Hong Kong's establishment needs to impress upon Hongkongers the 'reality of the future': George Yeo

That reality is that Hong Kong belongs to China.

Kayla Wong| September 04, 08:16 AM

Hong Kong is part of China, and the establishment in the city needs to transmit the "reality of the future" to Hongkongers, said Singapore's former foreign minister George Yeo on Monday, Sept. 2.

And Hong Kong's establishment includes "influential" people in the media, politics and business, Chinese state-run media China Daily reported Yeo as saying at a seminar, "New Game: China and the United States Relations".

"One country, two systems" based on Hongkongers' love for mainland China too

Yeo also said the "one country, two systems" framework that China's late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping proposed was based on "the people's love for the motherland and Hong Kong".

And if the mainland Chinese are not welcomed in Hong Kong, it will be tough for Hong Kong to negotiate the future of the arrangement, he said.

Furthermore, Yeo said after the 1997 handover, there was no political culture in Hong Kong to govern itself as its civil service was "used to taking orders from London and they were not used to being autonomous".

Patriotic education is necessary: Yeo

In addition, he said that mainland China has neglected patriotic education "for too long".

"It assumed Hong Kong will return and embrace the family automatically (when the arrangement ends in 2047), but much time has passed."

The need for Hong Kong to step up its patriotic education in order to instil a sense of national pride and loyalty towards mainland China has been proposed by pro-Beijing politicians in Hong Kong in the past.

Xu Luying, a spokesperson for the central government's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, said in August 2019 that the country and the motherland should be the "first lesson at school", adding that Hong Kong's national education is problematic.

Tens of thousands of Hongkongers took to the streets back in 2012 to protest against the mandatory teaching of national education.

Protesters gather outside Central Government Offices in Tamar to protest against national education. (Photo by Felix Wong/South China Morning Post via Getty Images)

Demonstrators march during a protest against the government's efforts to implement national education at Centrel Government Officer in Tarmar. (Photo by David Wong/South China Morning Post via Getty Images)

The Hong Kong government, under the highly unpopular then-Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, backed down at that time, temporarily withdrawing the introduction of the course.

China will not be bullied: Yeo

Yeo commented on Beijing's relations with the United States as well.

Regarding the ongoing trade dispute, he said China does not want to escalate the conflict, but it "will not be bullied and it will not be humiliated", China Daily reported in a separate article.

China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs had recently reiterated that China will stand up to the U.S., and not give in to its bullying behaviour.

In addition, Yeo opined that the outcome of the next round of negotiations between China and the U.S. depends on whether it is within the U.S. President Donald Trump's interests to reach an agreement in order to get re-elected.

In the latest round of tit-for-tat escalation, the U.S. slapped roughly US$110 billion (S$152 billion) worth of tariffs on Chinese imports, which China retaliated against by increasing tariffs on about US$75 billion (S$104 billion) worth of U.S. goods in two separate stages.

The trade spat between both countries has lasted for about 14 months so far.

China does not wish to dominate the world

Yeo also said the current mood against China in the U.S. is "toxic".

In fact, he said it is the worst he has ever seen.

This is due to the perception in the U.S. that China will displace its top position in the world, he added.

However, he opined that China does not wish to dominate the international system.

China must explain itself better

Lastly, Yeo had a word of caution for the two major powers.

Should the rivalry between them become "racial", it will be a "tragedy", and it might take generations to overcome the "bitterness and the hatred", he said.

And to defray tensions, Yeo said China must do a better job explaining itself to the world.

Yeo's words bear a similarity to what Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on previous occasions regarding the topic.

Talking about great-power relations in his National Day Rally speech in Chinese, Lee said China must show restraint in its actions now that it is a major power, and consider the positions of other countries.

As for the U.S., which Lee said is the world's top superpower, it has to accept that China's rise is inevitable and that preventing is not only impossible, but also unwise.

China is celebrating its 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on Oct. 1.

Top image adapted via Xin Yuan Guan Cha/WeChat & George Yeo's Facebook page