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Hong Kong: Banana Politics

The Chief Executive Donald Tsang's policy speech last week didn't give people any surprise. The hottest subject is about Legislator Raymond Wong Yuk-man, Chair of the League of Social Democrats, throwing a banana at Tsang in the Legislative Council during the Q & A session. It marks the beginning of a new political culture. ESWN gave a background to the banana politics on 17 of Oct in his daily brief.

Here is a youtube video that shows what happened on that day.

To throw or not to throw, that's the question

AgogoCK supports the action:

我本人當然支持呢次行動啦

1. 講得出做得到, 選舉時都講明啦, 加生果金, 最底工資..入左局咪做野囉
2. 有討論區擔心, 社民連會搞到立法局開會變左台灣咁..有聽毓民節目都知啦, 人人打電話上去, 說毓民唔岩, 因為飛唔中…..毓民都回應飛中要負責架, 就算點激我諗教主都唔會咁蠢

Of course I support the action

1. they have promised during the election that they would fight for an increase of old people's monthly subsidy, the policy of minimum wage. Of course they have to act in the Legco.

2. Some people worried that LSD would turn the HK legco into a Taiwan counterpart. If you have listened to Raymond's internet radio program, most of his supporters felt pity that he had missed the target, then Raymond answered that he intended to miss it because he has to be responsible…

A supporter of LSD and Long Hair, Kam is disappointed by Raymond Wong's action:

社民連三子,可否給自己一些尊重。抗爭是需要的,市民選你們跟政府抗爭,但我們不想一群不守規則、成事不足的「爛仔」在叫囂,而是用你們的頭腦,有技巧地反映市民的意見。希望盡快可以見到毓民像長毛一樣,有道理地說出自己的觀點。

The three members of LSD, please give yourself some respect. Struggle is necessary and people vote for you to counter the government. However, we don't want to see a group of thugs who disrespect rules and just do the shouting. We need you to use your brain and reflect people's opinion with better technique. I hope Raymond Wong can follow Long Hair example to express his opinion rationally.

Rachel Mui however disagrees that politicians’ tendency in equalizing the relation between students and teachers with legislators and government:

本來,以教育下一代為名,要求議員樹立好榜樣,看來理直氣壯,但司長要明白一點,出蕉的人是人民選出來,作為他們在議會裡的代表。而司長本人,以至整個政府,都不是由人民選出來(至少沒你和我的份吧!)社會上,確有人要求把街頭抗爭文化帶入議會,否則他們不會當選。過去數天,甚至有人要求他們練好眼界,日後掟甚麼都好都要準一點。當然,亦有人明言,不想台灣議會暴力引到中環,畢竟香港示威抗爭天天都有,犯不著在分秒都是公帑的議會裡重複地做。代議士們自然會按民意所趨作調校。那就讓他們自行先試水溫,何需貿然還火?

況且,以學生向老師擲蕉作比喻,更為不當。官員走到議會,是要爭取公眾的代表,亦即代議士們的支持,而不是去教訓他們。 議員是向選民負責,不是沒有選票支持的官員。這樣的道理都弄錯,難怪民望會拾級而下。

It seems reasonable to ask the legislators to perform according to rule for educating our next generation, however, the government secretary need to understand, Raymond Wong is elected by the people and is a representative of the people while the government is not. There are some people in the society who want to bring the street protest culture into the Legislative council and they do so by casting their vote. The LSD members wouldn't have entered the Legco without people's support. In the past few days, some of their supporters asked them to train their skill and not to miss the target next time. Of course, so said that they don't want to see Taiwan political culture be imported to Central because we have demonstration everyday in the street and don't need to repeat that in the Legco. The Legislators would adjust their tactics accordingly, they are testing the water, there is no need to react so strongly on the issue.

Moreover to compare the action to students throwing banana to teacher is very wrong. The government officials have to gain support from the representative of the people, not to give them lesson. The Legislators have to be responsible to their voters, not the officials. If they miss this logic, how can they get support from people?

In the facebook, there are so far 4 groups concerning LSD's banana action at the Legco, 3 of the groups support LSD and only one opposes. The supporting groups are

LSD for struggle, other pan democratic follow their fate – 27 members

Support LSD on throwing banana action – 485 members

Thanks Raymond Wong for the great banana throw – 285 members

The only one oppositional group is

LSD sucks… it doesn't get thing done, just make trouble – 1 member

New political culture

Of course the issue is not only about whether people support LSD to throw the banana or not, but also about the changing political culture in Hong Kong. Soho writes an article on “the political theory of throwing banana” at inmediahk.net:

黃毓民議員在施政報告發表當日「掟蕉」引來社會熱烈討論,身邊年青的朋友也「忽然政治」, 加以作出評論。其中最吸引我的是一些反對意見,他們用「阿媽」式的語調說這樣是「唔守規矩」、「好無禮貌」等等。聽後我相信香港真的是一個天真和單純的地方。

環顧東亞的議會文化,如台灣、日本和南韓,莫說「掟蕉」,即使在議會其間大打出手也時有發生。當然我不是鼓吹或贊成暴力,但當一個制度無法順利表達民意進行改革時,透過一些激進行為的確可以吸引公眾關注從而向政府施壓。

Legislator Raymond Wong Yuk-man's “throwing banana” has attracted a lot of discussion, many youths suddenly start talking about politics and comment the issue. I am drawn to some oppositional voices, they speak in the “mother” style, saying that the action is a “misbehavior” and “disrespectful”, etc. I feel Hong Kong society is too innocent and naive.

When we look around at the political culture in East Asia, such as Taiwan, Japan and South Korea, sometimes legislators fight in the legislative council, and throwing banana is nothing. Of course, I am not advocating or supporting violence, however, when a system cannot reflect the public's opinion and reform itself, radical action is need to attract public concern and give pressure to the government.

In the comment section of the article, fc says:

Agreed. You really have to give LSD a lot of credit for energizing the electorate. Their acts are not radical but practical given the fact that all rules and customs favor the status quo. Disobedience (not violence though) is definitely the way to go.

According to a song from the musical, Evita, “Politics is the art of the impossible.”

However Jane Tse disagrees and relates the action to the notorious (in Hong Kong context) former President in Taiwan Chen Shui Bian's populist politics in the same comment section:

黃毓民與梁國雄的行為,很明顯是因自己窮於理,未能引起議事代表的共鳴與支持,以霸道而又野蠻的行為去宣洩一己的情緒,這明顯地告訴支持他的選民,他們不懂得以理服人。既然如此,他們就不應該入議會,不如留在街頭,他們隨時可以到議會踩場,掟香蕉或蕃茄,起碼不會成為國際笑話。因此,我們有理由相信,沒有修養的人一旦可以爬近權力,又或者已經掌握到權力,他們抗拒權力腐化的能力也比較低。陳水扁是一個例子,民主是他的榥子,用來謀取私利。因此,陳水扁不顧社會分化的後果,搞台獨來撓亂社會秩序,最終目的是方便自己貪污,最要命的是,令到台灣一些深綠選民失去了辨別是非黑白的能力。台灣帶暴力的議會文化因此亦淪為國際笑柄,台灣的人民亦因此而蒙羞。相信香港是一個文明的社群,希望一些自以為是社會精英的議員,不要香港人為你們的愚蠢行為而蒙羞。

Raymond Wong and Long Hair act like that because they don't have pervasive reason in the Legco for winning other representatives’ support. Their barbaric action is just an expression of their emotion, it tells its voters that they don't know how to use their reason. They shouldn't have entered the Legco and should have remained in the street. With that position, they can protest in the Legco with their bananas and tomatoes without becoming an international joke. From this, we have reason to believe that people without proper up-bringing, once they get their power, they have less will to resist corruption? Chen Shui Bian is a good example. Democracy is just an excuse for him to get personal profit. He won't care about the disintegration of the society and provoke Taiwan's independent to create disorder. But the ultimate purpose is to help himself to gain interest. Worse still, the situation has result in the deep-green voter losing their sense in identifying good and evil deeds. The violent culture in Taiwan has thus become a joke in the international world and it shames Taiwan people. I believe that Hong Kong is a civilized community and I hope these group of self-claimed elite legislators stop performing their stupid acts that humiliate Hong Kong people.

Macdonald disagrees with Jane Tse and points out:

香港長年議會失效,論政無法有效改善政策,統治者繼續維持殖民政策,乃「理性」與「平和」都不能補足,把其他已經民主化議會的常規引入香港討論,實乃瞎子摸象,只知其名字相同而知內容不同。史實上各國在民主化與民族化初期,議會都有暴力文化,這並非民粹主義所致(說此詞之人根本不懂何謂民粹),而是建制發展落後實際所需…

The Legco in Hong Kong has lost its function for long, the deliberation in the council has no impact on policy and the ruling elite continues the colonial policy. The situation cannot be resolved by being “rational” and “peaceful”. I don't think we can just compare the culture Legislative council of democratic area with Hong Kong. Democracy has different meaning in different context. In the history, nationalization and democratization usually came along side with some sort of violent culture in the council. This is not a result of populism (those who use this term has no sense of its meaning), but is a necessary process for bringing the establishment closer to the real need…

Funny face echoes with Macdonald:

我相信不少香港人害怕和抗拒台式議會抗爭。但怕的背後是甚麼?怕我們淪落到老翻自己所看不起的台灣社會?怕趕走那些成日恐嚇要走、但又死唔放過任何一個刮盡香港利潤機會的資本家?怕嚇驚那位一早已和台灣眉來眼去阿爺的心?還是怕動搖到我們對建制痴纏依賴而生的安全感?當真真正正影響民生政策的政制、議事規則、議員組成等項目在制度暴力下偏離市民利益時,上等人不管麻鷹管雞仔,反而大花唇舌斤斤計較呀邊個有無著恤衫打呔、呀邊個係生出大聲定蓄意無禮,呀邊個又無坐定定開會浪費公帑,但對整個香港政府官商勾結昏庸亂政視若無睹者,那是暗渡陳倉聲東擊西出賣市民的共犯。

蠢人墨守成規,昆蠢人去墨守成規的是賤人。

I believe that many Hongkongers are scared of the Taiwan's style in the Legislative council. However, what exactly we are scared of? That we developed into a copy of Taiwan? That we may scared away those capitalists who had been threatening to migrate out of Hong Kong while seizing every opportunity to gain profit here? Or we are afraid to harm the relation with our god father (mainland government) who is already building relation with Taiwan? Or scared of losing our sense of security being attached to the establishment for too long? Now we don't seems to care about the systematic violence derived from real policy, regulations, composition of the Legco, etc, which is against people's interest, and waste our time in discussing who haven't wore a proper shirt and a tie, who speak too loud, who are disrespectful, etc. Those who ignore the collusion of government and corporate interest, while directing the public attention to gossip are conspirators.

Stupid people follow rule, those who fool stupid people to follow rule have bad intention.

Chan King Fai picks up the discussion in another article at inmediahk.net:

這種「守規則」的情緒充斥社會每一角落,從學校到商場到集體運輸交通工具到立法會,到處都有保安或警察的身影;從街頭寫生到守衛碼頭行動到「擲一條香蕉」,當事人很快就會被歸類為「搞事份子」、「激進人仕」,甚至「刁民」等,「守規則」的要求掩蔽了問題核心:公共空間為何不可寫生?市民是否應該參與抵抗那部為財團服務的推土機?「擲一條香蕉」為何不是撕破政治和諧假面的更佳手段?

This kind of “following the rule” attitude has penetrated in every corner of our society, from school to shopping more to public transport to Legislative council, everywhere we can see the shadows of security guards and police. From street demonstration to Queen's pier to the “throwing of a banana”, whoever involved in these action are labelled as “trouble makers” or “radicals” or even “mob”. The demand to “follow the rule” has covered up the essential discussion on: why can't we sketch our own public space? Why shouldn't people resist the corporate bulldozers? Why can't the throwing of banana be a means to disturb the fake harmonious politics?

4 comments

  • […] The Chief Executive Donald Tsang’s policy speech last week didn’t give people any surprise. The hottest subject is about Legislator Raymond Wong Yuk-man, Chair of the League of Social Democrats, throwing a banana at Tsang in the Legislative Council during the Q & A session. [link] […]

  • pamanush

    banana is a good fruit and for some ppl it is also a good staple. and in HK, banana can also be used to be thrown at a spot north of Communist appointed viceroy and south of the similarly appointed speaker of the House. only if banana can land on one of them, that would be good day.

    how did Tam become the spekaer considering well over 60% of HKers voted the other way?

    gimme my banana

  • Hanmagic

    All those who supported the throwing of banana would they also support a banana throwing war? Could we have an eye for an eye or violence for violence? Could we also justify disobeying social laws and order? Hong Kong shall degenerate into a lawless society.

  • […] to introduce mandatory internet censorship at the end of 2008, and probably we can see more bananas flying around in the Legislative council in […]

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