The recent student-led protest in Hong Kong against Beijing-influenced elections is not exactly new. HK Chinese have protested before and increasingly as the central government’s tentacles have reached further into the city-state’s administration over the past ten or so years. The promise given at the 1997 ‘handover’ when HK went from a British colony to return to China was; “One country, two systems.” It promised to keep the loosely-defined Hong Kong form of democracy and autonomy in place. But they lied.
That government doesn’t speak the truth is not news anymore. That Bejing lied is to be expected. Lying is endemic to all governments. And, with a hobbled and muted media, they get away with it. In Canada, too. But Hong Kong Chinese believed them. They really did. And they are fighting for that belief. It is a show of incredible courage.
The real story is that the students are leading the revolt once again – like in the times of Tienanmen Square. And in no small part that is a surprise in itself. The government does not teach the Tienanmen Square history in school. Chinese students today are generally ignorant of that time in Chinese history and even their parents have opted not to speak of it most of the time. Safer that way. These students are protesting without the sense of tradition or history that so often lends courage to such efforts.
They are NOT saying, “If they can, we can!” Because no one in Hong Kong knows they could. No one knows they did try once before. And no one knows that the protests were crushed by none other than the People’s Army. That video we are all so familiar with..? The man with the shopping bags blocking the path of a line of tanks by simply daring the driver to run him over..? That video is never been seen officially in China.
Of course it has been seen but not officially. And it has become part of the secret history that only a few know about now. The extreme minority of Chinese who are personally committed to protest are not open about it. They are not visible. If that should ever happen, they are jailed.
Who amongst us would forget the images of Kent State? Rodney King? The Watts riots? Who would forget the story of Lt. Calley at My Lai? Nixon’s departure from the White House? These are images that give us vision, that provide us with perspective and that help us make decisions on what our limits are. The Chinese don’t have that. They get rhetoric and propaganda exclusively.
They are lied to even more than we are.
I totally respect the protestors. To stand up to Goliath without the foundation of history, knowledge, perspective and the known support of others is incredibly courageous. You are seeing a lot of brave young people in Hong Kong these days. And to do that in conflict with a culture steeped in obedience, harmony and cooperation, is amazing. These are students born into a culture of respect for the hierarchy and for ‘your superiors’ and their school system is very, very reaffirming of that. For them to object to anything in an anti-social way is nothing short of a major shift in the ‘force’. These young people are different and they are making a difference.
We could use a few Chinese dissidents here.