No one should be throwing stones at the police, or the police quarters. No one should be breaking windows, setting things on fire and defacing the national flag and insignia. It is wrong to prevent travellers from taking the airplane. The young “forceful” protesters made many mistakes while protesting against the wrong doings of the government.
On the other hand, many people argue that the young protesters are being directed and manipulated by foreign countries, pointing to how well organised, and how well equipped they are. They seem to think these are children who cannot think for themselves.
The reality is that the equipment of the protesters are nowhere near the level of the robotcop-like gear of the police. And there is plenty of evidence that much of the protesters’ gear were purchased by themselves or donated by well-learning local people, many of them adults.
There is also no apparent systematic hierarchy among the protesters. They often argue among themselves what to do: to block or not to block the travellers, where to strike, to break windows or not to break windows, …, etc. Yet they have learned to develop fluid strategies just like the way that Lao Tsz described water in Dao De Jing. In the beginning they confronted the police at announced specific sites, with many casualties and many arrested. They then developed a strategy to strike and withdraw swiftly, disrupting while reducing casualties and arrests.
Many of them seem to realise that their problem is with the government, hence they should target the government, but should avoid hurting the citizens and travellers. It is far from a consensus. But there is evidence that the majority believe in it. The challenge is to convince the minority to also adopt the moral high ground, instead of stooping to the violent tactics of their opponents.
What is most admirable is that they can reflect on their actions, and have the courage to admit their mistakes. Some have openly apologised for the disruption upon the travellers. I hope they can build on this valuable capacity of self-improvement.
These young people are idealistic, impulsive and made many mistakes. However, their ability to learn and be self-critical, the courage to admit mistakes, and the faith in justice and democracy are not qualities that we can used to describe our government, and many in the establishment.
Many people - from the establishment, neutral and even protester sides - have commented that many, if not most, of the police are reasonable people. Not at all the brutes that often appear opposite the protesters and even by-standers, beating up people, planting incriminating evidence, instigating criminal acts, arresting indiscriminately, colluding with the triads.
What many people forget is that the same person can behave differently in different situations. When they are calm and not stressed, most people, including the police, behave reasonably. But when they are on the street, sweating under heavy gear, hungry, facing flying bricks, irritated by laser, seeing colleagues hurt, it is very easy to vent the frustration and anger on the people in front of them. The same happens on the protesters’ side. And the vicious cycle continues.
And now the cycle has slipped down an ominous slope. Some police and establishment have started openly calling the protesters cockroaches - an attempt to de-humanize the people that they dislike. It was what Nazis call the Jews in Germany, and also what the Hutus called the Tutsis in Rwanda, a crucial step towards the evil that is genocide. The implication of the name-calling is that their enemies are not humans, hence do not have to be treated as such. It is an extremely treacherous road indeed.
What can be done to stop this from escalating (degrading) further? The original instigators of this mess was, of course, the government, who proposed the Extradition Bill and continues to try to stonewall their way out of it, which is deepening the crisis instead. However, this is a bunch of people without much imagination, lateral thinking or sense of morality. Expecting them to have the imagination and courage to take the moral high ground is perhaps not realistic.
On the other hand, the protesters have demonstrated fluidity, respect for the regular citizens, and a strong sense of justice. If they can stop to think a bit, they may come to the realisation that violence cannot help them achieve their aims of justice, democracy and peace. If they can refrain from violence, they can concentrate on building up their moral authority by insisting on doing the right thing. They have already demonstrated that they can disrupt the government, traffic, and so much more almost at will. They don’t need to continue to do that every day. They don’t even have to stop completely.
Instead, they can build up more moral authority by refraining from violence from now on, and concentrate on, e.g., contesting the coming elections, at the district level as well as the city-wide legislative council level. They have successfully mobilises a large segment of the citizenship, to care about their own community, about justice.
They will have to deal with the gloating of the establishment, which will certainly claim that they have defeated the protesters. It takes a lot of self-belief and self-control to not stoop to the lower level of your opponents. It is precisely because it is hard, that it is valuable. It is worth considering.
In these days of conflict and confrontation, Christians are split many ways. Some Christians are hoping that Christian leaders can speak with one voice to calm things down, to persuade all sides to refrain from violence, to help return society to a state of “normality”. Sadly, it is not happening, and there appears to be little hope of it happening.
There are many Christians working hard to mediate between the police and the protesters, to minister to the young people on the streets. Based on what I can see, they are mostly from the liberal and smaller churches and denominations. Some are working hard. As insignificant as I am, I am personally doing what I can in my own circle. However, our influence, humanly speaking, is limited.
Many high profile pastors of big churches and “mega” churches, sadly, have already long been co-opted by the establishment. They are very fond of citing the very few Bible verses such as Romans 13:1 - “Let everyone be subject to governing authorities …” They are also very fond of dropping names of rich and powerful people, senior government officials. They conveniently ignore verses such as Romans 13:4 - “They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” What if the governing authority is not bringing punishment on the wrongdoer, are they then il-legitimate? Shall we continue to subject to them? Should we at least point out where they did wrong?
Even when such Christian establishment leaders preach against violence. They point to the unfair criticisms of police officers, the violence committed by protesters against the police, the conflicts “created” by the protests against the government. They cannot bring themselves to criticise the institutional injustice and violence committed by the government, the flagrant brutality committed by the police, the apparent collusion between the police and the triads.
Hence when many in the Christian establishment preach against “taking justice in our hands”, and try to persuade the protesters to leave the exercise of justice to God, it rings so completely hollow and hypocritical.
They have conveniently ignored the many Old Testament prophets who railed against the rich and powerful kings and priests who exploited the poor, the weak, the widows and orphans and otherwise committed injustice. They have also conveniently ignored Jesus Christ’s own severe criticisms of the Pharisees, the priests - the then establishment.
Come to think of it, the term “Christian establishment” is almost an oxymoron. When Christians become rich and powerful, they are corrupted by the power, and are no longer truly, purely Christians. Jesus Christ himself said that where our treasure is, there our heart will be also. If we consider power and status our treasure, our heart is no longer in God - will we then remain Christians?
This is, sadly, why the Christian establishment has no leverage on the protesters. Do they have leverage on the establishment? The answer to that is also no. They are of value to the rich and powerful only when they provide service of use to the rich and powerful. Their status as part of establishment is illusory.
The reality is that they have leverage over nobody beyond their immediate followers.
The vast majority of the protesters are peaceful, rational, and non-violent. It is a small minority who are so frustrated that they feel a more forceful approach is needed.Even when they used force, they were relatively restrained and targeted - aiming mostly at symbols of authority that they feel were already discredited.However, the force that they use is providing the establishment an excuse to discredit the whole protest movement, and for the police to use brutal, overwhelming violence to suppress the protests.If the protesters can refrain from all violence, it will further strengthen the moral authority of the protest movement.It will help to bring more of the people behind the movement. It will help to bring more people out.
The police do have an obligation to maintain order in society. They do have the authority to stop and arrest people who break the law. The problem is when some of them use excessive force. Some of them seem to pursue protesters even when the protesters are leaving the scene. They sometimes seem to be slow in protecting the protesters and even bystanders from being attacked. Some of the senior officers make very lame excuses when questioned. Some of them display a hostile attitude towards even peaceful protesters. It is understandable that the police is under a lot of pressure in these days. However, if the police can refrain from unnecessary force, demonstrate that they are even handed, and are truly professional in carrying out their duties - they will surely earn the respect of the vast majority of the Hong Kong people. And they will feel much less pressure in dealing with the situation. It will also help to focus attention on the real political issues, rather than the police force itself.
The key, ultimately, is the government. Even though they have stopped pushing for the extradition bill, they have refused to withdraw the bill, as desired by so many. Many people believe it is a matter of “face”. If so, it is so very sad that the whole society is plunged into unnecessary continued conflict because of the “face” of one person. It appears that many people are angry because the government is so condescending, dismissive, and intransigent. It just does not appear to be sincere in admitting that it has mismanaged the whole thing. If only the government can come out and sincerely apologise, try to understand why so many people are so angry, and try to work with the people to move things forward - the situation would be so very different. Most people do understand Hong Kong is part of China, that we are still under many constraints, that many things cannot be pushed too quickly. But we do need to see the government as working with us under the constraints, rather than working against us to tighten the constraints even further.
While I understand I may be appealing to blocked ears, I still have to plead with all parties to take the moral high ground, to be magnanimous. For practical reasons, let us start with ourselves. If we feel we are in the right, let us start to forgive. If we hold the power, let us start to forgive. That is what God did. If God had not forgiven us, there is no redemption for anyone of us. Since God has forgiven us, let us try to forgive each other. If we focus on the negative part of human nature, people often behave according to our expectations, and the spiral goes downwards to mutual destruction. If we, instead, focus more on the positive aspects of human beings, people may also respond accordingly, towards a happier, sunnier outcome.
It has become a pattern. There is a massive peaceful march protesting against the government: anti-extradition bill, stalemate in political reform, police brutality, …The peaceful march is followed by confrontation between a small number of “forcefuls” and the police, which results in violence.The police beat people up and arrest some, while some “forcefuls” throw things. Most of the time it is difficult to determine which comes first and who is more violent than the other.
What is clear is that the government is stonewalling. It is also holding an overwhelming advantage in power. There is no way, no mater how organised and well-prepared, for the few “forcefuls” to win. Why do they still insist on forceful confrontations?
What is also clear is that the vast majority of the protesters do not condone the tactics of the few “forcefuls”. And the violence committed by a few is giving the government an excuse to put its foot down. It also shifts the focus onto the confrontation rather than the government intransigence.
I pray that all protesters, including those who are inclined to confront forcefully, to take the moral high ground. Because this is not a struggle for power, or of power. There is no way that the people can win by force. Even if the protesters win by force, the result is just the replacement of one set of elites by another.
History has taught us that violence only begets violence. Jesus himself also said, “Put your sword back in its place,for all who draw the sword will die by the sword." [Matthew 26:52]
This is ultimately a struggle for a change of mindset. We need the community to embrace openness, inclusiveness, fairness, kindness and ultimately, love. Such a change of heart cannot be achieved by force or violent revolution. It can only be achieved by demonstrating and convincing a majority of the community of the value and benefits of higher moral values. Hence there is no other option but to insist on taking the moral high ground.
I came with a big team of staff and students to organise the Beijing session of a youth conference. As soon as we got off the plane, our Beijing partner took us to a restaurant in a traditional Beijing courtyard house - the famous Siheyuan (四合院).
From the outside, it is not easy to imagine what is behind the wall - unless you are familiar with the concept of a 四合院.
The entrance is set near the right hand corner of the house. Immediately on the right, upon entering, is the kitchen.
We turned left, through a circular entrance, into a long, narrow courtyard. On the left hand side of the narrow courtyard is a row of houses with their back to the wall.
On the right hand side of the narrow courtyard is the main entrance to the courtyard.
We turned right to walk through the main entrance, and found ourselves in a spacious central courtyard.
Across from the courtyard, on the far side, is the two-storey, main house - usually occupied by the owner of the house. On both sides of the courtyard are rows of houses - usually occupied by the children of the owner and their families. The courtyard is the focal point of the courtyard house.
When we reached the two-storey main house and turned around, we can see what the owner sees from his house. This is a private world protected from the outside.
I wonder how much does one has to pay to acquire such a house now.
This is actually a famous restaurant. One of the dishes we had this evening is puffer fish.
There are two ways to remove the poison from a puffer fish. One is to remove the guts carefully. The other is to carefully control the diet of the puffer fish, to avoid certain types of shellfish. I believe this restaurant use the diet method.