If I may, please allow me to share why I hold freedom of expression and freedom of assembly so dearly for Hong Kong.
After my study in Canada, I couldn’t wait to come back to Hong Kong, because I wanted to be here for the historical moment of the handover.
I worked in the textile industry, and traveled extensively in Mainland China from early 80′s to mid 90′s. During that time, I witnessed the opening up of China and the economic progress of the country, thinking that I was also part of the process when I brought management skills and business to factories. And I took pride in that as a Chinese. There and then, I also acquired better understanding of poverty and the importance of rule of law.
I came from the grassroots. My family was one of the nine families living in a seven hundred square feet unit. The flat was densely populated with 60 people, with countless rats and occasionally, snake. Parents were addicted to gambling. Young men died of tuberculosis, some turned addicted to narcotics, young girls grew up to be prostitutes. My mother insisted on sending us to school, and as a result, our family got out of poverty. That is why I was keen on education, good parenting and giving second chance to young offenders. But my childhood experience is nothing compared to the poverty in the Mainland.
Besides coldness and hunger, poverty in the Mainland meant giving up self-respect and corruption practice. I still remember the time when customers in the same restaurant would come over to grab the leftover from our table before we left, and even had a fight with the waitress over the right to claim the leftover food in our presence.
And on the same evening, I was treated to dinner in the factory, with rounds and rounds of drinks, and over 20 courses of meals. There were three big bowls of dessert for 10 people. The food was barely touched. I could imagine that it is a creation of leftover food on purpose. They would be ended up in kitchen of the factory’s senior management. It’s sheer abuse of power caused by poverty.
People did not trust the police. When a pedestrian was caught jay walking, he would be fined for RMB 3.50 with no receipt issued by the police. If the offender insisted on having a receipt, the fine would be increased to RMB 5.00. That was personal experience of my colleague in Beijing.
Common folks resolved conflict with violence without reporting to the police. There was a time when I saw a pedestrian who was almost hit by a bicycle. The pedestrian pushed the cyclist away, and it was the cyclist who was injured. That was the way people protect themselves when they don’t trust the law enforcement.
When we had meetings with the factory management, the production manager and marketing manager would be present, but the final say always went to a manager without portfolio. I learnt later that he was the representative of the Communist Party stationed in the factory. Quite often, the recommendation by the professional got declined by the Party representative. Yet, nobody would dare oppose even though his decision might not be good for the factory.
Having said all these, people that I have worked with were good natured people. They were affectionate parents, dutiful sons and daughters. But they were all very quiet.
When people dare not speak up to stop the wrongful deed of the Administration, or any institution, corruption grows like mushroom, even crime against humanity like the Cultural Revolution or holocaust could not be stopped, in which, personal greed, vengeance took the convenience to do further harm because there was no check on abuse of power when systems collapsed.
I wished Hong Kong would not go onto the same path after the handover. Voice of the people is indispensable for prevention of mis-governance. Rallies and protests are nuisance for those in power. Opposition who asks for debate and deliberation would slow down the executive branch, but it helps to avoid irreversible havoc. I believe that peaceful assembly, the voice of opposition, is beneficial to the community. It is the duty of a responsible government to let the voice of the people be heard.
Freedom of Assembly and Expression was provided for in the ICCPR International Covenant of Civil Political Rights, which is meant to resolve conflict with peaceful means and to avoid another crime against humanity.
The present executive branch apparently does not have a listening ear to the voice of the people. Now, there is no opposition in the legislature. The community looks upon the judiciary to uphold justice
It is unfortunate for Hong Kong that mutual trust between the Administration and Hong Kong people was severely undermined in the past two years. To prevent anger and distrust from upward spiraling, I believe reconciliation is the ultimate way out. I wish we have all learned a lesson. We must have faith in peace, and we must trust the Hong Kong people.
With these words. I yield myself to Your Honour.
Ho Sau-lan, Cyd