My Take
PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 March, 2014, 2:58am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 March, 2014, 6:03pm

Those who attack Leung Chun-ying's daughter misunderstand freedom of speech


Alex Lo is a senior writer at the South China Morning Post. He writes editorials and the daily “My Take” column on page 2. He also edits the weekly science and technology page in Sunday Morning Post.

Many who scream loudest about democracy and free speech in Hong Kong are also among the most censorious and dogmatic people around.

The treatment given to the younger daughter of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying is a case in point. It's immaterial whether you dislike Leung or disagree with his policies. Anyone, including his younger daughter, has the right to defend him. If you feel free to criticise Leung or the government or that it is your protected right to do so, then you must accept those who disagree with you share the same right.

The 22-year-old Leung Chai-yan has angered many people by claiming the attack on former Ming Pao chief editor Kevin Lau Chun-to had nothing to do with press freedom. She also said some people in the anti-government movement have politically exploited the attack.

As a result, there is practically an online campaign against the young woman full of abusive and venomous comments: "You are more ignorant and shallow than your father." "All CYs are human garbage." These are, incidentally, among some of the more polite comments that could be printed in a family newspaper. I happen to believe Lau's attack has very much to do with press freedom and have previously written a column to say so. But I accept Chai-yan's point. It is, after all, possible that the attack was motivated by something quite unrelated. Who can say for certain when police are still investigating?

As for the charge that some people are exploiting the crime, well, unbiased people can judge for themselves. Trawl through many online forums and tweets, including comments posted to related news reports in and you will find endless insinuations, sometimes outright accusations, that authorities on the mainland or in Hong Kong were behind the attack because only they have a motive to do so. Chai-yan is probably wrong that these people are political opportunists; my guess is that many probably believe it. True believers are dogmatic; this is why opportunists are often preferable because you can negotiate with them.

Free speech does not mean only people who agree with you are free to espouse similar views. It means consenting to and allowing those who disagree with you to do the same.