• Thu
  • Dec 18, 2014
  • Updated: 6:08am
My Take
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 August, 2014, 4:01am
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 August, 2014, 4:01am

Hong Kong students protest too much over Occupy Central

BIO

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.
 

Dostoevsky poses an eternal, unanswerable question at the start of Crime and Punishment: why do so many university students commit to radical politics when they could have made far better use of their time enriching their mind and soul by focusing on their studies?

When I was a foreign college student in the US, I got involved in leftist politics supporting causes like those of the Palestinians and the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. Luckily, those were the liberal Ronald Reagan years. Today, they would have sent me to Guantanamo Bay. My involvement was pretty much a waste of time, including skipping classes. If only I had used that time to read the Thucydides, Tacitus and Machiavelli that was on my course list, I would have learned much more about politics, government and history than shouting slogans and waving banners at protests. But youth is always wasted on the young.

I am disappointed that our university elders are so cowed by our young pan-democrat Red Guards that they are going out of their way to express support for them over class boycotts as part of Occupy Central. Some lecturers at the University of Hong Kong and Polytechnic University are planning to reschedule classes to fit the protesting students' timetables.

Wait a minute. If you have a beef with the central government or the Hong Kong government, fine, go protest outside the liaison office or in Admiralty. Go occupy Central or Mong Kok. But do it in your own time.

Law lecturer Benny Tai Yiu-ting once told me he was doing all his Occupy stuff outside work, in his own time. I take his word for it, and if you plan on following him, you should follow his example too.

Some universities are also offering free legal advice if student protesters get into trouble. Well, let their parents or the Legal Aid Department pay for it. If you break the law, you pay the price. Publicly funded universities have no right to waste taxpayer dollars that way. Taxpayers already provide three out of every four dollars spent on a local undergraduate.

Senior educators should have the guts to tell those young protesters: as young adults, you are free to do what you like. But accept the consequences if your education suffers.

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S. Rogers
"When I was a foreign college student in the US, I got involved in leftist politics supporting causes like those of the Palestinians and the Sandinistas in Nicaragua."
Having been an avid reader of the SCMP and Mr. Lo's commentary for many years, I am certainly not surprised by this little biographical tidbit.
"Luckily, those were the liberal Ronald Reagan years. Today, they would have sent me to Guantanamo Bay."
I trust this is hyperbole. But just to make sure, perhaps you should revisit your old campus haunts, Mr. Lo. You will find they are, if anything, even more radically leftist than in your youth and, at last count, the number of denizens of such campuses residing in Guantanamo is . . . zero.
Paradox314
What an offensive article! Alex Lo - You have have deeply flawed thinking and your words are devoid of wisdom - please stop polluting the newspapers of HK!
To call HK's politically active students 'red guards' is ridiculous and a completely fallacious comparison. As is saying that a student protestor in the US nowadays would end up in Guantanamo Bay - just an outright lie.
mh0908
As a tax payer, I like your comment.
mercedes2233
Agree. Agree.
I like your observation: 'Youth is wasted on the young'. So true. I wasted mine lamenting over boyfriends.
raglan
Let me attempt to answer Dostoevsky's question -
20 yr olds are by nature rebellious and ambitious with something to prove, we were all like that. Having made it into uni or having graduated, they think they're on top of the world, when they actually are still ignorant babies, their world view is limited and have no skills, but at the same time they're frustrated by perceived injustice and limits of upward mobility. They are still impressionable, easy victims of cognitive biases, thus they resort to the things that they do, no different to a 3-yr old throwing a temper over toys or candy.....
davidsum
I agree with this article.
As a HK born Chinese living oversea for the last few years, it sad to see HK becoming a political battle ground. All these so called Democrat use the western countries such as UK (Where I am now) as benchmark for their goal is totally misguided. For your information, as a Conserbative supporter I do not like David Cameron, but I have no choice as he is elected by their party, just like CY Leung. I can vote who can be my MP (Labour, Conservative, Lib Dem, UKIP etc), but I cannot vote Adam, my nice neighbour, as my MP because the MP are selected by the local grass root party which I am not a member. I can try and influence these member, but I have no say.
So what we have here is some small minority group of people have filtered candidates before I can vote. Does that sound familiar?.
So, my fellow HK people, please wake up and stop this nonsense. It so sad this misguided perception of democracy is affecting our next generation.
hard times !
Alex Lo, our young undergrads are adults,
they have their own thinking on their acts;
either in the 'Occupy Central' campaign---to demand
a geniune universal suffrage for our geneations
to come or...
boycott of classes never mean not studying as
demonstrated in the Sunflower Student Movement
in Taiwan ( Republic of China) just months ago !
Lectures can be carried out in open space and
our professors or lecturers alike can still teach
our undergrads like what civil-disobedience is or the
history of India's saint:Mahatma Gandhi or
the histories of democracy in many democratic countries
like South Korea, the Philippines, Burma, Taiwan and ...
Right ? You are too ancient-minded in politics to
even offering your 'advice' to our youngsters, not to say
their senior educators ! Shame on your words !
caractacus
Alex, you show signs of patronising, middle aged, middle class stuffiness and pomposity. It might just be that the students' mentors agree with their idealism and questioning of the values of their society. They are intelligent young people and are not fooled by the sham democracy being foisted upon HK. It is absolutely right that before they are weighed down and cowed by responsibiities and the tyrannical influence of crony capitalism they should make their voices heard.
hm03
Can't believe this is coming out of the mouth of someone who claims to be studying in the UK... I don't even know where to start...
philpaul
Law lecturer Benny Tai Yiu-ting once told me he was doing all his Occupy stuff outside work, in his own time. I take his word for it, and if you plan on following him, you should follow his example too.
- As an academic I assure you there is no such thing as 'his own time outside work'. We live academia 24/7.
Some universities are also offering free legal advice if student protesters get into trouble. Well, let their parents or the Legal Aid Department pay for it. If you break the law, you pay the price. Publicly funded universities have no right to waste taxpayer dollars that way. Taxpayers already provide three out of every four dollars spent on a local undergraduate.
- Universities are offering free legal advice surely in the form of internal staff or law students. I cannot imagine HKU paying for outside legal assistance.
Senior educators should have the guts to tell those young protesters: as young adults, you are free to do what you like. But accept the consequences if your education suffers.
- Absolutely.

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