My Responses to the 10 Things They Say About Occupy Central Students
I am not blindly supporting the students. I am simply supporting anyone who fights for justice. I have heard of a number of sayings about the protesters and the students, and I would like to respond to them one by one.
- "One person one vote is already an improvement. Why don’t we take it?"
Let’s say your parents are so liberal and merciful that they allow you to enjoy the freedom to choose your own bride. The pre-requisite is that they limit your options to just two women chosen by them. In the event you like neither of them, sorry, tough luck. Do you see this as "freedom to choose"? Would you take it?
- "It’s OK even though there is no real democracy. It has nothing to do with my life."
Many people think that even though there is no real democracy, it doesn’t impact them personally. That is not true. Without the right to elect your own leaders, it means however notorious the people in power are, they can remain in power as long as they like. They do not need to care about the needs of ordinary people. They would continue to collude with the business tycoons, and do their best to defend their interests. They would come up with every possible policy to facilitate the migration of mainlanders to Hong Kong so that they could "dilute" the Hong Kong population, despite the fact that intense conflicts have grown between the two peoples.
They could continue to erode Hong Kong’s judicial independence by ordering the judges to be patriotic to China. They could continue say things like, the CCP is the largest democratic force in Hong Kong. They continue to stifle the freedom of speech, turning almost all the newspapers and TV channels into government mouthpieces.
Perhaps you would still think all these do not bother you. But they are important to people who pursue justice. Please, at least do not pour cold water on them.
- "Students vs the CCP? Students are bound to lose. What can students do? All will be fruitless!"
It has never been easy to fight for what you want in front of those in power. Back then, how many people had said to Martin Luther King and Gandhi respectively, that "civil disobedience will not work out"? If they had given up, what kind of life would African-Americans and Indians be living today?
If everyone obeys the authorities because they think they would in no way achieve anything by fighting against the government, there will be no human rights, justice or democracy in the world. Ordinary people would be slaves for the rich and powerful for ever and ever.
- "They are making Hong Kong chaotic, undermining our economy, damaging HK’s international image."
Whenever people fight for their political rights they displease those in power. Are you really calling them trouble-makers for that?
Those who said that Occupy Central would severely damage Hong Kong’s economy have always been the government, its allies and the rich and powerful. How exactly would protesters affect the economy? No one could really tell. Even if it may have an impact, is the economic growth or justice more important?
Freedom, judicial independence and a clean government have always been the qualities which uphold Hong Kong’s international image. It is the authorities who more and more blatantly undermine these qualities, while the people are defending them in their own ways. Who are the ones who are actually undermining Hong Kong’s international image?
There are a lot more demonstrations, protests and marches in London than in Hong Kong. These protests have not seemed to cause any damage to London’s economy or its international image.
- "They broke the rules. It’s not right."
For decades these pro-democracy campaigners have abided by the rules, hoping they would reach a solution through dialogue. Only after it has long proven fruitless, they have finally resorted to civil disobedience.
Is it always right to abide by the laws and rules? The reasons behind having laws and rules are to uphold fairness and justice in the society. However, under an unjust system and totalitarian rule, it is sometimes necessary to reach a bigger goal by breaking some rules.
Needless to say, not all the rules in the world are worth being followed. Let’s use the same example. What would you think if your parents say to you, "I’ve chosen two women for you and you can opt for one as your wife. This is my house rule. If you don’t do as I say, if you want to meet another girl of your choice, I will punish you as you broke my rule!"
The meaning behind civil disobedience is to break some so-called rules in a non-violent way. The participants are clearly aware that they may be arrested, which may have tremendous impact on their future. And yet they are still willing to take the risks. This is the kind of sacrifice not anyone is ready to make.
- "They are violent. It’s not right."
If you have not been to the scene, please do not trust the media reports. People who have been there could all see how violent the police force was, and how restrained the students were.
Yes, the students climbed through an open fence to reach Civic Square, and pushed down the barriers under the flags so that they could sit down in the square. If you see these actions as violence, let me ask you this: "A woman, while being molested by a man, screamed and pushed him away. Would you call her violent and disobedient?" When injustice is around us, it is our duty to resist.
- "The students were either manipulated, having fun, or playing heroes. They don’t know what they are doing."
Have you been to the scene to meet the students and communicate with them before saying this?
For days, they have lived outdoors under the baking sun, lacking sleep. They have not eaten properly and it has even been inconvenient to find a loo. Many of them face a lot of pressure from their parents and schools. Some were trapped by the police for more than ten hours. They are taking the risks of being arrested and having a criminal record. What they’ve been doing is admirable. Not many people could do as much.
If you cannot do what they have been doing, please at least keep quiet and don’t show disrespect.
- "They are just making noise. Why can’t they negotiate rationally or do something more constructive?"
Before saying that, please spend some time to research what the campaigners have done in trying to "negotiate rationally". Please research how many proposals on political reform they have submitted in the hope that the government will consider. Any negotiation is two-way. If one side has already shut the door, how could the other side continue to "negotiate rationally"? After doing the research, please ask yourself: "If I were them, is there anything I could do to continue the rational negotiation?"
Please also do some research on what they have done all the way through to be constructive. Only then, ask yourself: "On top of all these, is there anything I could do to be constructive?"
If you cannot come up with a proper answer, please don’t criticise these people as "unconstructive".
- "The Occupy Central people are so irresponsible and hypocritical!" "After all this, the students will just go back to school as usual. What could they achieve?" "What’s the point of striving for democracy under the Chinese Communist Party’s rule. Why don’t they simply launch a coup d’état against the CCP?"
Some people are opposed to the government and the CCP rule and yet have disdained those fighting for justice. They’ve blamed the pan-democratic legislators for having betrayed Hong Kong people. They’ve blamed the Occupy Central leaders for not being forward enough. They called the students’ actions impulsive and useless.
There is not much use in discussing anything with these people. I just want to ask them:
After criticizing almost everyone else, do you have a better solution?
After blaming everyone else, aren’t you going back to work and living your life as usual? Or are you planning to launch a coup d’état in Tiananmen Square instead?
Even if I could do more than the protesters, I would never criticize them for not doing enough, as everyone has his own limitations. And, in any case, the fact is that I would never be able to do more than what they have done. I will never criticize them for not doing enough, not being determined enough, or not having sacrificed enough. When others do what they can, I must at least appreciate and admire.
- "I am not interested in politics. What are they actually fighting for?" "I know nothing about politics. I don’t have a stand."
Believe it or not. A good number of people still choose to live in their own bubbles, burying their heads in the sand. They do not bother to ask any questions or make any statements. They are survivors who just want to live their lives.
The problem is that Hong Kong is a building on fire. The alarm is on. And yet you who live on the 30th floor say to yourself, "I will be fine. The fire won’t spread to the 30th floor."
It is no longer a situation where you can simply say "just leave me alone". The CCP is boiling a frog. They are bit by bit breaking the promise of "one country, two systems" to Hong Kong people. If everyone chooses to bury their head in the sand, the CCP would gladly speed up totalitarian rule in Hong Kong. Very soon, Hong Kong would then be no different to the rest of China.
If, one day, your loved one was imprisoned, tortured and killed only because he had criticized the government, would you still be able to say, "I am not interested in politics. I have no stand."
Today, you may still think that politics is abstract. Tomorrow, when you finally realize that politics is affecting your everyday life, it may be too late.
© 2014 Wong Sze Wai