Hong Kong handover: 'We've got to hold up a vision of freedom'

Changing lives: An occasional column by the leading Hong Kong democrat Christine Loh
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The Independent Online
China will liquidate the elected Hong Kong Legislative Council, on which I have served for the past five years, as its first sovereign act. On 1 July, no one sitting on either the legislature or in district assemblies will be there in an elected capacity. I don't like any of this.

A friend advised me not to complain too much. It is not politically correct to talk about what makes us unhappy. Sorry to bleat again to public. It soothes my pain slightly.

However, I also know that I need to be able to draw on a source of positive energy that will keep me going, because I must now go into sustained training for a series of marathons.

I never thought that I would give up my business career to take up politics full-time, but that is what I have done. This is what I want to do for the next 10 years. I want to be in politics because it is a good, direct, way to promote social change.

Over the last five years, I learnt that changing policy and law takes time. Often, the ground has to be prepared in order to be able to galvanise enough support for change. This process might take several attempts. There are few shortcuts. I need to give myself a decade to see what can be achieved.

I believe passionately that people have the right to know what their government is doing, to be able to question those in power and to hold them accountable for their decisions. I know that there are many Hong Kong people who want to promote political representation and participation, the rule of law, personal freedoms, tolerance, diversity, kindness and environmentalism. It is up to us to articulate this vision of what Hong Kong can be, and to create it together.

I want to play the role of that alternative voice and present another vision to authoritarianism, conservatism and elitism. I want to be able to offer different solutions to the problems we face.

What is required is ingenuity, creativity and support from like-minded people. I have faith that this is possible. Hong Kong people must hold true to their values, and take an active part in public affairs and the collective decision-making process.

In other words, we must practise democracy. This is something relatively new for Hong Kong. We were never encouraged to take an active interest in politics as colonial subjects and the challenge now is to break out of that mould. We must never again be bystanders to our own future.

The foreign journalists now in Hong Kong all ask essentially the same question: but is it possible under Chinese rule?

I can't give a definitive answer. The focus should not be all on China, what it will and will not allow. Hong Kong can exert itself too. Maybe we have not done enough and our voice has not been heard.

Influence is not only a matter of relative size. China is huge and Hong Kong is tiny. Yet, the influence that our community of 6.3 million people exerts is totally disproportionate to our size. Why is Hong Kong able to do that?

The spirit of Hong Kong is enterprise, liberty and modernity. Each of these are powerful draws. People from China, Asia and the West gravitate here because we offer this combination.

Hong Kong has good materials to work with. Despite my anxiety over China's intolerance, I need to embrace the future to be able to do my work. Time to do press-ups and lift weights.

Christine Loh is a legislator and chair of the newly formed Citizen's Party.