Hongkongers protest too much, methinks

Hongkongers protest too much, methinks

Standing up for what you believe should be done with reason

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Op Ed Expression Expressway_L
Illustration: Matthew Murchie
Hong Kong is a city where citizens have a very high degree of freedom and rights. We have a stable political system, a clean government and a well-defined rule of law. There are many channels to voice our opinions.

Yet many people are never satisfied. In recent years, demonstrations have increased in frequency to the point where most locals don't bat an eyelid at the sight of hundreds of marching activists chanting slogans and yelling through megaphones. The police have also become very adept at setting up road blocks to facilitate protesters.

Peaceful protests can be an important channel for opinions to be heard, and the fact that people feel safe to demonstrate in public is testimony to Hong Kong's freedom of expression.

However, when people take to the streets regardless of the severity of a situation, governing bodies start to take protests less seriously. Being rash in their actions and unreasonable in their demands does not help the protesters' cause.

Staging publicity stunts like climbing onto the top of a flyover to protest against a government bill is not only dangerous, it's a huge nuisance for the hundreds of commuters affected by resulting road closures. Last June, a policeman was killed when he slipped and fell off the roof of a pedestrian walkway while trying to negotiate with a protester.

During such public disturbances, many protesters behave aggressively towards the police. Compared to most countries, our officers are remarkably professional and restrained. Activists who scream "Police brutality!" as they are calmly led to a police van demonstrate nothing more than their own craving for attention.

How often do protesters complain that their freedoms are suppressed because they are barred from entering delicate, invitees-only events? Demanding access to such meetings would be reasonable with a decent track record. With a reputation of charging on stage to interrupt speeches and lunging at government officials, it is little wonder that the police try their utmost to maintain a safe distance between demonstrators and high-ranking visiting ministers.

I've always maintained that there is nothing wrong with protesting or holding demonstrations, provided they are done the right way. If you want your voice to be heard, shouting loudly is usually not the most effective way forward. It pays to have some common sense and courtesy, and to argue with reason, not volume.

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3 Comments

yukiko

16:43pm

I'd like to contest your statement that we have many freedoms and rights. We may be a very rich country, but we are by no means free. We have virtually no voice when it comes to politics - an 'electoral committee' of 1200 get to vote for Chief Executive in a region with a population of 7 billion? -

Matthew Murchie

16:43pm

Thanks for the comment! True, I absolutely agree that our political system is by no means ideal or perfect. We don't yet have universal suffrage, for example.

However, to deny the fact that we are a remarkably free city would be ridiculous. As I've mentioned, we have freedom of expression, our pr

Matthew Murchie

16:43pm

By the way, I'm sure it was just a typing mistake, but the population of Hong Kong (which is a special administrative region, or a city, not a country) is 7 million, not 7 billion!