Following the Occupy Movement, Hong Kong society has become increasingly polarized. And the frustration and the sense of powerlessness among the public over the futility of the movement has led to a temporary but widespread indifference to politics in general.
As the saying goes, a fortress is always conquered from the inside. If we allow this sort of indifferent sentiment to spread and prevail among the public, the foundation of democracy will be gradually eroded.
In order to resuscitate our pro-democracy movement, let the green shoots of democracy grow in our society and keep the political awakening of our citizens alive, we must make a concerted effort to strengthen and consolidate the civil society through “community organizing”.
Community organizing refers to an organized effort on community level to rally the public to carry out social justice in daily lives. It is also a way to promote democratic values and cultivate the growth of civil society through community empowerment.
The key to success is to raise public awareness about the importance of upholding equality, justice and democratic values in the community, and to provide opportunities for people from different walks of life to share their views and aspirations, as well as understand each other’s concerns and needs, so that we can create a more pluralistic society that embraces democratic values.
One of the most recent community organizing initiatives that are underway is the “Community Listening Movement”.
It is a movement that encourages members of the community to listen to each other in order to find common ground on the future development of their community, and to ponder over their own personal issues from a social context, thereby igniting a passion for change among community members.
After its first successful Community Listening Movement in Sham Shui Po in 2013, the “Sham Shui Po Citizens”, a civilian organization advocating civil liberties, held the second such program in November 2015 and invited a considerable number of district council election candidates to join.
During the movement members of different social sectors, such as the youth, women, the elderly, the disabled, the unemployed and ethnic minorities, shared their personal aspirations and views on different issues such as how to use community resources more effectively and how to better cater to the needs of community residents.
They also listened to the concerns and needs of each other. In the end 27 candidates who attended the meetings agreed to incorporate their views and needs into their election platforms. Among the candidates, 12 were elected.
Community organizing is a marathon rather than a sprint, and requires long-term commitment in terms of time, effort and resources. Only by making democracy a daily practice of the average individual can we nurture the growth of our civil society and keep the pro-democracy movement alive.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Feb. 24.
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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