20 February 2019
Robert Chow (right) draws flak for trying to create an atmosphere similar to that of the Cultural Revolution where Red Guards (center) encouraged people to snitch on each other. Photos: HKEJ,
Robert Chow (right) draws flak for trying to create an atmosphere similar to that of the Cultural Revolution where Red Guards (center) encouraged people to snitch on each other. Photos: HKEJ,

Let’s not return to the dark days of the Cultural Revolution

These people never seem to learn.

After organizing the widely criticized signature campaign and mass demonstration against Occupy Central, the Alliance for Peace and Democracy is launching a new initiative — this time targeting the students who will boycott their classes to oppose Beijing’s electoral reform proposal.

While calling for sobriety and reasonableness in Hong Kong’s pursuit of universal suffrage, the pro-Beijing group appears capable of employing all means, both fair and foul, to advance their cause. In the signature campaign, they were accused of pressuring employees to fill up petition forms, and in the Aug. 17 mass rally, many participants were paid in cash and in kind to join the event.

In its latest campaign, the group has set up a hotline through which the public can report the names of schools and students who will join the boycott of classes set to be launched later this month. That is like asking school administrators, teachers and students to snitch on people who will participate in Occupy Central’s civil disobedience campaign.

That is reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s, one of the most horrible episodes in modern China’s history in which young people were indoctrinated to spy and report on their parents, where perceived enemies were arbitrarily imprisoned, stripped of their positions and properties, and made to suffer all sorts of indignities.

Even Hong Kong did not escape the consequences of the movement as pro-Beijing riots disrupted the city’s social and economic life.

Just like the method used by Mao Zedong’s zealous Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution, the alliance hopes to “name and shame” the students and schools joining Occupy Central’s civil disobedience campaign.

The public strongly criticized the anti-boycott campaign and jammed the hotline to register their displeasure.

Even pro-establishment lawmaker Lam Tai-fai slammed the alliance for its latest initiative, saying that it will hurt the autonomy of schools and worsen the conflict between students and the government.

The initiative offers no help in forging a consensus on political reform, Lam argued. He also stressed that schools have their own policies and regulations to deal with class disruptions.

Some school administrators also opposed the alliance’s move, saying that instead of punishing the students who will join Occupy Central, they will provide special classes to accommodate them and allow them to catch up.

If the alliance is drawing flak for its anti-boycott initiative, it has no one to blame but itself.

There is such a thing as academic freedom, and students have the right — in fact, they are expected — to participate in social and political activities as members of society.

Learning to express their views and exercise their rights as citizens is part of their education. The rise of Scholarism, a student group founded in 2012, is a good example of Hong Kong students actively participating in the political life of the city. 

While the alliance claims that their campaign is to keep schools away from the “illegal and dangerous” activities of the Occupy Central movement, the fact remains that the alliance wants people to join their cause and stand behind them on the issue of electoral reform.

Instead of allowing people to express their views on the raging issue, the alliance is employing tactics from the dark era of the 1960s to suppress the voices of dissent.

A poll by Ming Pao Daily shows that Hong Kong people prefer to keep the old small-circle chief executive election, while support for the “Beijing nominates, Hong Kong people vote” plan is declining.

Even during the colonial period, Hong Kong people have always enjoyed their freedom of expression. They are mature enough to respect each other’s political views. 

The alliance should recognize this, instead of urging people to report those who hold views that are different from theirs. 

There is no need to go back to the dark days of the Cultural Revolution.

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Related stories:

You, sir, should step back and apologize

Anti-Occupy alliance sets up hotline to fight class boycott

Robert Chow faces heat over anti-Occupy Central campaign

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EJ Insight writer

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