In a commentary back in 2012 (May 22, “New government’s cultural policy must uphold Hong Kong’s core values”), I summarized Hong Kong’s core values as follows: a commitment to fair play; respect for the rule of law and judiciary independence, freedom of expression; respect for our heritage; responsibility and accountability for everyone holding public offices; respect for private property and personal freedoms; caring capitalism: free entrepreneurship working hand in hand with caring for the disadvantaged and the weak; sustainable development; and equality of opportunity to develop and realize ones potential.
Today I am sad to report to readers that since then we are increasingly moving away from these core values and the civilized world we knew.
I had known Hong Kong to be an open, tolerant, and civilized society. But almost everything I see today seems to be the opposite of what it is supposed to be.
On Friday, the SAR government announced that due to Hong Kong being caught in a state of public danger, in defense of the public interest, it had no choice but to bring in an anti-mask law expediently as permitted by the Emergency Regulations Ordinance, with effect from Friday midnight. Twenty-four “pan-democrat” lawmakers lodged a request for an injunction of the new law with the High Court. The Hon Dennis Kwok Wing-hang said Hong Kong is now at a critical juncture. To prevent Hong Kong from totalitarianism and to protect the rule of law, he argued that an injunction against the anti-mask law was necessary.
Fortunately for Hong Kong, the High Court ruled against the injunction. Ironically, however, I have to agree with Kwok that Hong Kong is indeed at a critical juncture, and that we are indeed facing a choice between totalitarianism and the rule of law.
To me totalitarianism means no fair play, no respect for the rule of law, no freedom of expression, no respect for our heritage, no accountability and responsibility, no respect for private property and personal freedoms. Sadly, all this is a fact of life that Hong Kong people have had to endure in the past four months, and there seems little hope the predicament will end anytime soon.
When the protesters displayed banners saying “Democracy and human rights under attack!”, aren’t they aware of the fact that, unwittingly, they have become the embodiment of totalitarianism and are undermining the human rights of fellow citizens in Hong Kong?
I have seen videos showing ordinary citizens beaten up viciously by people with rods and other weapons. The victims often lost consciousness in a pool of blood, and this was just because they had expressed views which the masked protesters assaulting them did not like, or just because they had attempted to remove barricades that obstructed their personal movements. Given the seriousness of the injury, I really feared for their lives.
I have seen videos showing mobs destroying shops, ruining private and public property, and wantonly defacing walls, footbridges, sidewalks, etc.
I have seen videos showing mobs occupying shopping malls and attacking police officers viciously, throwing gasoline bombs, pointing high-powered laser beams at police officers and people they don’t like.
I have seen young people declaring “Hong Kong is not China”, and defacing the Chinese national flag and the flag of the Communist Party of China.
I have seen students harassing fellow students, beating them up; teachers cursing police officers on their Facebook pages; missionaries openly supporting defiance of the law and disrupting social order.
But the most disgusting aspect of all this is the hypocrisy. They criticize the police for brutality, but their conduct is much more vicious. I recall seeing the videos that eventually criminalized seven police officers who were later given a two-year jail sentence (in the "Occupy Central" in 2017), but the “brutality” of these police officers was nothing compared with the mobs who broke the bones of victims and left them unconscious in a pool of blood. In contrast, the victim of “police brutality” Tsang Kin-chiu, did not suffer any broken bones and did not show bleeding anywhere on his body. But the mob denies they are violent, and talks only of police brutality.
When the protesters displayed banners saying “Democracy and human rights under attack!”, aren’t they aware of the fact that, unwittingly, they have become the embodiment of totalitarianism and are undermining the human rights of fellow citizens in Hong Kong? Are these citizens not entitled to the right to speak Putonghua and say “We are all Chinese”? Yet one person who did this was surrounded by a mob, beaten up, and told to go back to the mainland.
Many of our media sided with the protestors, but are they not aware of the brutality of police in the United States? While not a single protester in our city has been killed since the mob violence began, things are very different in the US. According to data collected by The Washington Post, in 2018, 992 people were shot and killed by police, and that is already an improvement over 2017, when 986 people were killed. This year, as of Friday, 678 people have been killed by the police. But ironically while more than two people are killed by police in the US every single day, American senators are decrying Hong Kong’s police brutality. What hypocrisy!
The author is a senior research fellow, Pan Sutong Shanghai-Hong Kong Economic Policy Research Institute, Lingnan University.