Dr Philip Wong, Legislative Council Representative, Commercial (Second) Functional Constituency
Enjoying freedom of the press and freedom of speech, Hong Kong citizens can see from newspapers, the internet and TV all sorts of articles and remarks - some raise suggestions, some use sarcasm, some bring to light strange stories and some spread rumors. To top it off, some criticize the administration’s governance and politicians’ words and deeds, and some advocate or oppose populist confrontations. Such a wide spectrum of speech, which accommodates all views and perspectives and all rights and wrongs, is doubtlessly a manifestation of the freedoms protected by the Basic Law.
We, the people of Hong Kong, respect the law. While cherishing our rights under the Basic Law, we must also abide by the Basic Law and respect the same rights it vests in others. Article 11 of the Basic Law clearly stipulates that the systems and policies practiced in the HKSAR, including the social and economic systems, the executive, legislative and judicial systems etc., shall be based on the provisions of the Basic Law. And, as stipulated in Article 42 of the Basic Law, all Hong Kong residents and other persons in Hong Kong have the obligation to abide by the laws in force in the HKSAR.
Balancing Rights and Duties
To be fair, Hong Kong citizens do generally observe the Basic Law and the laws of Hong Kong - we exercise freedom of the press, the right to voice opinions, and the rights to stage petitions, demonstrations and procession in a non-violent, rational and law-abiding manner. It is because while enjoying freedoms and rights, we are well aware of our duties in maintaining law and order, journalistic ethics and social responsibilities.
A basic attribute of a civil society is to uphold its core values and say no to violence. In Hong Kong, two of its core values are respecting others and convincing others by reasoning. It follows that any violent acts that challenge law and order, trample on ethics and infringe others’ legal rights not only go against the spirit of the Basic Law, but will also corrupt social values. I believe the vast majority of Hong Kong citizens will not agree with nor appease such acts. So, how can Hong Kong people strike a balance their rights and duties? This is an important matter that deserves our deep consideration.
The “One Country, Two Systems” principle, being one of the cornerstones of Hong Kong’s success as we all know, respects the co-existence of two different systems within one country. To my mind, while it is necessary to protect freedom of the press and our right to voice opinions, it is equally important to fulfill the Basic Law and the “One Country, Two Systems” principle. Even in western journalistic theories, freedom of the press is supposed to be balanced by media responsibility and national values. During a LegCo meeting in October 2009, I proposed an amendment motion on “freedom of the press and media responsibility” and cited some examples to illustrate that the two should complement each other to form the ethics and codes of conducts for the media sector.
Hong Kong is moving forward in economic and social terms and in democracy and rule of law. As the relationship between Hong Kong and the Mainland is getting closer, journalistic exchanges and mutual understanding between the two sides will also be enhanced. To avoid conflicts, it is advisable for the both sides to seek common ground while reserving differences. In future, Hong Kong and the Mainland will usher in a new era in which every step of development will be hard-earned. To secure a promising future, Hong Kong needs better foresight to step up its integration with the Mainland and resolve the deep-rooted conflicts that it may encounter along the way.
Freedom of Expression More Important as Elections Approach
With several major elections approaching, the tug-of-war between local political parties is likely to intensify. It would be a challenge for the major media to maintain an attitude of “non-intervention” towards Mainland affairs. In this regard, the Government and our legislative and judiciary authorities are urged to take the latest circumstances and development in Hong Kong into account and to uphold freedom of the press and the right to express views according to the Basic Law and the “One Country, Two Systems” principle.
To start with, government officials should brush up on Basic Law provisions to ensure comprehensive understanding and proper implementation of the “One Country, Two Systems” principle. What Hong Kong needs are more holistic ideas, more long-term planning, a more pragmatic attitude and more responsiveness to public feelings. These are to be achieved with the concerted efforts of the Government, the LegCo, different strata of society and different sectors - the major media in particular.
Next, government officials and relevant parties are expected to promote the Basic Law and the “One Country, Two Systems” principle by different means and to eliminate misunderstanding and biases. This helps the Basic Law and the “One Country, Two Systems” principle to take deeper root and foster social cohesion, so that our people can join hands to contribute to Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability.
Media and Opinion Raisers Should Move with Times
In our diverse society, government officials should have courage, commitment and a sense of mission. They are expected to have a better grasp of public views and higher capability in legal supervision, so as to make mainstream opinions favorable to the administration. Officials should also be aware of the rational messages in criticisms and concerns, which may call for the need for deliberation, review, ratification and introspection. Hopefully, the media and opinion raisers can move with the times, helping the Government to stay vigilant and know different public views. In such a favorable climate, the Government can formulate and implement policies in a more open, efficient and public-friendly
|Should you have any comments, please feel free to contact Dr Philip Wong.
Address: Legislative Council Building, 8 Jackson Road, Central, Hong Kong
Tel: 2525-8081 Fax: 2537-2872