Date
21 October 2019
The idea that everything, including sex, can be bought and sold, and that ideals like justice, love and liberty have no place in society can be expected to come from someone thriving in Hong Kong’s materialistic culture, says the author. Photo: Bloomberg
The idea that everything, including sex, can be bought and sold, and that ideals like justice, love and liberty have no place in society can be expected to come from someone thriving in Hong Kong’s materialistic culture, says the author. Photo: Bloomberg

No, it’s not about money, or sex

During a recent interview on Radio Television Hong Kong’s program Backchat, Executive Councillor Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fan expressed her dismay at a story in which a 14-year-old girl was allegedly brainwashed into giving “free sex” to frontline protesters. She deemed this was a “real case”, although it was based on hearsay – second-hand knowledge concerning “the daughter of her friend’s friend”.

What is atrocious about Law’s remarks is not only her claim that she had “direct knowledge” or her attempt to generalize this “knowledge” to make unfounded allegations about Hong Kong protesters. It is also what she insinuated through her story: first, free sex is bad; and second, young men have joined the frontlines of protests to get free sex.

Good sex should be free, unless mutual admiration, respect, and love are the currencies. If adult protesters meet and fall in love and end up having sex, there is nothing shameful or cheap about the act. Yet the average young man (or woman) in Hong Kong should be able to find sex without going to the protests. No matter how sex-starved one can get, there is no need to risk one’s safety or well-being for the sake of free sex.

On second thought, Law’s comments were not entirely out of line. To a certain extent, the idea that everything, including sex, can be bought and sold, and that ideals like justice, love, and liberty have no place in society can be expected to come from someone thriving in Hong Kong’s longstanding materialistic – and increasingly corrupt culture.

Lately, a renowned Hong Kong writer bemoaned that had the current protests taken place in 1984, the year when the Sino-British Joint Declaration was signed, Hong Kong’s fate might well have been different. His sentiment was widely shared by members of the older generation. Indeed, Hongkongers either chose to flee their homes or kept their heads down to focus on money-making. As the Chinese economy became prosperous after the Tiananmen massacre of 1989, they became even more oblivious to what the looming handover could entail for the city: so long as money could be made, how could things go wrong?

Many older members of society, now regretful of their passivity 35 years ago, have joined hands with the younger protesters. Yet many billionaires and so-called elite members of society have remained resentful of the loss of incomes that (they believe) the protests have caused them, or have simply failed to understand how the love of liberties and hope for long-term gains can trump personal comfort, security, and short-term benefits. Hence, they keep insisting on the role of foreign powers in these protests. There are so many protesters and not everybody gets paid – if some of these young people have protested not for money, then they must have done it for sex.

Coincidentally, I graduated from the same secondary school as Law did. I recall my student days when we – especially those in senior forms – were encouraged to give back to the school and society by taking part in extra-curricular activities we enjoyed. Given that university admissions were driven by grades, those unpaid volunteer activities brought students no substantial or immediate benefits other than the joy and satisfaction of dedicating time and effort to worthy causes and building friendships with like-minded peers. Either Law was not a very dedicated student, or she had long forgotten the spirit our school instilled in its students.

In A Man for All Seasons, a play based on the life of Sir Thomas More, the counselor of King Henry VIII of England, More disagrees that “every man has his price” and that people can be bought with money, pleasure, or suffering. A person of conscience, More was executed by the king for abiding by his principles and eventually venerated in the Catholic Church as a saint.

We are no saints. Perhaps each of us should strive to raise our “price” so that we would not be easily tempted to betray our beliefs and values and surrender to tyranny. Nor would we be readily deterred from following our conscience and doing what is right.

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RT/CG

Regular contributor to a Canadian newspaper and former columnist for a Chinese-language newspaper