Peaceful protests

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 January, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 January, 2007, 12:00am

The campaign to preserve the Star Ferry clock tower and Queen's Pier last year unleashed a new wave of protests in the city.

Despite the government citing their lack of architectural merits as one of the reasons for their demolition, local people believe the landmarks are an important part of their collective memory and should be preserved.

Unlike many other public demonstrations, the clock tower protests were not spearheaded by experienced activists.

They were organised by a group of young novice campaigners who rallied supporters through blogs and text messages.

The technological revolution has provided a powerful tool for people to air their grievances.

By posting their complaints - in the form of words, pictures or videos - on blogs, newsrooms or popular video-sharing websites like YouTube, the aggrieved can muster like-minded people from across the cyberworld to take collective action to vent their anger.

The internet has provided a new impetus for civil activism aimed at battling social ills.

Last year, a group of expectant women took to the streets protesting against the abuse of local maternity services by pregnant mainlanders.

Spurred by online discussions on the issue, the local mothers-to-be got together in clamouring for preferential use of the insufficient beds at maternity wards.

The publicity prodded the government into action.

After months of discussion with mainland authorities, the government announced a tightening of immigration policies aimed at dissuading heavily pregnant mainlanders from entering Hong Kong.

The demonstration against the introduction of Article 23 legislation that saw 500,000 people take to the streets on July 7, 2003, was also spurred by angry netizens (people using the internet) who were dissatisfied with the performance of then-chief executive Tung Chee-hwa and former secretary for security Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee.

The demonstration, the largest in Hong Kong since the 1989 protests over the Tiananmen Square crackdown, prompted Ms Ip's resignation and marked a milestone in the development of civil activism.

Even without the aid of technology, peaceful demonstrations in the past had helped topple corrupt governments and the battle for justice by the oppressed. Civil disobedience - the refusal to obey commands issued by an authority without resorting to physical violence - takes many forms.

It can be a hunger strike, sit-in protest, boycott or a street demonstration.

History shows that people like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King achieved their goals through non-violent means. Their triumphs still inspire people around the world.

American civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King

In 1955, a black woman was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white man on a bus. Outraged by the unfair treatment, Martin Luther King led a bus boycott and a series of civil movements, calling for equal treatment for different races.

The intense campaign prompted the United States Supreme Court to outlaw racial segregation on all forms of public transport.

Throughout his life, King battled for voting, labour and other rights for the blacks. This led to a wave of public support and most of the rights he advocated were enshrined into law in the 1960s.

Think about

1. Have you participated in any protests or demonstrations? If yes, what was the protest about and why did you join it?

2. Has technology helped the spread of civil activism?

3. Besides the Indian independence movement and the American civil rights movement, can you give some examples of civil disobedience in human history?

4. What would you do if you were bullied in the playground? Would you hit back, stay silent or complain to your teachers or principal? What is the most effective way to solve the dispute?

The Indian independence movement led by Mahatma Gandhi

Dubbed as the father of civil disobedience, Mahatma Gandhi inspired peaceful resistance and non-cooperation movements and led India to independence from British colonial rule after the second world war.

In the fight against injustice committed by the British colonial government, Gandhi went on hunger strike and called on Indians to peacefully disobey official orders. Under pressure from other western nations sympathetic to Gandhi's causes, the British retreated from the colony and India proclaimed its independence in 1947.

Word power

Match the following words with their meanings on the right.

1. unleashed

2. novice

3. grievances

4. clamouring

5. triumphs

6. enshrined

a. making loud, persistent demands

b. complaints

c. released; let loose, free from restraint

d. included (kept as something to be cherished)

e. inexperienced

f. victories

Fill in the blanks with the words you have learned.

1. The legislation to restrict freedom of speech has ________ a wave of protests.

2. The constitution has ________ the basic rights of all citizens.

3. Some listeners say the radio phone-in programme is a good way to express their ________.

4. Cloning is regarded as one of the _______ of modern medicine.

5. The oppressed are ________ for a change of government.

6. _____ pet owners can put their animals in danger.

Grammar Focus

The use of 'who'

'Who' is a relative pronoun which is used as the object of a verb.

Below is an example from the passage.

The demonstration . . . was also spurred by angry netizens who were dissatisfied with the performance of then-chief executive Tung Chee-hwa and former secretary for security Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee.

Combine the following sentences as shown in the example.

Eg. Martin Luther King was a civil rights leader.

He was assassinated in 1968.

Answer: Martin Luther King was a civil rights leader who was assassinated in 1968.

1. Tung Chee-hwa is our former chief executive.

He resigned in 2005.


2. Mary's boyfriend is a punk rocker.

Her boyfriend can play guitar.


3. The Simpsons' Filipino maid is a very nice woman.

Their Filipino maid can speak many languages.



Word power - 1. c, 2. e, 3. b, 4. a, 5. f, 6. d; Fill in the blanks - 1. unleashed, 2. enshrined, 3. grievances, 4. triumphs, 5. clamouring, 6. novice; Grammar Focus - 1. Tung Chee-hwa is our former chief executive who resigned in 2005. 2. Mary's boyfriend is a punk rocker who can play guitar. 3. The Simpsons' Filipino maid is a very nice woman who can speak many languages.