Lee Cheuk-yan: To love the homeland is to love the people, not the Party
The former democratic parliamentarian, trade unionist and one of the main supporters of the vigil in memory of the killed in Tiananmen, defends his "patriotism", as opposed to the Chinese government search for "patriots", who express subjection to the Party Chinese Communist above all else. Lee Cheuk-yan was convicted of participating in an unauthorized demonstration on October 1, 2019, violating anti-Covid rules. His full testimony before the judge.
Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - To love one's homeland is to love the people, not the Party; "If loving the country meant loving the Party, life would be easier". According to Lee Cheuk-yan, this is true "patriotism", instead of the Chinese government's search for "patriots" who express above all subjection to the Chinese Communist Party. Lee Cheuk-yan expressed these ideas on May 24, in an appeal for the mitigation of his sentence. Former parliamentarian of the democratic movement, trade unionist and one of the main supporters of the vigil in memory of the killed in Tiananmen, Lee was sentenced for an unauthorized demonstration that took place on October 1, 2019. At the time, the demonstration was banned for "health reasons. "Linked to Covid, but Lee's conviction is part of the project launched with the national security law to cancel or minimize the influence of the democratic movement. Along with Lee - who has already pleaded guilty – there are another 9 Democratic personalities, including tycoon Jimmy Lai and former Democratic Party chairman Albert Ho. Here is Lee's statement before Judge Amanda Woodcock.
I understand that Your Honor had said that convictions and sentences are based on legal considerations, not politics. Even so, I would still like Your Honor to understand the political ideology behind this case and the peaceful demonstration on October 1, 2021.
I was admitted to the Department of Civil Engineering of the University of Hong Kong in 1975. Like many college students at the time, I was prompted by the student movement that advocated for “learning about China and caring for society” to think about my responsibilities to society and the country. A proposition “Where is China going?” inspired my constant reflection that still remains very relevant today. This planted the seed of my responsibility toward China’s future in the 40 years to follow.
Upon graduation, while I joined the Hong Kong labor movement and the democracy movement, I have also been involved in fighting for human rights in China, for I have always believed that the answer to where China is going lies in democratic reforms. The 1989 pro-democracy movement was a pivotal moment in my life. From fully supporting the mobilization of the Chinese pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, participating in the support work before and after the establishment of the Hong Kong Alliance, to bringing a part of the donations received by the Alliance to the students, workers, and intellectuals on May 30, 1989, in Tiananmen Square. On the night of June 4, I left Tiananmen Square when I heard that the army was going to shoot to disperse the crowds. All night long, all I heard was gunshots in the hotel. In the small hours, I saw tanks entering the Square and tricycles passing by the hotel on Chang’an Avenue, transporting bodies and wounded people. Detained on June 5, I experienced the most fearful three days of my life. Thanks to the rescue operation initiated by Hongkongers, I was able to return to Hong Kong on June 8. I went from the peak of China’s democratic hopes to the bottom of despair. I believe this was a shared sentiment among many Chinese and Hongkongers at the time. Yet we did not give up. We picked ourselves up from the bottom, and continued our struggle for China’s democracy and freedom.
Since then, on every October 1 National Day, we could only wail in despair, “There is no National Day, there’s only National Grief.” On October 1, 2019, we took to the streets as always to demand the vindication of June 4 and the building of a democracy.
Your Honor, I have devoted 40 years of my life striving for China’s democratic reform. This is my unrequited love. My patriotism is with such gravity. To quote scarred literature writer Bai Hua, who once lamented, “You love your motherland, but does the motherland love you?” These days, “patriots” has become a hot topic in town. The Chinese government continues to advocate “patriots governing Hong Kong, but who is a true patriot? If to love the country means to love the party, life would be easier. Just follow the CCP and its political stance: “Implement if you understand, implement if you do not understand, in-depth understanding through implementation.” If one listens to the party, everything is made easy.
But I choose to live in the truth. I insist on my thinking, and therefore I am. My love for the country is my love for the people. The function of a country is to protect its people’s freedom and dignity, not to control the people’s thoughts and behaviors.
Your Honor, this is the path of democracy I have chosen. This is my original intention and commitment behind the many years I have devoted to marching on the streets.