‘I plead guilty, but I did nothing wrong’
The pro-democracy activist justifies his participation in an unauthorised march with his commitment to freedom. Loving the homeland does not mean loving the Chinese Communist Party. The pro-democracy front will be on the side of the people and will insist on its struggle.
Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – Well-known pro-democracy activists Jimmy Lai, Lee Cheuk-yan and Yeung Sum yesterday pleaded guilty to participating in an unauthorised protest on 31 August 2019. Thousands of people marched that day to demand that a proposed extradition bill be scrapped.
For the three pro-democracy leaders, participation in the march was an act of civil disobedience. With the national security law and electoral reform, the central authorities want to stifle dissent in the former British colony.
Lai has been in prison since December; Lee and Yeung are out on bail. All three face a series of trials for their commitment to the pro-democracy movement. Below we publish the guilty plea by Yeung, former president of the Democratic Party. Courtesy of the Apple Daily.
Your Honor, I plead guilty to the charges related to participation in an unauthorized assembly last Aug 31st (8.31), but I have done no wrong, and I will not plead for mercy. The following is my submission.
First, I agree with political philosopher John Rawls’ Theory of Justice. That is, each person has an equal right to equal basic liberties, fair equality of opportunity, and what he described as civil disobedience, which is the act of challenging the law in order to strive for a fairer law. I was using civil disobedience to protest against the draconian law of the Public Order Ordinance. By banning peaceful assemblies and processions, the police have violated Article 17 of the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance and Article 27 of the Basic Law, which stipulates that “Hong Kong residents shall have freedom of speech, of the press and of publication; freedom of association, of assembly, of procession and of demonstration.”
I have defied the law because I am very worried about the current political situation in Hong Kong, so I insisted on the right of demonstration and procession. The implementation of the National Security Law, and the National People’s Congress’ amendments to Hong Kong’s political system, have caused a major retrogression in democracy. Not only do they violate the Basic Law’s principle of gradual and orderly progress towards democracy, but they have even nullified the progress of democracy in Hong Kong after the reunification. As Hong Kong is now fully under the governance of the Central Government, one country, two systems becomes one country, one system, and the high degree of autonomy has gone up in smoke. Today, everything from the Chief Executive election to the Legislative Council election will become Mainland-style, that is, results will be predetermined well in advance of the elections.
The government has been using heavy-handed measures in times of turmoil, assuming that strict law enforcement, and mass arrests and prosecutions of political dissidents would be enough to deter the people of Hong Kong. Yet, Hong Kong people’s peaceful expression of their political views through constitutionally mandated marches and demonstrations have been banned. When those in power emphasize that patriots administer Hong Kong, I am reminiscent of John Stuart Mill’s “On Liberty,” in which he said, “The worth of a State, in the long run, is the worth of the individuals composing it.” He placed emphasis on individuality and freedom, and proposed freedom of the press, freedom of thought, and freedom of speech. In contrast, traditional Chinese culture places more emphasis on an individual’s obligations to the state and family, but less on the rights of the individual.
I insisted on participating in this unauthorized demonstration precisely because I did not want to see these individual rights censored and deprived. The series of events that began in 2019 undoubtedly reflect the traditional culture and the political culture of the one-party dictatorship of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Considering that Hong Kong is an international society where the East meets the West, and capitalism is practiced under the principle of one country, two systems, why do we need the approval of those in power to exercise our civil rights?
To be honest, I am Chinese but I am also a Hongkonger who loves this home, however, love of the country is not the same as love of the party. To me, China is the people, the culture and the land, but not a particular regime. In fact, in the 5,000 years of Chinese civilization, dynasties that respected the well-being of their people were naturally valued and loved by the people.
I would like to emphasize that the pan-democrats will not be opposition to the so-called loyalists, but will instead stand faithfully by the people. We will monitor and check the governance of the SAR government on behalf of the public, and strive for a high degree of autonomy for Hong Kong people under the framework of “one country, two systems.”
Your Honor, I believe that peaceful demonstrations, rallies and marches should continue. In the midst of the political downturn in Hong Kong, the great retrogression in democracy, and the universal suffrage nowhere in sight, the core values of Hong Kong people, namely democracy, rule of law, human rights, freedom, and a pluralistic society, must all the more be upheld. The core values of Hong Kong people have become the collective essence of their beliefs. By adhering to defending our core values, we will be able to maintain the hearts and minds of the community and enable the people of Hong Kong to carry on with their lives as usual.
In the face of power, as Václav Havel, the Czech political dissident, said, “Truth and love must prevail over lies and hatred.” The people of Hong Kong must not be intimidated by those in power, cower in fear, or simply give up perseverance. Political philosopher Hannah Arendt also argued that freedom requires action. Hong Kong people must face the political situation calmly, defend and participate in civil society with peace, rationality and non-violence, and support local organizations and businesses and their activities that uphold our core values.
Your Honor, I admit to participating in an unauthorized and illegal procession, but I will not concede to any wrongdoing. When the police did not issue a letter of no objection for the march, I came forward to participate because I stood up for the rally. It was to protest against the abuse of power by the police, who arbitrarily banned peaceful demonstrations and marches and deprived Hong Kong people of their civil rights. Therefore, I was willing to put my life on the line and engage in civil disobedience in a peaceful manner, and I am prepared to accept the criminal liability of the law.
Finally, I will conclude with the story of the character in “The Myth of Sisyphus” by French writer Albert Camus. In Camus’ book, the character Sisyphus commits a sin and is punished by the gods with an eternity of the same meaningless task of pushing a boulder up a mountain, only to see it roll down again. I will gladly descend from the mountain and push the boulder from the foot of the mountain to the top again, just like the fight for democracy, rule of law, human rights and freedom. I will adhere to peace, rationality, and non-violence, stand my ground, and refuse to abandon my position. The day of democracy and freedom will come if we are persistent in our struggle. Your Honor, I plead guilty but I have done no wrong, I will not plead for mercy nor will I appeal. This is my submission.