To the editor:
The Hong Kong described in “ISIS, Hong Kong, and American Democracy” does not exist.
I totally reject the propaganda blaming U.S. interests for Hong Kong’s unrest. After brewing for months in China, accusations of U.S. subversion have only ramped up as Hong Kong’s political crisis escalates. I regret to see these lies printed in a newspaper I love.
Mr. Sur alleges that the State Department and other U.S. democracy institutions back the protest leaders. As evidence, he produces an article about supposed Occupy Central leaders laying out their civil disobedience plans “in Washington, D.C. months before demonstrations began.”
This accusation is absurd. First, the people delivering the presentation, Anson Chan and Martin Lee, are not Occupy Central leaders. Second, even the real leaders of Occupy Central have only marginal power over the demonstrations on the ground. Mr. Sur’s caricature of democracy in Hong Kong bastardizes their decades-long fight for the right to representative government.
The irony of accusing Mr. Lee and Mrs. Chan of subversion is that they long ago lost the fight within the Hong Kong democratic camp about the direction of the movement. In May, Occupy Central held a deliberation to choose the political proposals that would become the movement’s goals. Winning proposals by student unions received thousands of votes; Mrs. Chan’s only received a few dozen. After the vote was held, Chan, a former Hong Kong Chief Secretary under both British and Chinese administration, regretted the vote and told me the result was “unfortunate.” The notion that she in any way “leads” the university students and disillusioned poor driving the protests is laughable on its face.
(Perhaps it should also be noted that the article cited in Mr. Sur’s column is produced by the Montréal-based Center for Research on Globalization, a prominent purveyor of conspiracy theory.)
Second, even Occupy Central’s real organizers have shown they cannot control their movement and are only nominally in charge. At a sit-in in July, Occupy Central made it clear to student groups that they were not planning any civil disobedience. But student groups went ahead anyway, staging a sit-in overnight to demonstrate that civil disobedience could be rational and peaceful.
“We told them not to go, because any violence could really hurt the movement at this point,” Occupy Central co-organizer Benny Tai told me in his office in July. “But they didn’t listen to us.”
The fundamental flaw in the Communist Party propaganda blaming “hostile foreign forces” is that the movement has no leader. It is led by anger against bad local governance, the sense of Hong Kong identity slowly being assimilated, and the spirit of thousands of young people who grew up watching the BBC and expressing themselves on Facebook.
Winnie Choi is a 22-year-old student who reported feeling discouraged by all the things she read about student protesters in Hong Kong’s salacious press. “The news, sometimes, it’s full of lies,” she said, still seated on a highway after twelve hours in the heat. “Go tell America why we are actually here.”
Ed Ngai ’15
Edward Ngai ’15 was formerly president and editor in chief of The Stanford Daily. He spent the summer in Hong Kong covering Occupy Central for The Wall Street Journal.