A lesson from the Hong Kong protests for Merdeka

Money isn’t everything. Everyone knows that. In practice, however, for some people it is. Leaders who practise it to silence dissent and diversity and suppress human rights are simply oppressors. In Hong Kong, apparently, the young people who took to the streets have realised it and are speaking up — at a price.

Nearly two million people protesting. That’s about one-third the population of Hong Kong and while that may be a minority out of the 1.4 billion people in China, it is a significant minority among Hong Kong’s nearly 7.4 million people. So, the sense of dejection is quite high in Hong Kong. Yet, are their leaders hearing them?

According to news reports, the Beijing government just wants Hong Kongers to enjoy their wealth, maintain their family ties and for that, keep quiet. But, apparently, young people want more. They have perceived that a future without human rights despite wealth is oppressive and they see that better future in the democratic rights they currently enjoy but which they also see as being surreptitiously and surely whittled away by the Beijing government.

The extradition bill that triggered the protests was just a trigger. It would allow Hong Kongers to be tried in Chinese courts where they have no confidence their rights will be respected. Hence the protests and calls for maintaining the democratic freedoms as agreed upon under the one country two systems arrangement of the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997.

That seems to be the cry of the young people and they are willing to fight for it. They wear helmets and masks to protect their identities for fear of being singled out for arrests and coping with tear gas, but they are savvy enough to hold alternative press conferences where they present their views which the mainland media doesn’t carry.

In one such video (accessible on YouTube), one of the frontliners — they call themselves such to hide the identity of the leaders who are always targetted — said they wear these helmets and masks and, in their pockets, carry their respective last testament and will! Brave young people who are willing to die for a more humane nation!

At these alternative press conferences, the frontliners reveal some of the tactics of the establishment such as the use of white terror, which is the use of fear to suppress protests. According to some sources, in Hong Kong, there are consequences if anyone is found supporting the protests or pro-democracy, as in the case of the Cathay Pacific staff who were fired after pressure from China for expressing their support for the protests.

The frontliners also revealed the use of expired tear gas, agent provocateurs and triads to create violence among the demonstrators.

Maybe the protests will die down in time, like the umbrella demonstrations of 2014. But, it may take another trigger to draw them back. If the issues remain unresolved, just one other trigger may be sufficient for an explosion everyone will regret.

These young people are willing to take the risks for their ultimate goal of democratic freedoms. Hong Kong is the third-largest financial capital of the world. It is considered a developed economy with a GDP per capita of around US$61,400 as against China’s US$16,700 (climbing).

They have wealth, yet they know that feeding the belly isn’t enough. There’s always something more to life: freedoms which allow you to choose and design your own lifestyle, preferences, religions and political and human rights all of which add to making one a full, living human being.

Leaders who don’t understand that should step down or be thrown out and let others who do take over. Leaders who insist that you are enjoying a good deal under their leadership and, therefore, just stomach the injustices for the sake of peace and the status quo and carry on, quell the human spirit, which is a terrible human crime. When the human spirit dies, one dies and what is left behind is really a shell and shadow of the real person you want to be but can’t.

The Hong Kong issues are more complicated than what is described here. I have just summarized some of the basic issues to zero in on this one point: People want more. A progressive leadership strives to accommo0date those aspirations, not suppress them or play you out of what is promised.

That is also my Merdeka message to Malaysia.

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