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Civil Disobedience Reflects Dissatisfaction with Government

Originally published in the SCMP, 17th September 2014

Your paper published on the 15th September a letter from Mark Peaker that claimed that the level of law enforcement in this city is “laughable” and this encouraged young people to take to the streets to protest (Enforcement of the Law Laughable – SCMP September 15th.) He writes that, “students are confident about engaging in civil disobedience and breaking the law because they believe they shall get away with it”.

Mr Peaker does not seem to understand that civil disobedience is to symbolically break the law to question the legitimacy of authority. To argue that students will break laws just because they can is both a misreading of human nature and of our relationship with authority.

People do not break the law because they can, just as we do not abide by it because it is rigorously enforced. We abide by the law because we believe in what the law represents.

Students and the majority of Hong Kong people do not believe the framework for political reform proposed by the NPCSC will provide the democratic reform this city so desperately needs. 

This is not for any high democratic ideal, and certainly not for any separatist leanings; it is because Hong Kong people want to believe again that they have a government that will listen to their concerns over housing, on how public money is being used, on cross-border immigration, the decline in press freedom and the deteriorating quality of life for the vast majority of Hong Kong residents.

Surveys show that the majority of Hong Kong people would reject the proposed framework, and that this majority is highest among the younger and educated (70%). Many of those who would vote in favour of the proposal do so only out of a sense of resignation. 

The act of civil disobedience proposed by OCLP may not be to everyones liking, but its motivation, the dissatisfaction it represents and what it seeks to challenge is representative of both a reasonable and overwhelmingly popular position.

Civil disobedience is supported, if not in action than in principle, by far more than, in Mr Peaker’s words, “vocal protesters who still have their underwear washed and ironed by their mothers”. Most students I know wash their own clothes. Every person I know living, as Mr Peaker does, on The Peak does not.

The act of breaking the law is a considered and calculated gambit. It may prove to be a poor bet. However, I, for one consider Hong Kong people above the need to be coerced in to abiding by the law. 

Filed under: Politics

About the Author

Posted by

Born and raised in Hong Kong, Evan is a writer, essayist and commentator. He has written and been published on a broad range of topics, from art, literature and aesthetic, to social and political commentaries, with a particular focus on issues of culture and identity.

4 Comments

  1. Pingback: Civil Disobedience Reflects Dissatisfaction with Government | 主場博客

  2. Moonah

    Students and the majority of Hong Kong people do not believe the framework for political reform proposed by the NPCSC will provide the democratic reform this city so desperately needs.

    TRY CONDUCTING A POLL AND YOU WILL SEE, AS VOCALLY WITNESSED IN MONGKOK TODAY, THAT THE MAJORITY OF HONG KONG PEOPLE ARE FED UP WITH THESE ANNOYING STUDENTS AND THEIR PUERILE DEMANDS.

    LAWS ARE THERE TO PROTECT EVERYONE, CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE IS AGAINST THE LAW AND IT IS NOT REPRESENTATIVE OF ANY SYMBOLIC GESTURE OTHER THAN SELF INDULGENCE AND SELF IMPORTANCE.

    MR. FOWLER SHOULD BASE HIS ARGUMENTS ON FACTS RATHER THAN HIS PERCEIVED PERCEPTIONS, AND QUITE CLEAR JEALOUSY OF PEOPLE WHO LIVE ON HONG KONG’S PRESTIGIOUS PEAK AREA!

    PEOPLE ARE NOT CO-ERCED IN TO OBEING THE LAW – IT IS A REQUIREMENT OF ANY CIVILISED SOCIETY AND TO STATE OTHERWISE DEMONSTRATES THE WRITERS IGNORANCE.

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    • There have been three public opinion polls conducted. All show that the percentage of people who believe Legco should vote against the framework is double those who support it. The only poll not commissioned by a paper, the Public Opinion and Political Development Studies poll conducted by the Centre for Communication and Public Opinion of the CUHK, found that 53.7% said Legco should vote against the proposed framework if people holding different political views to Beijing were not allowed to run. Only 29.3% supported the proposed framework.

      It is worth also noting that many who support the framework do so out of a sense of resignation, as they believe HK has no other choice. From my own informal questioning of people in the “yes” camp this seems to be the standard position. Thus the true level of actual support for the proposed framework is likely to be far less than the polls suggest.

      As a side note, I may not live on the Peak, but I am certainly not jealous. Whilst I was raised mostly in the New Territories, my mother lived for many years in mid-levels and I had and still have close friends who were brought up on the Peak. Your penultimate paragraph is, frankly, more revealing of your own prejudice than mine.

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  3. Moonah

    Hardly jealous Mr. Fowler as I live on the Peak myself and have found after 40 years of living in Hong Kong the constant drivel that emanates from your mouth, weary!

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