<span style=”text-decoration: underline;”>Global phenomenon</span>
During the Hong Kong protest that lasted for 80 days, I became curious as to whether it is a global phenomenon for peaceful protests to turn violent. I found that demonstrations about concerns ranging from student fees and teacher salaries to drugs, discrimination, and even the very issue of violence, did inevitably turn violent. This pattern is seen in world events that transpired in the last 12 months, from California to Missouri and New York in the U.S., from Britain to Italy and Belgium in Europe, from Egypt to Kuwait and Yemen in the Middle East, from Cambodia to India and Pakistan in Asia, from Mexico to Brazil and Venezuela in Latin America, from Nigeria to Kenya and Ivory Coast in Africa, from Christmas Island to Papua New Guinea and Australia in the South Pacific, and from Haiti to Dominican Republic in the Caribbean. It seems all too common for crowds to take to the streets in pushing for change, and for the freedoms of assembly and expression to be violated in the process.
Coming back to what was happening in my home city under the Mainland Chinese rule of “one country, two systems,” it is understandable how the slogan of “love and peace” of the Umbrella Movement and its fight for more extensive electoral reforms and free-spirited interpretations of the law could appeal to students. What is perplexing is how the youth became determined to impose themselves illegally against the will of ordinary citizens, and how they felt justified and deserving of the public’s “understanding and patience” in bringing the economy to a standstill, claiming that they would take responsibility for their actions. With industry-estimated losses of $7 million a day for food and beverage outlets alone, one wonders just how any of these young people will be in the position to make up for the bankruptcies and job losses caused when most of them are still living with their families and do not make an income.
Political issues aside, their actions illustrate the complexities of youth who may be rebellious enough to be different from their parents, but not so courageous as to stand out from the crowd. In their search of self-identity, they are desirous of a mission bigger than themselves and passionate about “fixing” the world or making it a better place, but lacking in wisdom and perspective, a sense of direction, and a toolbox of their own.
The fact that there is opposition in all things gave Charles Dickens hope, and continues to strengthen those who believe. Amid the extreme sentiment and chaos that marked the Umbrella Movement and the rumors, speculations, and global media frenzy that surrounded or even hailed the lawbreakers for their cause, a very different voice was heard. It was more powerful than any political demand or argument for justice. It was not in the headlines or the breaking news. It was the voice of a junior-college student on a YouTube video, whom I will refer to as Hui. Her reflection at the peak of Hong Kong’s most intense social movement in 60 years was an inspiration, one possibly comparable to hearing Confucius himself on tape. In fact, what Hui shared was unmistakably the maestro’s counsel and teachings.