EYESHENZHEN  /   Opinion

Six questions to ask Hong Kong rioters

Writer: Tan Yifan  | Editor: Jane   | From:  | Updated: 2019-11-18

One week has passed since the “general strike” started Nov. 11 to paralyze Hong Kong, forcing schools to shut down and causing one death and a number of injuries.

The newest round of escalated violence was fueled by the accidental fall of a 22-year-old student from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) in the early hours of Nov. 4 at a parking lot in Tseung Kwan O. He was pronounced dead Nov. 8, and the local police were falsely accused of causing his death.

Soon after, a group of HKUST students trashed a campus branch of Starbucks, and more jaw-dropping illegitimate acts took place in quick succession.

The protesters and rioters who have vented their ire at the public for months now seemed to have a new excuse for their savagery. They started with unscrupulously vandalizing facilities in Metro stations and gradually escalated violence to setting fires on streets and to shops, throwing bricks, chairs and all kinds of trash on roads, blocking roads, stealing javelins, bows and arrows from school warehouses to be used as weapons, and more.

Their strategy is to quickly hijack public opinion by spreading their beliefs and unverified “facts” and threatening and attacking people who disagree with them. They ignore the fallacies in their preachment and successfully mislead a few people to believe the “legitimacy” of their “pursuit.”

If you are one of the silent observers of their protests, do you still think that they deserve your sympathy and believe that what they have done and are doing are the necessary sacrifices for achieving their goals? Have you ever thought that you might have fallen into the fallacies spread by them? Just by thinking calmly you may find at least six flaws in their allegations and deeds.

1. Will democracy come after bringing violence to the innocent majority?

The foundation of democracy lies on the respect of rules and law. It comes from the virtue of the majority. It allows everyone in the system to enjoy the freedom that is safeguarded by the rule of law and protects the basic needs of humanity and the right to be away from the threat of any kind of violence. When our basic need for safety is threatened by mobs, by what means can we build a democratic society?

The street violence causes chaos in people’s daily lives and reveals the severe threats from the destruction of the rule of law. It is intolerable in any democratic society.

2. Do we have to paralyze a society for our voice to be heard?

In a democratic society such as Hong Kong, there are many ways to express ideas. Months ago when the extradition bill was proposed, ordinary citizens and professionals expressed their disagreement to the local government in various channels, and the bill was later withdrawn. Did the government shut down the channels for the public to express their opinions? No. Different views can be easily found on newspapers, online and in public places.

3. Can rumors replace truth?

The protesters blamed the police for causing the death of the student who fell from the third floor to the second floor of a car park around 2 a.m. on Nov. 4 while the police carried out a dispersal operation nearby. They claimed he might have been influenced by tear gas released by the police, and then an ambulance that was sent to rescue him was blocked by police cars, causing a delay of 20 minutes.

But CCTV footage released by the owner of the parking lot showed that there was no tear gas or police officer around when the student fell. The police also clarified that the ambulance that had been blocked was not the one sent to save the student. Do we need truth or rumors?

4. Whose life is more valuable?

Protesters and rioters call on residents to mourn the loss of the student’s life and avenge him, but they ignore the death of a 70-year-old cleaner who was hit on the head by a brick thrown by a rioter during a clash in Sheung Shui on Nov. 13 and the severe burns sustained by another man who was set on fire after arguing with protesters Nov. 11 in Ma On Shan in the New Territories.

If they value life equally, then why can’t those calling for democracy and human rights show their respect to the two men who were harmed by the protesters?

5. Is violence by juveniles acceptable?

Like some adults, Matthew Evans, head of the Faculty of Science of Hong Kong University, expressed sympathy for the young protesters and supported them publicly. He said to reporters that the rioters “might be my students, other people’s students, sons and daughters of families; they are kids.” But he seemed to have opted to ignore the fact that some of them are already over 18 years old. Most of those protesters are no longer minors. Even those rioters who are under 18 years old choose to act violently. Violence by anyone cannot be condoned.

6. Will violence lead to a happy ending?

Many people tolerate the street violence because they regard the harm it causes to be tolerable for them. 

The violence in Hong Kong began with glass smashing and now has turned into shop burning and potentially deadly conflicts. If we continue to tolerate it, more terrible things will happen. Will it lead to a happy ending? Sadly it will only lead to tragedy. Even if it hasn’t greatly affected your life, it will eventually threaten your daily life or even your safety if violence continues. 

Several months of violence have turned the once peaceful streets and beautiful campuses into battlefields. Hong Kong has deteriorated from an open harbor to a closed, violence-plagued city. Is this the result the protesters and their supporters want? I am afraid they are just living in their fantasies, which will eventually disappear when they face the illegitimacy of what they have done.

(The author is head of Shenzhen Daily’s Qianhai office.)