Excuses for HK riot defy common sense

Updated: 2016-02-22 07:56

By David Wong(China Daily)

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Excuses for HK riot defy common sense

Representatives of six major business chambers urge the public to speak out against filibuster in the legislature and violent acts at a media briefing in the building of the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong on Friday. [Photo by Parker Zheng/CHINA DAILY]

The illusion of a peaceful "Occupy" movement was shattered by the Mongkok riot recently. Many in Hong Kong were always strongly opposed to the "Occupy" movement for fears that it would not be peaceful.

The reason is simple: Even if some of the occupiers genuinely intended to stage a peaceful protest, once a precedent is set for legitimatizing illegal and even criminal activities on the pretext of "civil disobedience" some people will further twist and distort this flawed logic. In the end, some of the participants will become radicalized and use the pretense of "civil disobedience" to mask the true violent nature of their actions.

From video footage of the riot shown on various television news channels and media outlets, everyone could see what happened that night. An aggressive mob attacked police officers with bricks removed from the pavement and started fires on the streets. As the commissioner of police noted, throwing bricks at people can be fatal.

One has to wonder where all those youngsters on the streets came from and how they became radicalized. Since the illegal "Occupy" movement failed in 2014, some of the occupiers felt their voices were not heard and their demands not met. Through online social media, some political groups have systemically stirred up people's anger and brainwashed them into believing that more drastic and violent acts were needed. They repeatedly promote anger at the government and, more importantly, hatred against the police.

All their propaganda and the mobilization of their campaign occur online-and sometimes within private chat groups. This explains why the public was surprised so many of these thugs suddenly gathered on the streets. These people wore face masks; they held hand-made weapons and shields. They then repeatedly attacked the police.

Clearly the vast majority of the community were appalled by the violent acts and crimes committed during the riot. Residents in the special administrative region have been further polarized by the riot. And the economy, especially the tourism industry, has surely suffered another blow. Everyone who loves Hong Kong should condemn the violence and work hard to help our community regain a sense of solidarity.

Even supporters of the "Occupy" campaign have found it difficult to rationalize their actions. They soon began trying to divert attention elsewhere-and some ludicrous theories began to appear online. Several of these were just biased rumors. But they have continued to spread and still attract support today.

First, they tried to portray the incident where a police officer fired warning shots to protect his injured colleague lying on the ground from continued attacks by the mob as the only thing which happened that night. Ridiculous as this sounds; some people keep trying to blame the police for the riot.

Second, law enforcement actions against illegal hawkers have been turned into an excuse for the riot. There was even a cartoon depicting people wanting to eat fish balls but ending up having a police gun pointing at them.

Third, Western media started labeling the riot a "fish ball revolution" within hours. This was in an attempt to glorify it.

Other absurd conspiracy theories floated by supporters of the riot include: The lack of police officers with anti-riot gear on the streets during the Chinese New Year Day was a deliberate tactic. This was to encourage protesters to attack them. Why did the chief executive stay in Hong Kong during the Chinese New Year holidays; had he organized the riot? These thugs must really be foreign imposters trying to tarnish a peaceful protest.

All of the excuses and lies mentioned above defy common sense. But the organizers and participants of the riot, as well as their supporters, are likely to continue their self-delusional fantasies and remain unrepentant. After all, few of the organizers and participants of previous "Occupy" activities were prosecuted. Even when some were convicted, they only faced a modest fine or a short community service sentence. The penalties handed out simply lacked any power to deter. From the point of view of these thugs, breaking the law often has few serious consequences. It provides them with an opportunity to become famous. So why not do so again?

The author is an executive member of the New People's Party and a former civil servant.