Oh no – it’s the ‘fourth way’!

As a British colony-turned-Communist Chinese colony, Hong Kong does not do participatory government. Policy-making takes place behind closed doors; public consultations are rituals, and the semi-elected legislature is increasingly a rubber-stamp.

If you want to be involved in formal ‘politics’, you can either be in the pro-dem opposition camp, criticizing and protesting to no avail, or you can be a shoe-shining pro-Beijing loyalist rewarded with some ceremonial position. Either way, you will have no input.

Amazingly, a few people imagine that they might be able to play a role and have some influence by rising above and differentiating themselves from the pro-dem/pro-Beijing divide. This must take audacity and optimism – or maybe a mix of naivety and narcissism.

A HKFP article looks at Ronny Tong, a pro-democrat who tried to invent an independent, middle-of-the-road ‘third way’, but essentially handed himself on a plate to the United Front – they saw him coming a mile off. He is now a dependable Beijing apologist.

As that China Daily column makes clear, the CCP does not recognize any sort of ‘third way’: you are either a loyalist under its control, or an enemy that must be eliminated. Someone presenting themselves as neither, and implicitly as some sort of equal, might strike the Leninist power as a possibly useful conceited schmuck or a sinister imposter sent by hostile forces – there are no neutral players.

But where do you go if you genuinely feel you could contribute constructively to a better-run Hong Kong, and you want to do more than nag for the occasional bicycle path while maintaining some sort of conscience or integrity?

Perhaps former lawmaker Christine Loh is exploring a new lateral-thinking ‘third way’ – judging from the gist of a concept/book she and legal academic Richard Cullen have just produced.

A plug for No Third Person declares ‘The British version of the Hong Kong story no longer holds’. The introductory article goes on about this need for a fresh post-colonial ‘narrative’ – Hong Kong ‘rewriting its own affirmative story and intensifying its commitment to understanding the mainland’s development experience and political system’.

The article insists that ‘China’s writ does not run directly in Hong Kong’ as Beijing must work through our independent courts. It cautions against seeing Beijing’s concerns about national security as ‘a cloak to exert increased control’. It pleas for people to drop ‘Western’ assumptions of how we would be better off with representative government, though it also says ‘restarting negotiations with Beijing on electoral reform is also possible with full acceptance of “one country”’.

Maybe this leaves you bemused. Who even said the British story still holds? No-one. It’s irrelevant. But if you desperately yearn for a neo-third way that makes sense to the CCP without actually ditching your brain or selling your soul, at least too much, it’s a brave try. As if to say – I’m Beijing-friendly, but not a moron shoe-shiner, and I’m available!

Maybe it’ll work. Bet you it doesn’t.

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