Planned economy of virtue|Adrian Chow Pok Yin

Published (HKT): 2020.11.05 14:56

High school economics has been telling us this law of supply and demand: when the supply of something increases, its price will go down; when its supply is scarce, its price will go up; when demand for it rises, its price rises; and when demand drops, its price drops. When we apply this law to HK and the “goods” concerned is common sense, conscience, virtue or altruism, what will happen?

Social worker Ms. Chen Hung Sau was charged with riot for staying at the protest frontline in Wanchai and exhorting the police to calm down during a protest in August last year. She had been performing this role in numerous protests in HK since June 2019, uttering words of mediation between protestors and riot police with her feeble loudspeaker in long-winded fashion. She is much more a peacemaker, albeit annoying sometimes, than an agitator. In trying to cool down overheated confrontations and avoid bloodshed, she sacrificed her time, risked her own safety and even got prosecuted by the government. Though her case was ruled no case to answer in late September, it’s likely to be appealed by the Department of Justice, according to reports. Chen’s nightmare continues.

At the time of writing, RTHK TV producer Ms. Choi Yuk Ling was home-arrested by the police for apparently contravening some provisions against data disclosure from public transportation records. She masterminded the episode of “Hong Kong Connection”, a social affairs TV program of RTHK, that pointed further towards a possible collusion of the police and the white-clad gangsters during the 721 Incident last year. She just casted reasonable doubts, spoke out the truth and presented the program for public interest, but is now being persecuted.

These cases show how the price of common sense, conscience, virtue or altruism skyrockets in nowadays' HK. Is it huge in demand or scarce in supply? The former, definitely yes, especially when we are face-thrown so much injustice, absurdity and hopelessness every day. Hence we celebrate when a judge rules along common sense by stating that a person in black-bloc with protective gears and being present at the scene of protest is not necessarily a rioter; we marvel at Dr. Chuang Chuk Kwan’s duteous, relentless and sustained effort in monitoring COVID in spite of her family difficulties; we feel hopeful when nameless young people are seen still up keeping their communities' Lennon Walls despite fading limelight and the rising risk of being attacked; and we shed tears when watching groups of the elderly staggering along the wall of riot police trying to protect the teen protesters behind.

Scarce in supply, even more so, especially when the establishment actively punishes altruistic deeds and encourages anything otherwise. Hence the flight pilot broadcasting “add oil Hongkongers” or the primary school teacher designing a worksheet about free speech got fired; the bus driver who honked at protest site and was charged with dangerous driving is about to be denied legal support from his employer unless he pleads guilty; the 12 HK youths who innocently fought for freedom in different manners at different times last year are now facing some unknown but utmost terrors in the Yantian Detention Centre; and a new multi-platform channel is rumored to be set up by the HK Police to facilitate informant reports on people suspected of breaking the National Security Law.

According to those high school economic teachings, the ultimate twist of a market economy is such government interventions as the imposition of embargo, thereby creating an artificial vacuum in supply. What we’re facing is something similar, where virtue is severely penalized and forbidden, leaving its demand ever escalating, and hence its price being jacked up astronomically. Therefore one can face life imprisonment if he/she openly sings “Glory to HK” with a view of boosting peer morale but is seen by the authority as inciting secession; one can be “disappeared” by having published a book containing some alleged state secrets; or one who somehow has created protest publicity materials can become a floating corpse for unknown reasons. These people are not the only ones paying the price, but the whole society too by forgoing decent souls and hope. HK once prided herself on her free market, but now withers to become a planned economy of virtue.

(Adrian Chow Pok Yin, qualified HK lawyer, composer/lyricist/arranger/music producer, CASH music award winner, and Council Member (and Music Group Chairman) of the HK Arts Development Council.)

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