Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Good Guys vs. Bad Guys 

Storming of the Legislative Council on July 2nd

This video (below) is a very good overview of what has been going on this summer in Hong Kong. If you are unclear about the history of this problem, you might want to listen to the podcast I did in June which explains the events that have led up to the current crisis.

But if you are basically familiar with the history, you can probably forego that. So let me just outline some of the key issues that seem to define this conflict this summer.

One thing I have mentioned as a frustration for me personally is the level of contempt for the police on the part of these privileged (read spoiled) young people. Now, if there is police brutality, that is an issue. For example, in 2014 there was actually a video of police beating a guy after he had been handcuffed. Clearly that is abuse. But in the current demonstrations, I have seen headlines like "Police use tear gas on crowds." This sort of thing baffles me. When crowds are becoming unruly, tear gas is certainly better than shooting real bullets. It clears the area. So a headline like "Police use tear gas" is essentially the same as "Police act appropriately and with compassion toward demonstrators." Can tear gas ever be used inappropriately? Sure. But you have to show that. A headline like "Police use tear gas on crowds" is bewildering, because it does not indicate anything inappropriate.

Rubber bullets are a little stronger. A rubber bullet can blind you if you get hit in the eye. But rubber bullets are certainly appropriate if crowds are charging the police. I saw protesters throwing umbrellas at the police. I did not personally see them throwing bricks, but I did hear about some of that, and I did see protesters digging up bricks from the street. Rubber bullets are very important when you have that level of aggressiveness. So when I hear that rubber bullets are being used, I look to see if there has been any agressiveness on the part of the demonstrators that justifies this. Throwing any kind of projectile at police is an open invitation for them to use rubber bullets, and I would fully support the use of rubber bullets in such a situation.

Basically, I see a divide in the current situation. Before June 15th, the demonstrations were mostly peaceful and very impressive. On July 15th, the bill was suspended, which meant it was basically dead. At that point, the demonstrators should have declared victory and gone home. But they didn't. They had a huge march the next day (June 16th). Even that did not bother me, because it was peaceful. I just think it should have been a victory celebration. But the demonstrators were not satisfied to have the bill dead. They had further demands. They wanted the chief executive to resign, and they wanted the bill to be officially withdrawn. They also wanted all arrests of demonstrators to be nullified.

They were being completely unreasonable. The purpose of demonstrations is to communicate the feelings of the people to the government, not to replace the government. But the demonstrators essentially wanted the powers that be to relinquish their positions of authority and allow the demonstrators to run Hong Kong. They became aggressive and violent. On July 2nd, they stormed and vandalized the legislative counsel. That's when I completely lost sympathy for them. As Margaret Thatcher said back in 1981. when and IRA terrorist Bobby Sands went on a hunger strike in an attempt to be given political prisoner status, "Crime is crime is crime." You see, Bobby Sands was not a political prisoner. He was not arrested merely for stating his political views. I guess you could call a bomb a type of statement, but it is also an instrument of terror. By the same token, vandalizing the Legislative Counsel could be considered a type of statement. But it is also a crime. Such destruction of property cannot be tolerated in civil society. Bobby Sands was demanding things that might have been considered appropriate for someone who was imprisoned merely for his political views, but not appropriate for someone who blows things up.

Many years ago, I worked in the prison system in Oregon. Every prisoner has a way to figure out how his particular crime was somehow justified, or not that bad. If we let criminals decide which punishment is appropriate for them, there will be nothing left of society.

As I said in my podcast, I fully sympathize with concerns about the extradition bill. But the young people have become the bad guys. Why do I say this? Let's take a look. Which of the following activities are things good guys do and which are things bad guys do?

  1. Carrying protest signs.
  2. Chanting protest slogans in unison.
  3. Marching together with other throngs of protestors.
  4. Scaling fences and tearing down barricades.
  5. Breaking and entering.
  6. Spray painting graffiti on the walls of the Legilative chamber.
  7. Throwing umbrellas, bricks, water bottles, metal balls or liquid drain cleaner at cops.
  8. Blocking roads and shutting down traffic so that people can't go to work.
  9. Tying up a journalist and tormenting him.
  10. Fighting with police and taking their batons away.
  11. Shutting down the airport so that all flights are cancelled.
  12. Charging the police en masse so that they have to draw their firearms.
  13. Demanding that they (the demonstrators, not the people via democratic elections) be allowed to unseat elected officials.
  14. Demanding that they and they alone be exempt from punishment for breaking the law.
  15. Proclaiming their belief in the rule of law while they are systematically breaking it.
I would list the first three as things that good guys do. I am and have always been a strong believer in the value and power of peaceful demonstration. But the rest are things that bad guys do.

One positive note: The summer is almost over. I predict that when the new semester starts, many of these privileged young people will go back to school and the protests will slowly dissipate. We'll see.



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