The cowards who hide behind free speech

September 28, 2017 10:00
Hong Kong’s opposition camp is being accused of double standards as it failed to condemn netizens who called for violence against Junius Ho after the pro-Beijing lawmaker made “stupid” remarks on independence advocates. Photo: HKEJ

When I have something to say, I say it openly. Hong Kong’s free society allows me to say or do whatever I want as long as I stay within the limits of the law. I don’t hide behind a pseudonym when I speak my mind in columns. I always use my real name. Whenever I say Anson Chan Fang On-sang is a fake democrat, and I have said so many times, I always use my real name.

Hong Kong's opposition leaders always try to claim the moral high ground but I am never afraid to openly expose them whenever they use double-standards. The opposition's 22 legislators issued a statement condemning establishment camp legislator Junius Ho Kwan-yiu for agreeing at a rally that independence advocates should be "killed".

It is their right to condemn Ho’s ill-advised comment but why didn’t they likewise condemn netizens who called for violence against Ho and his family and even posted a picture of him? Why didn’t they condemn the former Hong Kong University student union leader Billy Fung Jing-en who shouted a Cantonese slang word that in effect called for HKU Council chairman Arthur Li Kwok-cheung to be struck dead when he and others stormed a council meeting?

I don’t fear retaliation from the Liaison Office whenever I say the establishment should find its own voice instead of always taking its cue from Beijing. I have often said that many mainland officials still can’t understand how Hong Kong people think after 20 years of reunification. I have said their inability to understand Hong Kong culture is partly to blame for the political divide we now have in Hong Kong. My free speech rights allow me to point fingers at the opposition, the establishment camp, and Beijing whenever I feel they are in the wrong. I do it without hiding behind a face mask or pseudonym.

Unknown people recently put up a poster on the Education University’s so-called democracy wall taunting education undersecretary Christine Choi Yuk-lin, seen as a Beijing loyalist, for her son’s suicide. When a picture of two young suspects taken by a security camera was unintentionally leaked to the media, student leaders and the opposition accused the Education University of violating the privacy rights of the two suspects.

I was flabbergasted. How can these people claim to be taking the moral high ground by defending free speech when they callously congratulate a grieving mother for the suicide of her son but dare not identify themselves? It is their right to mock a grieving mother but at least do it openly. There is only one word for people who exercise their free speech rights anonymously: cowards. These people brand themselves as the champions of democracy but the fact is they don’t even understand the basic meaning of democracy.

Many of Hong Kong's universities have so-called democracy walls where students put up posters expressing their opinions. Posters calling for Hong Kong independence have appeared on the democracy walls of some university campuses. Many of these posters were put up by people who didn’t have the guts to identify themselves. Surely, it’s a joke to call them democracy walls when the posters on these walls are unsigned.

A pillar of democracy is that you are allowed to say what you want as long as you stay within the law. Hong Kong is not North Korea or even the mainland where you could end up in prison or worse for speaking your mind. Some legal experts have opined that calling for independence violates the Basic Law and those doing so could be charged. Many Hong Kong people have called for independence in the past. Some of them even rioted in Mong Kok last year.

But the government has so far not charged a single person for advocating independence or sedition. Those arrested in connection with the Mong Kok riot were charged with other offences. I do not believe the government would charge anyone for advocating independence unless people use force to do so.

I call on all the cowards who put posters calling for independence, congratulating a grieving mother for her son’s suicide, and congratulating a grieving widow for her husband’s death in a mainland prison to come forward and identify themselves. I can assure those who put up the congratulations posters they will not be prosecuted. I will defend them to the best of my ability if the government prosecutes them. The only court they will face is the court of public opinion. The same goes for those who put up the independence posters. Facing the court of public opinion goes hand in hand with democracy and free speech. You should be brave enough to face public criticism if you criticize people.

Even if in the unlikely event the government does prosecute those who put up independence posters, isn’t it worth fighting for your cause if you believe in it? If you think it is your free speech right to peacefully call for independence, do so openly and then fight for that right in court if necessary. I have full faith in the independence of our judiciary even though some in the opposition have groundlessly accused our judges of colluding with the government. For the record, I have no problem with people discussing Hong Kong independence peacefully even though I know independence is a fool’s dream.

It has been over a month since the callous poster went up taunting the suicide of Choi’s son. A picture of two suspects has been widely circulated on social media. It is hard to believe the Education University is still clueless about who put up the poster or whether the two suspects in the leaked picture are the university’s students. I call on the university to name and shame the culprits.

What privacy did Arthur Li and other HKU council members have when Billy Fung called a press conference to name those who voted against Johannes Chan Man-mun being a pro-vice-chancellor? What privacy did council members have when Commercial Radio aired a secretly-recorded tape of the confidential council meeting? What privacy did Howard Lam Tsz-kin have when pictures of him from a security camera was leaked to the media before he had even been charged for allegedly lying about mainland agents abducting and torturing him? Why didn’t the opposition and student leaders defend the privacy rights of Li and other HKU council members?

If the Education University refuses to name the culprits for privacy reason, I call on those responsible to have the guts to own up. Don’t exercise your democratic and free speech rights under the cover of darkness. Be brave enough to do it in broad daylight. Otherwise, you are only insulting the noble cause of democracy.

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A Hong Kong-born American citizen who has worked for many years as a journalist in Hong Kong, the USA and London.