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From property values to national education, there does not seem to be a single Hong Kong policy issue that is not surrounded by vicious political wrangling. It has become almost impossible for any government initiative to move forward before it is drowned in a sea of argumentation that is sometimes peppered with personal attacks against the officials concerned.
This may be partly due to the growing gulf between the “establishment” and “reformist” camps. The most paranoid voices on either side argue that their opponents are out to destroy Hong Kong, or what it stands for. The establishment worries that its most radical critics pine for the time of the British, while reformers worry that the establishment’s only goal is to destroy Hong Kong’s fundamental values.
Both claims, of course, are ridiculous. Both camps have the best interests of Hong Kong at heart, and differ only in their beliefs about how best to achieve their respective ideals. One can disagree passionately with the proposals of one’s opponents, but to argue that they are not true “Hong Kong people” simply because they do not see eye to eye, is another matter altogether. Most Hong Kong people probably recognize this, but the most strident and loudest voices often set the tone of the debate.
Fortunately, a common cause can help unite us. We have just been provided one with the opening of the 2012 London Olympics. Sport has always been a unifier of sorts for communities and countries, and the Olympics will be no exception. The performance of the Hong Kong team will be something everyone can support. We can cheer our team’s progress with one voice and remind ourselves that, despite our political differences, we are all Hong Kong people.
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The Olympics also provides a welcome reminder of our unique “One Country, Two Systems” political structure. Although we are part of China, our status as a special administrative region allows our team to compete on an equal footing with the teams of every other country. Even our team’s name — “Hong Kong, China” — reinforces the idea of “One Country, Two Systems”; we are a territory that is both an integral part of China, yet with its own separate entity.
The Olympics is not the only event, nor the International Olympic Committee the only organization at which Hong Kong is an equal participant or member. Outside of other sporting events like the Asian Games, Hong Kong is a part of such varied organizations as the World Trade Organization and APEC. Those who would be concerned that Hong Kong is merely a “puppet” of Beijing should be reminded of the international prestige given to the territory. How many other cities are represented internationally as much as Hong Kong is?
Maybe the Olympics can even provide a way to understand the Hong Kong-mainland relationship. There are perhaps only a few events in the entire Olympics where the Chinese and Hong Kong teams compete against each other; in most events, the teams either compete against a large group of other countries, or are not even in the same event. In situations like this, Hong Kong people are happy supporting either team. There is nothing stopping us from taking pleasure in the victories of the Chinese team.
This is a good analogy for the relationship between Hong Kong and the mainland. Hong Kong and China’s interests, in many situations, are one and the same. Hong Kong people easily support China’s “victories”, be they large-scale changes like China’s economic growth, or singular events like China’s first spacewalk.
The more difficult situation in the Olympics is when Hong Kong and China compete against each other, as in the 2004 men’s doubles table tennis final between the Chinese team of Chen Qi and Ma Lin and the Hong Kong team of Ko Lai-chak and Li Ching. In a scenario like this, who should Hong Kong people support?
This may seem like a dilemma but there is still a workable approach. Hong Kong people supported the Hong Kong team throughout the Olympics, even when they competed against China; however, even after the Chinese team won, no one begrudged the Chinese team its victory, nor refused to support China in other events.