By Chang Ping, published: October 7, 2014
Our very first take on Occupy Central, the movement for universal suffrage in Hong Kong, is a radical protest in a society governed by law. Fully aware of the law and its consequences, participants willingly incur punishment for the sake of their ideals. We imagine the police making arrests with all due courtesy, the courts conducting trials ceremoniously, and those who break the law walking into their jail cells with graceful aplomb. Society as a whole, spurred by what they do, will rethink and debate the issues at hand in a rational manner, and all will end in a step forward for democracy.
The next thing that popped up in everyone’s mind was the blood of the 1989 Tiananmen massacre, still so very much with us today. We cannot help worrying that the People’s Liberation Army stationed in Hong Kong would clear the demonstrators out by force. When police then used tear gas and pepper spray on the crowd, we saw civilized Hong Kong, whose political right to demonstrate is protected by police and has long been the envy of those in the mainland, fallen overnight to the same Red Terror ruling over the rest of China.
The next surprise for the protesters came as assaults from members of the mafia, posing as ordinary citizens. We now have enough evidence that the Anti-Occupy Central crowd, emblazoned with blue ribbons, can count on the government’s support, if not direct organization and command. Even if the thugs are not in the government’s pay, the way they rammed into protesters, beating up and sexually harassing them, is deplorable enough. One commentator remarked that even the mafia looks down on their behavior as a discredit to all thugs in Hong Kong.
In the history curriculum imposed by the Chinese Communist Party, its former political rival, the Nationalist Party, played the role of colluding with gangs of thugs to undermine the student movement. The climax came during its military defeat and the eve of its retreat to Taiwan, when kidnapping and assassinations became commonplace. Chinese people derived much gratitude from these accounts; it appeared that the Communists saved China. For the reason that human beings formed nations and governments, especially those of the modern variety, must be to authorize legitimate force through democracy in order to protect everyone’s rights and put an end to the state of nature, rife with gang rivalry and vigilante justice.
However, it turns out that no one is as adept at making use of the mafia and its tactics as the Communist Party itself. From the moment it took power, the Party aimed to erase all culture and refinement from China’s political life and laws. No longer did they appeal to the minds of intellectuals through fair debate; “soul engineering” was undertaken through slurs, insults, beating, public struggle sessions and coerced self-criticism. They discarded due process, including publicized arrests and trials. Dissidents who tried to exercise their freedom of speech one last time, like their predecessors who cried “Long Live the Communist Party” on the execution grounds of the Nationalists, may find their windpipes cut as a precaution. Down to the present day, print and broadcast media style dissidents “traitors to China,” “black hands,” and “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” Illegal demolition of private property is made possible by hiring thugs to harass, threaten and attack the owners. Those who petition against travesties in the legal system find themselves thrown into illegal jails and even psychiatric hospitals.
The people in Hong Kong are shocked by the ongoing mafia attack. I am sorry to say that this is almost negligible violence compared to what happens to mainland Chinese in their everyday lives. This is an inevitable step in the absorption of Hong Kong into Communist China. If the people of Hong Kong don’t put a stop to it, eventually they will become inured to everything that we currently are. They will be perfectly used to being too afraid to protest in the streets, or to utter words the government has decided to censor, indeed to make any sort of demand for freedom and democracy. Like many brainwashed mainlanders, they would accept that there is no right or wrong in politics, that morality can be dispensed with altogether, and that thuggery is a global and human condition without exception. They will be disgusted by the courage of protesters, pronouncing that they have no “privilege” to fight for freedom, and have even less justification to disturb their own ordered and comfortable lives of servitude. As the Chinese writer Lu Xun once wrote, when a slave who refuses to put up with abuse any longer and sets out to smash their prison, it is the other slaves who will denounce and pounce on him first.
Today the protesters can, with an effort, detect mainland thugs from their accent. As time goes on, the Communist Party will save you the trouble. It is perfectly possible that they can reshape and cultivate homegrown Hong Kong residents to do the job. It is my sincere hope that such detection would, rather than making you detest people from certain regions more, encourage you to work harder not to become like them.
When the police stands by watching the thugs inflict violence and does nothing to protect innocent victims, it is of course very important for citizens to form their own patrols. However, we must also understand that division of labor is essential to modern life and citizen patrols cannot hope to replace the police. I believe it is more important, therefore, to insist on demanding the police commander be held responsible and replaced.
Chang Ping (长平) was former chief commentator and news director of Southern Weekend (《南方周末》), and his writings have been banned and obliterated by the Chinese authorities. He writes columns for the South China Morning Post, Deutsche Welle, and a number of Chinese language websites. Forced to leave China and then Hong Kong, he currently lives in Germany.
Violence Erupts in Hong Kong as Protesters Are Assaulted, the New York Times.
(Translated by Louisa Chiang)