HONG KONG/PHILIPPINES: Filipinos do have a role in fight for democracy in Hong Kong

(Note: this article was first published in the May 4, 2014 issue of the Sunday Examiner)

I am a Filipino but I see myself a Hong Konger.

If we are to take the guidelines of Hong Kong Unison, a non-profit organisation advocating for the protection of the rights of ethnic minorities, a Hong Konger is any person who sees Hong Kong as their home. One is a Hong Konger “because we are part of it, we care and we have to make ourselves heard.”

This sense of identity of our self—not only of our ethnic, nationality and country of origin—but of how we see ourselves as we live, work and stay in Hong Kong is important. The people in Hong Kong are in an ongoing struggle for the democratisation of its electoral system. The universal right to elect the leader of one’s choice and to stand for election is a dream here.

So, what can ethnic minorities, notably the Filipinos, contribute to the realisation of this dream in support of the Hong Kong people?

Firstly, it is important that we have to first understand our ‘self‘ as a Filipino and our relation to this territory and its people. This sense of identity of our self as a Hong Konger is very profound. It gives one a sense of an inclusive social and political environment not only of us into Hong Kong, but into the hearts and mind of its people. They must be informed somehow that we do care for this place.

Hong Kong is our home. We are not transients in this territory. In fact, many of the domestic workers have lived, worked and studied longer than some Filipino residents. This is certainly true in the case of myself and my family. Regardless of one’s condition of stay, one can play a role to compliment both Filipinos and the people of Hong Kong.

As of February this year, the total number of Filipinos in Hong Kong is 178, 716 of this number 14,088 are Residents.

Secondly, why we must care about the Hong Kong people’s aspiration for democratisation? We may be a minority and small in numbers; however, we have invaluable insights and ideas to offer: the Filipino people’s collective experiences in the democratic struggle; the lessons we have learned from this that only our ‘self’ can articulate. We have lived through it.

Hong Kong is not a democratic territory; rather it is part of China. But I never experienced and understood, in a profound way, what a democratic institution means until I started living here nine years ago. I had to leave the Philippines at the height of targeted attacks against Filipino activists to continue my advocacy here.

In fact, historically, the link of the Filipino democrats and the revolutionaries in this place could be traced back to the Spanish colonial period in the Philippines; to its contemporary period from Marcos rule to present day. Many Filipinos have used this territory as a base to advocate democracy and the protection of rights back home.

Here, in a territory where the leaders are selected by a few members of the few Hong Kong elite, through an election system known as a functional constituency, we can express ourselves freely and associate with whomever we chose without repercussion. Here we have a sense of protection. In the Philippines, on the other hand, our elected leaders are unable to protect the citizens who put them in office and worse still, even engage in and justify the harassment and killing of democrats.

Thirdly, here the Hong Kong people have what the Filipinos do not: democracy in its substance. In the Philippines, while we do have universal suffrage and our electoral processes are democratic our public institutions remain undemocratic 28 years after the People’s Power Revolution. Our dreams and aspirations continue. Living in this place we have concrete experience of democratic ideals.

While we have learned much from Hong Kong and its people, in the Philippines we have what the Hong Kong people do not: universal suffrage. Our contribution then to the people of Hong Kong is to offer our insights. We have lived and experienced how democratic institutions functions in this territory; and how societies like ours can deteriorate if institutions are not democratic.

So we do understand and share the concerns of the Hong Kong people that unless democracy is realised here, a threat to the core value of the rule of law is imminent. The dreams and democratic aspirations of the people of Hong Kong are also our dreams. Their loss is our loss. This is our home.

I urged Filipinos to join the ongoing debate on the democratisation in Hong Kong. Joining this discussion, like the forum, titled: “Democracy and Minority Rights,” hosted by the Hong Kong Unison at the City University in April might be the first step.

Document Type : Article
Document ID : AHRC-ART-037-2014
Countries : Hong Kong, Philippines,
Issues : Democracy, Environmental protection, Extrajudicial killings, Judicial system, Rule of law,