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A Different View From Hong Kong

Some Hong Kong residents want Beijing to crack down on protesters like these (TIME screengrab)

A reader writes:

I’m a semi-long time (5+ years?) reader of your blog. Since I was born in Hong Kong and my parents are back there now, I thought I would comment on what I’m hearing from their side.

Some quick background info: I was raised in Hong Kong until I was 11 when my parents decided to immigrate to Canada. With 1997 approaching and the uncertainty that came with China reclaiming Hong Kong, they felt that the Chinese regime could be very oppressive given what they had seen and heard during the Cultural Revolution in China (mid-60s-mid 70s). Fast forward to 2011, with both my brother and I grown up and working in the US, they decided to move back to Hong Kong and to retire there.

My parent’s perspective is that these protestors are destroying the city and those who were supportive of their actions initially (during the peaceful protests) are now viewing these whole movement with disgust. Here are some examples:

1) My mom was walking through the mall from the subway station to her apartment when suddenly over the PA system announcing the mall closing early because there are protestors coming and could cause destruction.

2) The subways were shut down and the payment card reader gates were destroyed at multiple stations. Now they hire new workers to manually scan each passenger’s card which creates a huge backlog at subway lines.

3) When traveling by car, there are protesters that have setup “checkpoints” to ensure that the driver and the passengers are supportive of their Free Hong Kong movement and demanded donation for their cause.

4) If a bystander so much as to suggest that perhaps there are better ways to approach these issue, he/she will get shouted at and possibly beat up. When my parents and I are chatting on the phone, they never mentioned any of this if they are in a public place.

Perhaps there is a generational gap here. My parents feel that most of these protestors are being manipulated by teachers / professors who have no skin in the game. These protestors are often students who are supported financially by their parents. My parents grew up poor. My dad never even started high school and had to start working at age 12 to support his mom and sister because my grandpa passed away early and unexpectedly. To him, to change the system, you work hard, move up the career ladder and initiate change when you are in the position of power. Otherwise, you are just spoiled and entitled.

Another common viewpoint here in the west is the issue with police brutality. Over in Hong Kong, my parents and their peers feel the opposite – that the police aren’t doing enough to stop the violence and all the destruction that’s taking place. They feel that in any other country, these types of protests (when they turned from peaceful demonstration to violence) would have gotten shutdown by the police immediately and without question. Yet somehow, in Hong Kong, they just let these things drag on and on, which is infuriating to them.

UPDATE: Y’all see what LeBron James had to say tonight?

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UPDATE.2: Reader Mrtall:

I’m another fairly long-term reader who’s never previously posted a comment, but like the reader whom you’ve quoted in this post, I have to speak up at this point also.

I’m an American who’s lived in Hong Kong for nearly 30 years. I was here through the handover, I’m married to a Hong Kong native, and my daughter attends a ‘local’ high school (i.e. not an international school catering to expats and westernized Chinese). No one can attain a full perspective on what’s going on in HK right now, but I think I’ve been able to see quite a bit.

Your reader’s list of ‘protester’ actions is absolutely correct. It anything, it’s too mild and understated.

The protests here went through an initial phase that was broad-based, with lots of support across HK society. But even at the early stages signs of radicalization were present, and in the months since, the radicals have almost wholly hijacked the movement. This ominous devolution has not been reflected in the western media. The protesters remain media darlings, succeeding in doing what no US politician or pundit can achieve, i.e. uniting US opinion on their side. They’ve gotten props from Nancy Pelosi — and, in just the past few days, from Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley.

The protesters’ — more acurately, rioters’ — activities are a carbon copy of antifa. They dress in all black, demand the anonymity of masking, destroy property with willful abandon, and physically attack the police and anyone who disagrees with them with increasingly murderous rage. Their tactics and attitudes evince the Red Guards, not the Founding Fathers.

Just this past weekend one of them ambushed a policeman who was patrolling an MTR (i.e. metro) station that was being vandalized. (Our family had been through that station just the day before.) The protester sneaked up behind the cop and cut his throat with a box cutter, deeply enough to cause profuse arterial bleeding. The officer made it, but might just as easily not have.

Jesus said ‘by their fruits you shall know them’. What are the fruits of the ‘brave young people’ you’ve lionized? Chaos, destruction, division, fear — and, sooner or later, death. If they had stuck to the high road and stayed peaceful, they might have done some good. But I fear it’s far too late for that now. The harm they have done to Hong Kong is incalculable. I love this city and its people, and it breaks my heart to see it this way.

UPDATE.3: This LeBron James image is going around Twitter tonight:

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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