Recently, the Hong Kong’s pro-democracy “Occupy Central” campaign is all over the papers. “Occupy Central” is a campaign calling for universal suffrage in Hong Kong through peaceful demonstrations, going on strike and sit-ins in Central, the financial centre of Hong Kong.
The Hong Kong Basic Law grants Hong Kong with universal suffrage. Similarly, Hong Kong people’s right to elect the top leader of Hong Kong in 2017 is also mentioned in the Joint Declaration between China and Britain during Hong Kong’s handover back to China. However, despite petitions for universal suffrage being voiced already a few years ago, the Hong Kong government has never directly addressed the issue. In December 2007, the National People’s Congress Law Committee officially proposed the 2017 “universal suffrage” proposal – in which the people of Hong Kong can vote from candidates who will be nominated by the mainland China government. “Occupy Central”‘s aim is hence to put pressure on the government to grant Hong Kong with “true” democracy – demanding that democratic proposals should meet international standards, such as not having any restrictions on the right to stand for an election. As a Hong Kong citizen, I must say that I do feel very strongly about the issue.
What really shocks me is the government’s increasing abuse in the legal system. The Basic Law of Hong Kong guarantees the separation of power between the trinity of the legislation, judiciary and executive body. The executive body should be representing the majority of the society; in the past years, however, the Hong Kong government has failed to uphold the interest of the people, and also failed by not being able to uphold political neutrality. An example would be when the chief executive of Hong Kong (head of government), CY Leung, signed the anti-Occupy Central petition, arguing that is “absolutely a personal action”. Personal or not, it is wrong for any civil servants to hold any political stand point. I believe that many will share my view that the government’s abuse of the law has undermined their constitutional legitimacy.
Under such context, student strikes and the “Occupy Central” Campaign was launched. Many have condemned the sit-in demonstrations to be “illegal”, as it will damage the reputation and stability of Hong Kong, and some even claim that these campaigns are acts of “betrayed” as they are motivated by “anti-China sentiments”. Yet, I believe otherwise.
Yes, according the the law, these demonstrations are obstructing public places and can be charged as a criminal offence; however, one must be able to realise that being unlawful does not mean being unjust. In fact, the law and justice are two separate concepts. The law is the practice, the expression of justice. Yet, there are times when they are in conflict with one another. The law is not able to entirely uphold justice. This is fully demonstrated in how upholding public interest and the freedom of expression is in conflict with the law on obstruction of public places. What is justice? One view on justice is utilitarianism, acting under the principle of upholding the “common good”. And if these demonstrations are upholding the common good, that then, is justice done. Even if it means breaking the law, it is not wrong, in fact, one can even argue that it is right.
Perhaps you may think that there is no such thing as “true” democracy. Even in the West, the symbol of democracy, we see governments taking the law into their own hands: illegal surveillance, extraordinary rendition. As cynical as it may be, years ago, this was what I felt. Throughout history, we see great men and women fearlessly defending their beliefs: Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, Gandhi… In addition, now that these fights are actually occurring in my home country, I am more and more inspired to be more actively involve in these political debates. Throughout the past few days, I have been following the news regarding Hong Kong closely, and was deeply moved by the determination and unity of the people – from students to the elderly people, standing or sitting on the streets, selflessly fighting for what they believe in. Their bravery, I truly admire. Regardless of whether the campaign will succeed or not, these people have already made history. Rethinking now about the issues of democracy, yes, I agree that “true” democracy remains an ideology, but I also believe that we may not be able to achieve total democracy; however, it should be our aim to at least, to improve our system in order to take one step closer towards the ideology.
Studying in the UK may mean that I am physically separated from these people who are fighting for Hong Kong’s democracy, but yet, my heart goes out to them. And perhaps, the least I can do is to write about how I feel and my support for their cause, for democracy, and for the future of Hong Kong.