Umbrella Revolution – People Aren’t Fighting for Democracy
Source: The Atlantic
This is an article that will upset many, but I intend to be blunt so that we can be brutally honest with ourselves. I deliberately used this controversial title for one reason: if we support the Umbrella Revolution, we ought to ask ourselves why we are supporting it and how we should continue to support it until the battle is won. From the bottom of your heart of hearts, do you support the protesters because they fight for democracy – something that you cannot object to because it is a ‘beautiful notion’ that decent men with any conscience should support? Or was it because what they have been fighting for was violently suppressed?
Democracy, a universal value (some may label it as ‘something many who do not enjoy it, strive for’), is no different from any other aspiration: something that the minority fights for (whilst another minority stand and watch, if not contest or object), and the majority enjoys the benefits in the end on the back of the cost to, and sacrifices of, many.
After over two months since the Umbrella Revolution began (the name of this movement is another issue I would like to address later), it is necessary for us to do a recap and perhaps reflect on what the people of Hong Kong have done.
The students began a class boycott in late September 2014. The public’s response was lukewarm: fight the good fight; that’s a good cause; the future belongs to the younger generations. Not until a small group of students (led by Scholarism) escalated their action by climbing through the metres-high fences surrounding ‘civic square’ outside the Central Government Offices, occupying it, and Joshua Wong and his fellow colleagues from Scholarism were arrested and detained for over 40 hours, did the public begin to say ‘wow! Look at the students! We should support them’. The turning point, however, was 28th September when not only pepper spray but teargas canisters were fired at the protesters. People were outraged.
So, what were the people really supporting? The high profile students who were arrested for fighting for democracy, or democracy and freedom? That is a question we need to ask ourselves: If we were supporting the students, we should be led by the students regardless of what they do afterwards (dissasemble or continue); but if we were supporting the notion (democracy and freedom) we should have joined them, or even taken their places to fight on the front line of this battle: after all, the students and the adults who were there at the beginning have suffered from teargas and pepper spray, and it was time for those who have been hiding behind the students to step up.
Most people joining the protest and occupation were responding to the 87 teargas canisters. They didn’t care about democratic progress: At least they believe that if China doesn’t give it to Hong Kong, Hong Kong cannot have it (so we have to ‘ask’ China nicely). Many think that this is a waste of time (why would China ‘give’ Hongkongers democracy?). These activists only went to join the protest because it is moral to support the weak (i.e. the students and adults who faced the teargas canisters with no protection) and democracy is like a holy grail that everyone should support and strive for. This conduct is no different to that we see from the politicians and world leaders who pay lip service on a daily basis.
If you think you are supporting the fight for democracy and freedom, let me ask you one question: do remember what is the one thing that people on the street say? It wasn’t ‘the students have demonstrated to us that freedom and democracy are worth fighting for, and we see hope, and we need to regain control over our future and our children’s future’ etc. It was ‘Protect the students!’
Protesters in Masks = Moles?
After over a month of deadlock (occupying Admiralty, Causeway Bay and Mong Kok with no results as the Government refused to engage in any meaningful dialogue with student representatives from Hong Kong Federation of Students [Scholarism is not included]), there are a number of incidents whereby unknown individuals (by unknown, I am referring to ordinary people who could well be students judging from the photos and videos, wearing masks and/or protective gear instead of high profile student ‘leaders’ from Hong Kong Federation of Students or Scholarism) tried to escalate the action by expanding the “occupy” zone (blocking a footbridge outside Government headquarters with the aim of stopping the Government’s operation) and even attempting to break into the LegCo.
There are lots of people who have condemned these individuals for creating conflict or clashing with LegCo, and heavily criticised them for wearing masks. Their reason was ‘if you think you’re doing the right thing, why wear a mask?’. It sounds logical, but this brings out a much deeper question.
The Umbrella Revolution has been going on for over two months, and none of the original goals set by the students’ leaders has been achieved (genuine universal suffrage, withdrawal of NPC’s framework announced on 31/Aug, abolishment of Functional Constituencies). The Government’s tactic is simple: Ignore the people and get rid of the people (the police have used unnecessary force to beat up peaceful protesters who were not threatening them, or civic society) instead of the resolving the core problems – a common tactic used by oligarchies and autocracies.
The people who believe that continuing this deadlock will not only lead the movement nowhere, but will also damage the democratisation of Hong Kong in the long run, want to advance to the next stage. Their reason is simple: If the Government ignores people who are peaceful and orderly, the people need to force the Government to respond by escalating their action and putting more pressure on the Government.
Let us examine why these individuals wear masks: Local political groups and ‘professional activists’ have condemned these individuals for wearing masks and labelled them as moles – with the aim of discrediting the movement and causing chaos. The true reason, as far as I can gather (and logically deduce) is that, they do not want to be arrested. The high profile student leaders or those who work for the student groups, are protected by the pan-democrats: if anything happens to them, because the limelight is constantly focusing on them, the adults from the pan-dem camp will have to provide support, especially legal support.
Do you remember the young man (Ah Lung) who was beaten up by the police and suffered from a fractured bone and lost sensation in his right leg? Because he is a ‘nobody’, the support from the politicians and activists is close to none. Six young men were arrested by the police after the clash outside LegCo on 19th November: volunteers who provided legal support since the beginning of the Umbrella Revolution publicly announced that they would not provide legal support to them. Under the Common Law system, suspects are innocent until proven guilty. By what right do these volunteers deny these protesters’ request for help? Let us put it this way: if Joshua Wong or Alex Chow was arrested in this clash (whether or not they were actively involved), would these volunteers still have sneeringly refused to help? I very much doubt it. The public, these volunteers, politicians and professional activists (who may have been charged or convicted a few times, hence wear a badge that labels them as active seekers of justice, and frontline fighters) assume these high profile student leaders (in fact their own people) are innocent and would defend and provide support regardless of situation. Did Joshua Wong break the law by climbing the fence in late September? Did any of the politicians and volunteers come out and condemn him for his ‘reckless behaviour’? Because he successfully brought the movement to the peak and attracted the public’s attention, his law-breaking was immediately forgiven by the public.
Wearing a mask is not a crime, nor is it immoral. When in a protest, the leaders are of course risking their personal safety, but they also have unconditional support and protection from the many and are forgiven eventually, if not immediately: an outcome which unknown individuals like you and I can never dream of. I do agree that these individuals may not have sophisticated tactics nor have planned out every single detail of their action. However, what causes the failure of these various escalation attempts? The lack of support from the crowd who are obsessed with the ultimate power of the high profile ‘leaders’ and the illusion that these ‘leaders’ have absolute purity and that they can commit no evil – these ‘followers’, however, are capable of legitimising the crimes ‘leaders’ commit because they are ‘leaders’. If they upheld the law on 28th September the way they did on 19th November, Joshua Wong, Alex Chow and all the other students who stormed into the ‘forbidden land’ outside the Government headquarters would have been tied up and handed to the police. Is this by any chance a double standard, or hypocrisy? Yes, this is a brutal and harsh analysis, but I did warn you at the beginning.
I have been to all the protest sites, and I stay low (and, yes, wear a mask). I need to! After all, unlike the high profile individuals, if I get arrested (under the law which limits people’s right to protest in Hong Kong this movement is illegal) I don’t know who will come to help. A friend of mine who happened to be in Lung Wo Road on the night Ken Tsang was beaten up by seven police officers was also beaten up by the police and subsequently arrested: no volunteers ‘rescued’ him despite multiple calls being made to the listed volunteer lawyers – luckily he was released without charge. Of course there are a limited number of volunteers who could help, but the limitation does not seem to apply when a high profile individual is in trouble.
Have you seen this cartoon?
The pan-Dems supported the Sunflower Movement in Taiwan earlier this year (some even flew to Taiwan after the students broke into the Legislative Yuan), they did not however show any support to the ‘radical’ protesters on 19th November: they even denied their request for help), but instead they rushed out to condemn the ‘violence’. These pan-Dems did nothing after Ah Lung was beaten up by the police which caused him to lose sensation in his right leg. However, they jumped up and down after Ken Tsang, a member of the Civic Party, was beaten by the police and after the student leaders were arrested. See the pattern there? Can you now see why the non-high-profile individuals prefer to remain anonymous?
Here is a commentary written by a young commentator in June this year which talks about exactly this: http://hkcolumn.blogspot.hk/2014/06/wing-opportunists-awesome-taiwan-moves.html
Remember the people in China back in 1989? The pan-Democrats even today are still praising them as freedom fighters. The student leaders then, who are now safely living in free countries are heroes even though many of them have given up fighting. Perhaps they have aged and their fire and passion have gone. However, the cause that the people in Hong Kong are fighting for now is no different from the cause they fought for, and for which so many paid the ultimate price. Shouldn’t the student leaders in Hong Kong now deserve a bit more praise from the pan-democrats instead of being condemned for breaking a couple of glass windows?
You’ve made your point, time to go home
Many have been saying since early October that the students have expressed their opinions, won the hearts of the international press, and that they should now retreat for a few reasons: (1) personal safety; (2) to demonstrate leadership; (3) to win the PR war and gain more support; (4) this will be a long battle (so conserve your strength); and (5) to gain support from those who are neutral or anti-”occupy”.
Let’s look at those reasons in order: Firstly, those who have been protesting for the past two months and more have risked their personal safety: Especially those who have faced attacks from the ‘Blue Ribbons’ (civilian wearers of blue ribbons in support of the police, as opposed to yellow-ribbon-wearing “occupy” supporters) and the police. They have become much stronger than before the “occupy” movement began – not only the adults who answered the call of the students, but the students too. We should not underestimate their will, strength and determination. We all know that not everyone stationed themselves at the protest sites every day, but time and time again we have seen that whenever police brutality happened and when the “occupy” sites were compromised by either Blue Ribbons or injunction orders, people regrouped and reinforcements emerged.
The second reason is irrelevant as protesters have stressed repeatedly over the past weeks that there is no leader of this movement. Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS) and Scholarism are not always in sync when it comes to next step HKFS didn’t know about, nor agree with, the latest hunger strike led by Scholarism (HKFS is closely connected with Democratic Party and League of Social Democrats – two frontline parties that wear badges of ‘being arrested’ as medals and always dissolve movements and disperse protests), although not all protesters would obey their ‘demands’ and ‘calls’. On the other hand, reinforcements appeared every time clashes happened and protesters always automatically passed personal protective gear to the front line – without any prior arrangements or orders – when the police were seen putting on their gear: The unspoken coordination and sense of brotherhood (looking after each other) amongst the protesters is unbelievable. The ones who are desperately trying to gain leadership are the pan-Dems and politicians, please refer to this article.
Thirdly: The PR war had already been won on 28th September and the week after. Thanks to the protesters who faced the pepper spray, teargas and truncheons empty-handed, and the students and volunteers who have demonstrated their patience, absolute self-control and their love for Hong Kong by keeping the “occupy” sites tidy and orderly and by creating amazing art work. The world is watching as many news reports across the world have shown us over the months. Hongkongers are freaking nice, as news report said. How many more PR wars do we need to win? Or are these people struggling to deal with the reality that it is not the protesters who need to win the PR war but the Hong Kong SAR (HKSAR) Government? The HKSAR Government has lost its legitimacy (by abusing its power to remain silent and mobilising the police force, yet blaming the occupiers for ruining Hong Kong, just to name a few examples), as has the Chinese Government sitting in Peking: the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission’s annual report; the congressional hearing in the US, and; the UK Government’s review of the Joint Declaration all point at China’s failure to uphold the Joint Declaration – but in diplomatic language. We must remember that it is the Government which refuses to listen and to respond. If we are out on the streets for weeks just to voice our opinion (i.e. we are not going to achieve what we believe in), then we may as well send a letter or an email. So much easier!
Fourthly: It is of course true that this will be a long battle. Hong Kong has been fighting for democracy for over 30 years, and in particular after the handover in 1997. How much have we achieved? NOTHING! The Peking Government offered Hongkongers – after denying our constitutional rights twice by ‘reinterpreting’ the constitution – a step backward on democratic progress by limiting our right to be elected and to vote. If the Umbrella Revolution does not bear fruit, I guarantee to you that the remaining freedom Hongkongers enjoy will be gone in no time – China’s Government has to tighten its grip on Hong Kong before it ignites a revolution that it cannot contain (China remains relatively quiet so far because of the internal problems they face, particularly the economic problems as well as the power struggle between the Jiang Zemin and Xi Jinping factions – the anti-corruption campaign is all smoke-and-mirrors to conceal Xi’s attempt to remove all of Jiang’s minions).
Fifthly: To gain support from political apathy is not impossible. However, given what has happened so far (police brutality especially), it is something that will not happen in our lifetime. We have to remember one very important thing: the majority always enjoys the benefits of things that the minority fights for with their tears and blood. Has the majority of the people in Hong Kong not experienced enough suppression and suffering in their daily lives? For example, in the last few years we have seen:
- an uncontrollable influx of immigrants from China;
- sky-rocketing property prices;
- salary increases which are always outpaced by inflation;
- some of the longest working hours in the world;
- the most crowded living-space in the world;
- non-stop violence in the legislature caused by the pro-China legislators;
- repeated betrayals by legislators and activists who put the livelihood of Chinese and new immigrants before Hongkongers;
- billions of dollars in donations sent to China with no one monitoring the use of the funds;
- a biased social welfare system (e.g. only Chinese immigrants can apply for CSSA (social benefits) a year after they choose to move to Hong Kong whilst immigrants of other ethnicities have to queue and local Hongkongers have close to no support from the Government);
- mega infrastructure projects that keep sucking taxpayers’ money like black holes;
- a lack of hospital space;
- a lack of public housing for the underprivileged;
- a lack of school places from kindergarten all the way to university;
- Chinese smugglers who occupy neighbourhoods every day;
- the loss of local shops as rents have sky-rocketed over the past 17 years;
- neighbourhoods being filled by chemists, cosmetic shops, jewelry shops and luxurious brands;
- ever-worsening pollution;
- the loss of farmland and greenbelt zones caused by collusion between Government and property developers and villagers;
The list could go on for another three pages.
With all of these issues getting worse by the day, Hong Kong has become unlivable as most people can never see a future for themselves and their families unless they are extremely rich, extremely poor, or holding a foreign passport. Hongkongers have been living in ‘peace’ for too long, and have forgotten that life is not merely about bread and water but also about dignity. Politicians of course will stress the former, as most people are too busy ensuring their basic survival to worry about their future and that of their children. Keeping people busy with their daily struggle for survival eliminates their will to think and rebel. Again, it is up to the minority who has awoken to fight for the majority.
The anti-”occupy” people are those who (1) have business interests in China and dare not burn bridges; (2) have foreign passport, aka have an escape route when the proverbial hits the fan; (3) cannot tell the difference between living as slaves and living as a free man, hence making a few hundred Hong Kong dollars to beat protesters up is not against their conscience. They will NEVER support the cause, let along join the cause.
Problems and Dilemma
Hongkongers are obsessed with the idea of being law-abiding and peaceful. I am by no means suggesting that we should all break laws and start robbing or killing, what I want to raise is that laws are supposed to be drafted with the aim of protecting the people who have the right to scrap laws which are unjust or will drastically damage the society, and to remove those individuals in power when they create laws to serve their own interests.
Protests in Hong Kong since decades ago have been peaceful, powerful and meaningless: powerful in terms of creating dramatic images for the media to insert into their articles for a couple of days, but at the same time meaningless. The 1967 riot started by communists in Hong Kong was a different case, which contributed massively to the Hongkongers’ obsession with ‘absolutely peaceful demonstration’, and uprooted the people’s willingness to self-defence: the violence of those protests, combined with the police action against them made the majority of Hongkongers believe that the police are there to protect civilians by arresting protesters.
How do we define violence? It is a relative term in respect of the Umbrella Revolution. Remember who were the people that charged into the cordoned-off area outside Government Headquarters? Students. Breaking into the cordoned area could be seen as a kind of violence: Have the pan-Dems or those who support the ‘movement’ condemned the students? When masked individuals (regardless of age) attempted to break into LegCo, the pan-Dems denounced them, and some even said that this movement is not about the LegCo. Isn’t LegCo part of the faulty system which allows bills to be passed against the people’s will? Taiwanese protesters occupied their legislature and succeeded in forcing the Government to listen. Escalating the action is a must when the Government refuses to face the people, but where is the support? Most just stand still and wait for those who take action to be arrested or beaten by the police. The most outrageous thing is that the pan-Dems called a press conference to condemn the protesters’actions. After weeks of police beating civilians and violating regulations, if the pan-Dems genuinely supported the people, they should have at least remained silent. Contrast breaking a glass panel with breaking an arm or a head: which one is more severe? As long as you are a student leader, politicians and lawyers will rush out to help, but if you’re not part of their ‘tribe’ it seems that you are not worth saving. The volunteer lawyers have demonstrated that this is their view by refusing help time and again, or by not responding at all to requests for help from non-high-profile protesters as mentioned above.
Well-behaved, tidy and non-violent are amazing traits to have when you want to voice your opinions and discontent to a Government that listens to and responds to the people. However, after two months of a classroom-style ‘absolute purity’ occupation that bears zero fruit (besides sympathy and the ‘we’re very proud to see your peaceful demonstration’ plaudits from across the world), besides escalating action, there is no way out – except to leave and concede defeat. Do not believe in the illusion that people will have the same passion and determination again – or you overestimate Hongkongers. After all the beating, arrest and exhaustion, Hongkongers will not be ready for another fight anytime soon – yes you may say that it took Gandhi decades to succeed, but the situation back then in India was not quite the same, and China is only going to tighten its grip on Hong Kong. When this is over, Article 23 will be one of the first things to be passed (LegCo is dominated by pro-China minions and their ability to ‘mobilise’ voters is like magic).
The obsession with ‘absolute purity’ and ‘absolutely peaceful demonstration’ is the reason for this deadlock. How many people praise the HKFS representatives for ‘attempting’ to fly to Peking to express their opinions and Hongkongers’ desire for democracy? Deep down we all knew that they would not succeed. What result did this visit bring besides demonstrating the very fact that China can deny Hongkongers entry by simply voiding our travel permits? This is no news, as demonstrated by multiple outspoken individuals and activists. The most important but completely neglected fact is that HKFS’ action undermined the 1-Country 2-Systems principle embodied in the Basic Law: Hong Kong’s electoral reform is not China’s business, as stipulated in the Basic Law (China is only responsible for Hong Kong’s foreign affairs and defence). Proactively seeking China’s approval instead of denouncing China’s blatant violation of the Sino-British Joint Declaration is not only politically inaccurate but also highlights another major problem many Hongkongers have: people outside of Hong Kong, supporters of the Umbrella Revolution, student leaders, politicians and professional activists all assert that China has absolute control over Hong Kong, even though this is not, and should not be, the case (political ignorance).
The civil disobedience displayed throughout the Umbrella Revolution is extremely different from what civil disobedience should be about: rejecting the dictacts of a dysfunctional and corrupt Government – including all the departments under the Government and the entire system that surrounds this Government (including the judiciary). A Government’s power is derived from and authorized by the people: Obeying a tyrant’s orders contradicts the notion of ‘disobedience’ right from the start: passive resistance is the bare minimum – not cooperating with the authorities. The worst is to tip off the police to arrest other protesters who resist or escape from arrest. Just to remind you: The Labour Party, Democratic Party and Civic Party are all guilty in this sense.
The Real Problem
The real problem in Hong Kong is that HKSAR Government is a puppet of the autocratic Chinese Communist Party, operating without Hongkongers’ endorsement (Hongkongers were not consulted when Britain decided to hand Hong Kong over to China), and any form of ‘referendum’ that is endorsed by an autocratic regime China Communist Party (CCP) can never be democratic. The idea of turning oneself in, which Benny Tai (convenor of Occupy Central with Love and Peace) started preaching over two years ago, is simply stupid. Would you turn yourself in when you know the regime is a fascist dictatorship? You would in Hong Kong if you are a high-profile individual, because that would give you the most memorable credential on your political CV. A criminal record ‘achieved’ in a ‘people’s movement’ is a gold medal that secures votes.
As long as we kneel down and succumb to the authority of ‘the Government’ and believe that the life and death of Hong Kong depends on China and the HKSAR Government, instead of believing in the people – who are the source of power in any society – we will never succeed. HKFS said up front that they do not intend to overthrow the Government, despite the fact that the Government is dysfunctional (they implement policies that harm Hongkongers more than help us) and is not legitimate (without any endorsement by the people), the demand for democratic election is empty. No tyrant would want their people to have freedom and democracy as the lack of both is the foundation of their continued existence and control over the people.
Have you seen the movie ‘Gladiator’? I cannot help but think that Hongkongers are like the gladiators at the Coliseum. Audiences shout when gladiators get beaten even though they do not favour the regime nor the freedom fighters – they simply enjoy the show as the lives and futures of the gladiators are irrelevant to them. Reading about the protest in the news is blood-boiling to some, particularly when it comes to police brutality. However, the world is watching Hong Kong like visitors at the zoo watch animals in cages.
Turning oneself in as suggested by Benny Tai and the student leaders, resembles a gladiator getting killed at the Coliseum – people will say ‘wow! What a hero! That is a good fight!’ Two minutes later, they would continue indulging themselves in this bloody murder. Those who despise this brutality would put up a sign or two saying that the gladiators should be freed, but would these ‘conscientious objectors’ continue to fight for the gladiators should the regime order them to disperse? Would they risk their lives to save the gladiators? There may be a few who would stand up and show support, but they would never swap their places with the gladiators, for human beings are selfish (there are isolated cases of truly heroic individuals who will sacrifice themselves for others but they are the absolute minority).
The fundamental problem is gladiators being trapped and forced to fight at the Coliseum because of the regime. A regime that is brutal, inhumane and fearless because it can take lives any time it pleases. The regime knows that there will be no one who would dare to resolve the fundamental problem – getting rid of the regime. Even if there is one (returning to my point about the majority always sitting back and waiting for things to unfold, and enjoying the benefits should the minority succeed), the regime is capable of getting rid of them – with or without any dirty trickery.
If you succeed, the world will worship you as hero without mentioning how much support they have given. History will tell whether what is currently going on in Hong Kong will be praised in the decades to come. Only winners are recorded in history – and they tend to be described as saints (even though they might have engaged in terrorism as defined by the modern world, for example, Mandela’s ANC founded Umkhonto We Sizwe). Those who lose revolutions are almost always forgotten or labelled as terrorists and extremists. History is written by the victors.
Ignorance and cowardice
Students and youngsters are the frontline fighters of the Umbrella Revolution. What have the adults done? Some have marched to condemn the violence against protesters. What good does that do? The same old peaceful method has been tried thousands of times. Hongkongers are obsessed with the tried and failed method: peaceful demonstration. In any part of the world, if the police (or the army) beat peaceful protesters (especially students) adults would be angry enough to take over the fight and do the dirty work for the students. Hongkongers are cowards – hiding behind the students and giving verbal support, yet condemning those who want to take the next step.
It is common sense that each individual ally counts. Hongkongers’ obsession with peacefulness has suppressed their basic instincts and common sense: when someone attacks you, your basic instinct is to defend yourself or even fight back. When someone attempts to take one of your fellow protesters away, your basic instinct should be to make sure s/he does not get taken away. Out of all the clashes between the police and protesters, only a very limited number of people seem to have these basic instincts: they typically just stood there and let the beatings continue or shouted ‘release’ without actually helping those arrested.
Hongkongers have repeatedly demonstrated their restraint when facing police brutality (the force applied to protesters has been totally unjustifiable). What more are they hoping to demonstrate by refusing to defend, and calling those who use shields ‘moles’? The two types of politicians (pan-Dems and pro-China) in Hong Kong are utterly pathetic: I have no doubt that anyone with the slightest sense will have no problem seeing the stupidity of the pro-China politicians when they show support to the police and Government, but the pan-Dems are great at using the term ‘pro-democracy’ to window-dress their actions which contradict common sense (as a protester, do not defend yourself, but sit and wait for arrest, etc) – you protest because you want to win, not because you want to make a point and go home without achieving anything. When a method fails, we ought to come up with a new plan: Escalation is the only way to bring down a dictator.
Democracy is not perfect
Of course we know that democracy is not perfect (indeed, to extemporise on Churchill: you would have to be an idiot to believe that democracy is the ultimate solution to all problems). It is not perfect, but it at least gives you the right to vote those in power out of office if they fail the people.
Another argument, particularly popular amongst Americans and English, is that politicians around the world are corrupt, and that democracy will lead Hong Kong to failure. Because they have failed, others should not try to perfect democracy? Is this some sort of ‘superiority’ syndrome?
The final premise: China is so powerful. Without China Hong Kong would cease to exist (no water, no food, no electricity, China can roll tanks out to Hong Kong, etc). Hong Kong taxpayers pay obscene amounts of money to buy water from China (a contract that states that Hong Kong cannot reduce the purchase quantity). This water subsequently requires a lot of treatment before it is safe for consumption. On average, we pay over 100 times more to buy water from China than Singapore pays to buy water from Malaysia. China is struggling to supply water to itself (hence their occupation of Tibet), by stopping buying (I REPEAT BUYING) water from China, Hongkongers would be doing China a massive favour: let us deal with our problem, thank you very much. Food supply: how many times have we read about the high levels of harmful substances in food imported from China? Fresh pork and beef supplies to Hong Kong have been monopolised for decades, if the monopoly (backed by the HKSAR Government) ceased to exist, imports of meat from around the world could easily replace the existing deliberately-created-dependence on China’s supply. In fact, if you go to the supermarkets, most of the food comes from around the world (rice, for example, is mainly from Thailand). Is reliance real or is it propaganda which China and the HKSAR Government have been promoting? Given that RMB is not a freely-floated currency and that China’s systems are not trusted by the outside world, Hong Kong is still the gateway for China when it comes to money laundering, accessing international investors and emigration (HKSAR passport vs China passport).
China will not give democracy to Hong Kong
This is absolutely true: why would a tyrant give its people freedom and democracy? I have addressed this before: Another important thing is that democracy is not given and begging will not grant you freedom and democracy. No democracy in this world is given, it has always been, and always will be, fought for by the people. Discouraging those who dare to dream and want to fight for it is no different from any tyrant. By standing and supporting the suppression, one is as guilty as the suppressor.
Umbrella Revolution vs. Umbrella Movement
The term ‘Umbrella Revolution’ first came about when the media captured students and protesters trying to shield themselves with umbrellas from pepper spray and teargas fired by the police. No better example of a David-and-Goliath battle could be described. However, a large number of professional protesters and ‘politicians’ (who people call ‘left-plastics’(jou2 gau1) in Cantonese or ‘leftards’ in English) immediately downgraded it to ‘Umbrella Movement’ as they claimed that (a) we must not upset China, and that (b) revolution is always associated with violence and blood. Because of their extremely organised and systematic propaganda (e.g. Facebook groups and Twitter campaigns), the name of this historical protest was changed. There are two things I want to raise about the ‘name change’: (1) China is upset whenever someone refuses to obey (including countries), calling it a ‘revolution’ or a ‘movement’ will not change how China perceives what is happening in Hong Kong – an anti-CCP protest. However, China will not send PLA to deal with it openly as it will give the world reason to withdraw investments and business from Hong Kong, which will damage China (Hong Kong is the gateway for China to access foreign capital and China needs capital now more than ever due to the economic slowdown and substantial internal, often off-balance-sheet debt), with Hong Kong-Shanghai Stock Connect in place, Hong Kong’s position and safety is stronger than ever: Despite all the naughty Hongkongers’ less than satisfying behaviour, China did not pull the programme to ‘punish’ Hong Kong because it needs Hong Kong’s mature financial system to save China’s economy. (2) Revolution is originally from the Latin word ‘revolvere’ which means ‘to turn around’. It refers to a fundamental change in power or organisational structures that takes place in a relatively short period of time. It signifies a major change, but not necessarily a bloody event, for example, the Industrial Revolution. Words change how people think, hence control their actions. By offering people knowledge and understanding of their current actions, and terminology to describe them, you liberate their minds: Hence people are more likely to respond to counter-actions logically, simply because we are all individuals with free will.
Negotiating with China: know how to bargain
Sir Richard Ottaway, the Chairman of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee, said in the 2nd December House of Commons Emergency Debate that a China official had told him that the Sino-British Joint Declaration was void after the handover took place on 1st July, 1997. This is one example of many showing that contract, honour and promises mean nothing to China (and its people). They care about power and money, especially the latter as money ensures power and privileges even in the face of the law (and not only within China).
China and its people will only back down when someone shows them s/he is not afraid of taking a strong and firm stance. Otherwise, China and its people will bully you by bluffing and throwing empty threats at you – many who have dealt with businessmen in China will probably understand better than others.
China’s negotiation tactics have always been the same: demanding that the other party drop all preconditions and engage in a negotiation in which China will be certain to get everything it wants and the other party will perhaps gain a couple of biscuits. Agreeing to engage in a negotiation with China whilst giving up all preconditions means China has already won the negotiation. The negotiation is merely a formality and a show to legitimise China getting what it wants, whilst gaining acceptance by both parties: Signing an agreement with China simply means China wins all (gets all it wants) and one loses absolutely everything one believes in – and hoped to gain from the negotiation. If the agreement is no longer in China’s favour, China will behave as if the agreement has never been signed or move the goalposts to justify its behaviour.
Calling for – and securing – independence is the only way out. The Hong Kong people need to have the guts to prepare for a true battle. Protesting year after year under China’s rule only means that Hong Kong will eventually be turned into a city of China – no freedom, no individuality, no critical thinking, no human rights, and no future. China will remove any dissenters or discontented individuals by putting them in prison (or murdering them) or forcing them to flee. Removing all objection and opposition ensures perfect harmony (one of China’s most-oft-repeated – and in this case chilling – aims: a harmonious society): Hong Kong’s brand name will remain true on the surface, but the under the table deals are going on to replace honest business deals that live up to the spirit of contracts.
This will be the only fight. Blood may be shed and the future is uncertain (democracy is not perfect), but one must not surrender before trying. Democracy is something people need to stand and fight (and be ready to die) for. Not something people will be given by kneeling and begging.