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Joshua Wong

Joshua Wong, Hong Kong’s very own version of The Boy Who Cried Wolf

Alice Wu says the activist’s claim of political persecution, even after being acquitted of police obstruction charges, shows the limits of playing the victim

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 June, 2016, 12:32pm
UPDATED : Friday, 18 August, 2017, 1:07pm

Young activist Joshua Wong Chi-fung was acquitted of two charges of obstructing the police last week, but the magistrate told Wong to reflect on his behaviour. Introspection is sound advice, for any age, but for Wong, I hope he takes magistrate Lee Siu-ho’s words to heart.

To Wong’s credit, he said outside court that he would bear in mind the magistrate’s reminder but, almost in the same breath, he accused the Department of Justice of being most in need of reflection. There is no doubt Wong is “politician” material – he went straight from that to calling his latest adventure in court “political prosecution”. “Why waste time and resources on this political prosecution?” he asked. Yes, old habits, even for a young person, die hard.

At some point, playing the righteous victim becomes a dangerous habit

It was just two short months ago that Wong accused the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation of “political censorship” in rejecting his application for a personal joint account to handle the business of his political party. It turned out he had refused to provide some information to the bank out of “privacy concerns”. The truth is that the “fuss” – as Wong called it – was not because he is a “politically sensitive person”, as he claimed. There are rules and regulations the banks have to adhere to. The media headlines Wong generated might have said that his new political party was refused by HSBC, but he had applied under his own name for a joint account with a fellow party member.

Playing the victim may get you headlines but, at some point, playing the righteous victim becomes a dangerous habit. Over time, it not only becomes old, but also clouds judgment when everything is seen through the same lens; it is the very seed that sprouts narcissistic rationalisation. It blinds us to our shortcomings; it is always someone else’s fault. It is detrimental not simply because it erodes credibility – in the vein of Aesop’s The Boy Who Cried Wolf. Self-delusional self-pity is cancerous; it stifles the cultivation of character.

Don’t blame Hong Kong activist for actions of ‘star-struck’ fans, court told

Wong’s lawyer compared him to Canto-pop star Leon Lai Ming, and argued the case against police obstruction by saying that Wong could not be held responsible for the actions of his fans, just as Lai would not be held responsible for the actions of his fans. There’s obviously some truth in that. But the magistrate also deemed Wong’s behaviour “inappropriate”, and prescribed introspection. Should Wong be willing to grade himself as unforgivingly as he does those whom his vitriol has graced, then he would be scoring victories that will truly affect his future, since self-reflection builds character.

DAB lawmaker Tam Yiu-chung apologises again for receiving VIP treatment at hospital

Interestingly, if Canto-pop stars are not to be held responsible for their fans’ behaviour, and the same concession should be extended to others like Wong who have a fan base, should it also apply to veteran lawmaker Tam Yiu-chung, who received VIP treatment at Queen Elizabeth Hospital?

A more sophisticated politician would not cry ‘political persecution’

Tam apologised and told a newspaper that he did not ask for any privileges and that all the arrangements were made by the doctor. The public hospital also apologised for giving Tam special treatment. Surely, a veteran like Tam should have known better, and for this reason, he is bearing all the heat of public rage. Let’s hope all parties involved in this controversy will also do a bit of self-reflection.

Incidentally, Wong can also learn something from Tam’s case: first, be thankful HSBC didn’t give him special treatment because he’s a political star; second, a more sophisticated politician would not cry “political persecution”, he’d just let his fans come to their own conclusions.

Alice Wu is a political consultant and a former associate director of the Asia Pacific Media Network at UCLA