Hong Kong students need to have a safe platform to express their views

Chinese ideological violence is far reaching and leaves little space for peaceful protests to be heard

The Lennon Wall represents a place of solidarity and support for democracy in Hong Kong. Photo by: Zeh Daruwalla / The Peak

By: Tommy, SFU Alum

Where can we, Hongkongers, speak?

In early August, a group of Hong Kong students created a “Lennon Wall” of solidarity on the message board outside of the Bennett Library. They hoped to provide a platform for others to share their support and thoughts with the protestors in Hong Kong who are protesting against the amendments of the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance. However, messages on the board were repeatedly vandalized and ripped up until the SFSS erected a new wall outside of their offices where it could be protected. 

Similar incidents happened at the University of Queensland, Australia, ending with a violent altercation between pro-Hong Kong students and pro-China students. 

White terror (a feeling of fear produced by anonymous acts of political repression) and state terror make it more difficult day by day for people in Hong Kong to speak out for their democracy. It is important for Hong Kong students studying in Canada to have a place to peacefully protest on behalf of their homes.

China is able to exert its hegemony and oppression over people, even across oceans. The state seeks to generate blind Chinese ultranationalism and disinformation in order to manipulate its citizens and their emotions against people with different opinions. This traps Chinese expats in an ideological fantasy that embodies the oppressive policies of their government, abroad.

China also induces white terror through economic means that force corporations to obey the regime. Cathay Pacific and the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation are recent examples of how transnational firms surrender to the demands of the Chinese government due to their business relations with China. Executives and employees are being fired or have resigned because of actions carried out during time-off or because of things said on personal social media. This subsequently triggers a massive personnel change that moves pro-government, pro-China employees into these positions, and signals to locals and expats alike that their livelihoods are on the line — should they speak out.

The Hong Kong government is, of course, just as culpable as they try to shut our mouths by generating state terror through the use of force and police brutality. Police have labeled protesters as cockroaches, have treated apprehended individuals in an inhumane manner, and have carelessly deployed tear gas, pepper balls, and bean bag rounds. These instances have resulted in multiple injuries, including the loss of an eye suffered by one woman who was shot point blank in the face by a bean bag. And this does not even begin to address the rumours of torture carried out by the Hong Kong police behind closed doors — rumours strengthened by the fact that the police have a history of this kind of behaviour.

As we Hongkongers struggle to speak, the Hong Kong government has given up trying to communicate back by disregarding the multiple appeals of protestors despite two months of protests. Perhaps the government is trying to create an illusion that they are an ineffective one, providing a seemingly lawful excuse for the Chinese government to intervene. 

There is clearly no easy way out. However we can, as students, make the effort to understand the situation a little better. We could take a look or even share our thoughts on the new Lennon Wall at the Maggie Benston Centre. It is a symbolic gesture, one meant to reflect on a place where the freedom to speak a diversity of opinions is shrinking, bit by bit.