Chow Pak-chin says we should provide its youth with accurate information, a safe environment and motivation in order to achieve their ideals
The punishments recently meted out to two of the four Hong Kong Polytechnic University students for clashing with university staff over the posting of pro-independence messages on a bulletin board reminded me of the fall from grace of the localist Edward Leung Tin-kei.
Leung was jailed for six years for rioting during the 2016 Lunar New Year disturbances in Mong Kok, while his co-defendant Lo Kin-man also received seven years.
The PolyU pair comprised of graduate student Gerald Ho Jun-him and former student union president Lam Wing-hang. Ho was expelled while Lam was suspended for a year.
The two might have got away with a lesser punishment in comparison, but all of them have, in fact, met the same fate, which is having their futures damaged beyond repair.
Following the illegal “Occupy Central” movement in 2014 and subsequent related protests, we have seen a lot of young people, students included, being misled by not only radical “democratic” politicians, but also sadly by their teachers and principals. They have been recruited and brainwashed to fight a dirty political fight as their proxies. As soon as these youngsters were arrested and sentenced, they were discarded for having lost their value; they face a bleak future on their own.
Many of our young people are idealistic and have a fervent love of Hong Kong. Hence they will continue to be targets of radicalization ... We need to strike a balance between educating and encouraging them to be assertive and willing to express themselves over issues that concern their future
The list of these people used as “cannon fodder” is extensive. Former University of Hong Kong student leaders Billy Fung Jing-en and Colman Li Fung-kei were found guilty of obstruction in a chaotic protest at a HKU governing council meeting in January 2016. Both were sentenced to community service; this means that they will always have criminal records.
Then we have another Mong Kok rioter, Ray Wong Toi-yeung, who has since absconded and is leading the life of a fugitive somewhere in Europe. Wong is believed to be one of the instigators of the 2016 riot.
Some of these young people were given punishments ranging from jail terms to community service; some were either expelled or otherwise disciplined by their universities. All have disappeared from the limelight.
It is not difficult to see how these young people were radicalized over the years in Hong Kong. They were targeted and recruited by radical adults. They were then brainwashed through incessant radical messaging in classrooms and by the so-called pro-democracy print and social media. I wonder whether this process is any different from the way terrorists are recruited?
We need to put an end to this brutal recruitment. These young people should know they are being used. The susceptibility to radicalization of certain types of young people (such as underachievers) needs to be better understood by society. We must make it clear they are being used in this ongoing farce of so-called democratization and the pro-independence movement. They should also realize that none, not one, of the children of so-called democratic leaders had even participated in protests, demonstrations and sit-ins. Forget about riots. While they are serving their respective punishments, the real instigators have long forgotten about them. Nobody seems to care what is happening to the people now behind bars. They are just regarded as expendable cannon fodder and nothing more.
Perhaps many of the young people who now pay the price blindly following their misplaced beliefs of “protecting and promoting democracy” in Hong Kong are genuine. But they should nonetheless look around and ask why they have been discarded like damaged goods. They should ask why their political aspirations have been dashed, and why their futures have been totally ruined.
Many of our young people are idealistic and have a fervent love of Hong Kong. Hence they will continue to be targets of radicalization by the real culprits who continue to hide in the shadows and who manipulate them. Besides, we must educate our young people about the true meaning of democracy and freedom to stop them from being exploited due to their political naivety. After all, there is no such thing as a perfect democracy and no such thing as absolute freedom.
While we want to encourage young people to fulfill their civic duties as well as get involved in politics, we also need to give them the right information, motivation and a safe environment to take the initiative in realizing their ideals. More importantly, we need to strike a balance between educating and encouraging them to be assertive and willing to express themselves over issues that concern their future.
This is not to say that youngsters and university students should stay away from politics, or withdraw from society. After all, university is not only about academic studies. It is about much more; it also includes questioning the so-called universal values of democracy and freedom.
The author is president of Wisdom Hong Kong, a local think tank.
HONG KONG NEWS