Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
July 3, 2020

Opposing Viewpoints: the Hong Kong protests are not pro-democracy

By SHENG ZHANG and SHIZHENG TIE | March 5, 2020

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COURTESY OF EMILY MCDONALD

Tie and Zhang argue that Hong Kong protestors shouldn’t speak on campus, while Lee disagrees.

Two weeks ago, Hopkins hosted two leaders from the Hong Kong riots, Nathan Law and Joshua Wong. Ever since event promotion began, it sparked anger among Hopkins Chinese students. A petition on Change.org was launched, raising awareness that Law and Wong’s movement fueled “brutal violence, massive vandalism, threats and actions of terrorism, as well as far-right-winged nativist and racist hatred toward Chinese Mainlanders.” Despite the petition efforts and support from over 2000 signatures, the Foreign Affairs Symposium (FAS) event was held as planned. 

Like most of the riots that these two have helped orchestrate, the event was split into two parts. The more publicized, tame section, primarily dedicated to advocating for separatism, attracted journalists and supporters. Much less documented and far more extreme was the outdoor section.

Several pro-riot activists not only provoked a group of more than a hundred Chinese students peacefully protesting, but one of them also physically assaulted one Chinese student and continued harassing another Chinese girl when she was walking back home alone.

These acts symbolize Law and Wong’s “movement.” Instead of a reasoned debate, they seek to intimidate their opponents into submission. But instead of submitting, we speak up.

As the world is actively fighting against the Coronavirus, a group of Hong Kong doctors and nurses launched a strike to force the local government to close the transportation channels between Chinese Mainland. Hijacking people’s lives to blackmail the government not only insults the basic health-care moral standards but also betrays the Hippocratic Oath. Unsurprisingly, Wong actively supports this abhorrent strike, once again pushing for his political agenda at the expense of the Hong Kong citizens’ wellness. 

Despite their self-portrayal of “pro-democracy activists,” what Wong, Law and their movement brought to Hong Kong is violence, vandalism and terrorism, as well as far-right-wing nativism and racism.

Since the outbreak of tension in mid-2019, countless innocent civilians, including both Hong Kong natives and Mainland travelers, were assaulted, severely beaten or even murdered by anti-government rioters. Public and private properties were vandalized and destroyed. Hate speech against Chinese Mainlander became a morbid culture. The Hong Kong rioters invented the concept of  私了(“solving the dispute privately”), meaning they would assault dissidents to silence opposite voices and to generate an atmosphere of terror. 

Dr. Junius Ho Kwan Yiu, a senator opposing violence in the Hong Kong riot, was nearly stabbed to death in an attempted assassination. Universities were vandalized and turned into armed fortification against law enforcement.

Journalists, students, tourists from the Chinese Mainlan and even foreigners were targeted because of their ethnicity or suspected political affiliation for assault, torture and even murder. An elderly gentleman was burned alive by the Hong Kong rioters and another elderly street cleaner was stoned to death. Approximately two weeks ago, a Hong Kong native who was suspected to be a Wuhan mainlander was severely assaulted.

Many Chinese students here transferred through Hong Kong International Airport last year, which was illegally occupied and hijacked by rioters. Many of us still vividly remember our overwhelming fear of being attacked as Chinese Mainlanders, a possibility stemming from manipulative tactics of riot leaders Wong and Law. Their welcomed presence at Hopkins flagrantly insults the riot victims, and frightens us for our personal safety in a supposedly comfortable, protected environment.

Some may misconstrue that Wong and Law had no direct involvement with the terrorist, violent, racist riot. However, like other Hong Kong riot leaders, they refuse to condemn violence in public. The concept of 不割席 (“to not cut connections with each other no matter what they do”) is the core principle of the Hong Kong riot.

When confronted at FAS,  Law simply prevaricated, “I do not agree with burning people alive.” He tried to portray the rioters as being “forced” by the government to resort to violence. When these protestors argue that they were “forced” to resort to violence because the government did not fulfill their political ambition, how is this different from al-Qaeda claiming the U.S. did not fulfill their political demands so they had to commit the atrocity of 9/11?

Wong and Law — who are inherently responsible for all the aforementioned crimes, who support racism and nativism, and who support using violence to silence those opposing voices — do NOT advocate the freedom of speech, but rather mob rule and terrorism. Consequently, Hopkins, while arbitrarily labeling them “pro-democracy activists,” doesn’t represent the noble spirit of independent thinking. Rather, it shows a compliance of mainstream opinions biased by American news sources. Hopkins ignores the complicated political issue, as it delegitimizes the opinion of the other side as “against-democracy.” 

We ask our American friends to drop the bias that “the Chinese students are brainwashed by Chinese media.” This is a reckless attack against our stance. We can, in fact, read different materials in at least two languages about the Hong Kong issue, exposing us to more sources of information than many of our critics may have. 

Because of our protest at FAS, we are insulted by malicious voices as “brainwashed people spreading Chinese propaganda,” even accused of “taking money from the Chinese government.” In addition to countless hostile remarks directed to one of the petition writers online, U.S. Republican Senator Tom Cotton even labelled us as “CCP stooges.” Yet, no one at Hopkins stood up to defend us from outside attacks.

We are also aware that the Hong Kong rioters are notorious for exposing the personal information of their opponents. Yet we still chose to speak up, because terrorism and racism should never be tolerated anywhere.

During our protest, one American student said to us, “they [Wong and Law] are only labeled as terrorists by China, not by U.S.” We, always told that we should not be brainwashed by our government’s propaganda and should think for ourselves, would like to share these thoughts with our American friends.

The Hopkins campus breeds independent thinkers, and we encourage everyone to think independently on these issues: whether hijacking civilians for political goals is terrorism, and whether discriminating and assaulting an ethnic group is racism. Use empathy. 

Put yourself in the shoes of victims of mob violence and racism, and question if you are comfortable with your beloved University inviting speakers who led movements that specifically targeted you and your people.

Sheng Zhang is a senior majoring in International Studies. He is a member of the Bai ethnic minority from the Yunnan province of China. Shizheng “JJ” Tie is a junior international student majoring in Environmental Engineering from Luoyang, China. They both assisted in authoring the petition.

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