• Sat
  • Dec 20, 2014
  • Updated: 11:48am
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 June, 2014, 3:05pm
UPDATED : Friday, 06 June, 2014, 1:44am

Rise of the radical anti-democracy groups in Hong Kong

Albert Cheng blames their media-savvy provocations for turning rallies in Hong Kong into ugly shouting matches and scuffles


Ir. Albert Cheng is the founder of Digital Broadcasting Corporation Hong Kong Limited, a current affairs commentator and columnist. He was formerly a direct elected Hong Kong SAR Legislative Councillor. Mr Cheng was voted by Time Magazine in 1997 as one of "the 25 most influential people in new Hong Kong" and selected by Business Week in 1998 as one of "the 50 stars of Asia".  

June 4 is a political taboo for the Chinese Communist Party. For a quarter of a century, the Beijing authorities have sought to silence the sympathisers of the Tiananmen Square student movement that ended in a bloodbath in the summer of 1989.

In Hong Kong, both the government and pro-establishment figures are usually caught in an embarrassing situation. They do not want to offend their masters in the north; they are equally mindful that anything they say in defence of Beijing on this matter would trigger a public outcry here.

When asked about Tiananmen, all they can muster are non-answers, such as "I have nothing to add". Or, like Chief Executive Leung Chung-ying, they simply walk away, pretending not to hear the question.

They have long accepted that it is better to leave the June 4 protesters alone. Beijing officials seem to have understood, and tolerated, this political peculiarity in Hong Kong.

Over the years, prominent Beijing loyalists such as Lau Nai-keung, Tsang Hin-chi and Maria Tam Wai-chu have ventured some "alternative" views. They argued that Hongkongers should leave behind their "historical baggage". Some blamed the student leaders for failing to end the movement at the right moment, while others urged the public to focus on the country's revival through economic development.

They have, however, never gone as far as asserting that no civilian was killed in Tiananmen Square during the military crackdown. They have never claimed that People's Liberation Army soldiers had been lynched by student mobsters. More importantly, they have never resorted to physical aggression.

The scene has been markedly different this year. It has changed apparently in line with an earlier statement by the head of the Central Policy Unit, Shiu Sin-por, that the government would not sit on its hands when criticised by activists. Of late, small but vocal groups have mushroomed to interfere with the otherwise peaceful forums, rallies, demonstrations and protest marches of the pro-democracy camp. Members of these groups often hurl verbal abuse at the event organisers.

The police, who are supposed to facilitate peaceful protest activities, are often seen as being biased towards the rabble-rousers. Time and again the scene has turned ugly and violent.

The leaders of these groups were virtually unheard of a couple of years ago. Among others, Leticia Lee See-yin of Justice Alliance, Chan Ching-sum of Caring Hong Kong Power and Fu Chun-chung of Defend Hong Kong Campaign have now become newsmakers solely because of the abusive way they take on their opponents.

Under the banner of "Truth of June 4", for instance, a group of provokers set up an exhibition at the Southorn Playground in Wan Chai while a protest march was in progress last Sunday ahead of the 25th anniversary of the bloody suppression of the Tiananmen movement.

Again, police had to intervene. Instead of focusing on the procession, some news media instead magnified the confrontation in the name of "balanced coverage".

Leaders of these disruptive groups are so media savvy that they know exactly how to conduct themselves to steal the limelight.

They have stepped up their efforts to tackle the pro-democracy groups, particularly the organisers of the annual June 4 memorial rally at Victoria Park that has become a focal point of the international press.

They tried to meddle with the opening of the June 4 museum in Tsim Sha Tsui, which was established by the Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China with a collection of artefacts from victims of the 1989 crackdown. They even targeted the annual June 4 ritual itself. Patrick Ko Tat-bun, convenor of Voice of Loving Hong Kong, set up his own post outside the Tin Hau MTR station to shout at participants of the candlelit vigil in Victoria Park on Wednesday. He showed photos and videos claiming that there had been no killing and that it was the student protesters who had turned violent. He called on Hongkongers to "forgive and forget", accusing the June 4 rally organisers of perpetuating a lie for 25 years.

As many as 180,000 people showed up at the rally this year, a record number. Ko and his small group were obviously out to provoke. Their presence led to a tussle and police officers were mobilised to restore peace.

Since Leung took over as chief executive two years ago, he has adopted a hawkish line against his critics.

The clashes we see on the street now are a natural extension of his "two-line struggles" approach, first advanced by the Red Army in the 1930s. In a nutshell, one is either a friend or an enemy.

Gone are the days when people from across the political spectrum could debate, deride or denounce each other in a peaceful manner.

Albert Cheng King-hon is a political commentator. taipan@albertcheng.hk


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This article is now closed to comments

In a democracy, people have a right to espouse the counterpoint or unpopular view. They also have the right to utter those views in a peaceful manner. So if 20 lonely dudes want to protest against the Victoria Park vigil of 180,000, I'm happy to live in a society that would allow, tolerate, and even encourage it.
Now, if they initiated physical confrontation, then they should be condemned for it. Otherwise, leave them to their soapboxes.
On a subject such as June 4, the opposing view is going to get some press, if for no other reason than it being such a rarity, and the media like to trot out the weird and wonderful to garner market share. If the Voice of Loving HK wants to assume the role of weird human specimens, that is their prerogative.
The irony, of course, is that these people are in support of a political system that would deny them the very right that they're exercising in HK. But I don't think those people are perceptive enough to grasp it.
Pretty one sided column. I may not totally agree with the other side of the coin, but would never deny their rights of taking the other side. At least they mustered enough courage to voice otherwise an unpopular view. First, one must respecting the full extent of democracy before expecting it, or the city will only end up with chaos.
Democracy and rule of law in HK is thriving. People with different views are allowed to voice their opinions. And if they voice their opinions loudly, that is also their constitutional right protected under the law. So if people like Leticia Lee See-yin of Justice Alliance, Chan Ching-sum of Caring Hong Kong Power, Fu Chun-chung of Defend Hong Kong Campaign and Patrick Ko Tat-bun, convenor of Voice of Loving Hong Kong exercise their legal rights to demonstrate sometimes very loudly and aggressively it is their right to do so. To label them as radical anti-democracy groups is going too far.
Historical baggage? The CCP practically invented it with their incessant hand wringing about what transpired in the early-mid 1800s all through the beginning of the 20th century!
It's nice to see the "Voice of Loving Hong Kong" is along the lines of Holocaust deniers...
Physical confrontation is bad. Pretending nothing happened also sets the wrong example when asking the Japanese to confront the terrible things (far worse) that they have done, too.
Though there's neither democracy nor rule of laws on the Mainland, Hong Kong has a tradition of multiparty politics and freedom of speech. Chinese propagandists are quick to exploit these privileges to suppress dissenting voices or critics, enjoying support from entrenched political scion and pro Beijing forces. Until all Chinese can live, work and thrive under representative governance where the rights of each person, regardless of his/her station and connection, are protected under an uniform set of laws enforced openly and justly through compassionate means, no one is truely free!
The revolution starts anew after a 25 year hiatus.
youtube videos show that Hong Kong protesters are much ruder than in the past and do not reciprocate the patience and courtesy offered by the police. See for yourself.
The problem with HK is that their are just too many house slaves, first there were the slaves that thought the previous masters were the bee's knees and now we have the new house slaves that think the current masters are the best. What HK desperately needs are more field slaves that can build useful things like guillotines.
To the contrary, the breakdown of "civil" political debate means we're actually getting somewhere. Is Longhair the only one who gets to fling plastic poo in Legco? Democracy is predicated on freedom of expression. Harsh criticisms, disruptive civil action, extreme views: they're all forms of expression. Let people see ideologues for what they are and spend your precious effort making sure the people are sufficiently educated to understand what they are seeing.
I just hope westboro Baptist church doesn't setup shop in hk...that would suck.




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