Dear friends of the civil society,
since the 1980s, the Polish people fought against the authoritarian regime in a huge solidarity movement, more than one-fourth of its population joined unions. In 2019, 2 millions of people took to the streets in Hong Kong, also more than one-fourth of our population, to say no to our authoritarian government. Poland and Hong Kong do share similar situations and challenges.
In fact, if we ask our teachers, professors and veterans in social movement, they will tell you, that history of the Eastern Europe, especially Poland, is a lesson that we all ought to learn from, should we wish to gain freedom and democracy.
Thank you, Freedom Games, for giving me this opportunity of honor to deliver a speech in Poland, on behalf of Joshua Wong and Hong Kong protesters, who are still fighting every day in the streets, in shopping malls, in metro stations and everywhere in Hong Kong.
In fact, this is a leaderless movement. Nobody is a leader.
On 9 June, 1 million people took to the streets, yet our Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced that very night, that the second reading of the extradition bill would resume. On June 12, people surrounded our legislature peacefully, and the government cracked down on us with excessive force.
On June 16, 2 million people took to the streets to say no to police violence and the governance of Carrie Lam. She even said that we citizens had NO STAKE in the society. But that’s not true. We all belong to Hong Kong and should have the right to say NO to the government.
Physical and Mental Violence
In return, we get violence. Beginning from 12 June, the violence of the police kept escalating. From tear gas, expired tear gas, rubber bullets, bean bag rounds to the most usual but also very dangerous weapon – batons. The police use violence to crackdown on peaceful protests.
Till today, 1,200 were arrested, more than 100 were already prosecuted, 2 have lost their one of their eyes. Countless were injured by the police. In some cases, protesters were detained in facilities with no light. Arrested protesters were threatened and terrified, and beaten till their bones broke. Other detainees could do nothing but to witness the atrocity.
Female protesters were sexually harassed, and humiliated. In Hong Kong, we talk about rule of law, but the behaviour of the police is surely not in compliance of the rule of law. In fact, the government is trying to rule by terror.
Increasingly violent clashes between protesters and the police have turned a thriving metropolis into an urban war zone. Young people’s voices have gone from loud to deafening, as they refuse to be brushed aside in the same way they were in 2014.
Even after the government conceded by withdrawing the extradition bill, protesters continue to take to the streets in great numbers, shifting their focus back to the still-unfulfilled promise of universal suffrage.
Cathay Pacific, a renowned Hong Kong corporate, owned by Swire, has been infiltrated by Chinese influence. At least 14 employees of Hong Kong’s aviation sector have been dismissed for supporting the movement, including pilots of Cathay Pacific and the chairperson of Cathay Dragon’s union. Cabin crews need to have their mobile phones unlocked and censored by Chinese authorities when entering into Chinese territory.
Simply by giving a like on Facebook could cause their dismissal. Staff were encouraged to report their colleagues. People were silenced. We know this is a typical tactic of communist regime, to turn people against each other and create white terror. But we need to be brave and combat such white terror, because freedom of expression is our fundamental rights.
Five years ago, although the umbrella movement ended without reaching its stated political goals and Beijing remained as uncompromising as ever towards our call for democracy, the movement achieved something far greater than anything we had expected.
The movement awakened generations of Hong Kong people whose political apathy had for too long been the biggest enabler of our unelected, unaccountable government. Just like the polish population enlightened by the numerous movements before Solidarity Movement. Ordinary citizens came to realise the enormous power they wield if they act together, using online forums and social media to organise themselves and engage the international community.
We understand the images of Tian’anmen massacre in Beijing shocked the whole world and had influence to the Polish legislative election in Poland in 1989. In fact, election right is something that we fighting for, because free election is stipulated in our basic law, promised by Beijing. If the Polish people could have won election, so should we be able to do so.
Hong Kong is much more than meets the eye. Beyond the soaring skyscrapers and glimmering shopping malls, it is the only place on Chinese soil where citizens dare stand up to those in power and, once in a while, manage to force concessions out of them.
Successive popular uprisings in the last seven years have come to underscore the inherent contradictions of a totalitarian state running and tolerating a free society. They are manifestations of the widening cracks within the “one country, two systems” framework that once navigated the city through its smooth transition from colonial to Chinese rule.
For better or worse, these tidal waves of resistance are transforming Hong Kong once again: from an economic city to a political stronghold. Notwithstanding Beijing’s effort to keep the city in a state of perpetual adolescence, the latter has outgrown both itself and its master. The David-versus-Goliath narrative has come to symbolise the improbable but undeniable struggle against a regime that appears invincible both at home and abroad.
In many ways, the “one country, two systems” formula for Hong Kong is also the way the communist leadership views its relationship with the rest of the world.
In its grand vision of a new global order, Beijing has been pushing a “one world, two empires” proposition where the United States and its allies defend their liberal, rights-based ideology, while China and other one-party states demand noninterference from the free world while quietly pursuing an expansionary agenda.
It is high time we call for solidarity. Nothing else is now more pressing than calling for a united force resisting authoritarian China.
If we stop protesting now, no one will be able to hold Carrie Lam and her government responsible for their wrongdoings, human rights violations, and police violence. This is no olive branch nor reconciliation, but a tighter grip. We believe this is mere tactics, aimed to buy time and paint an illusion of peace before 1st October. If we stop now and let her succeeds, international attention on the problem will dissipate, and further political purge will take place.
Today, people face physical assault from gangsters just by singing our Hymn, a song that emerged in this movement, lyrics that tell our sorrow and rage, but also as an encouragement to our fight for the better Hong Kong.
Now, let me take this opportunity to share with you the song, with courtesy translation by former legislator Margaret Ng:
My land, why are tears fast falling ?
People, why does your anger rage ?
Head high! Break this silence and cry :
Freedom belongs to this place !
Dark fears can never be erased,
But faith will guide us all the way.
Advance! Even through blood and tears,
For our Hong Kong free and bright !
The stars are fallen, darkness reigns,
Through fog and mist, a clarion call from far :
Gather here! Stand firm together! For liberty we fight !
Courage, wisdom will never die !
See ! Dawn breaks ! Hong Kong again clothed in light !
O daughters and sons, for justice in our time
May freedom and democracy for ever live
May glory be to thee, Hong Kong !
I am not a leader in this movement, nor is Joshua Wong the leader. We are all Hong Kongers loving our home. The Glory to Hong Kong, glory to the people. Let us stand in solidarity, for a better world.
The address was delivered during Freedom Games 2019, organized by Fundacja Liberte! on September 13-15 in Lodz, Poland