their bread and butter. Resources, or rather a lack of, usually dictate matters. Imagine if there were unlimited political aspirants and unlimited resources to cover campaign costs. There would be no uncontested seats, for one thing. Yet, maximising outcome with minimum wasted effort and expense is something we all have to live with, including politicians.

Tai’s plan also requires that all pro-democracy parties take up his campaign message. But no amount of “faith” will achieve this, unless he is ready to get involved in the day-to-day frustrations and hard work of dealing with people who have their own minds and ways of working. He will have to deal with people trying to align different views and interests for a common cause (basically, the work of running any political party), rather than just telling them what to do without a care for what that entails.

Tai saw Occupy Central as a political and social awakening. It’s time that he, too, was awakened to reality. Once is chance, twice is coincidence, the third time is habit. His loftiness extends beyond his ideas. And should he not address that – the arrogance that he is somehow above the very real and messy problems people face – the impracticality of walking his path will remain, as it was in the beginning, is now, and forever shall be.

Alice Wu is a political consultant and a former associate director of the Asia Pacific Media Network at UCLA