Those who are leading our youth into lawbreaking should take a look in the mirror
The jailing of three Occupy members for violence is deserved, but those people who stand behind and claim the moral high ground may be the real criminals
It’s always painful to watch idealistic young people being sent to jail for their beliefs. But this does not mean they don’t deserve their punishment or that they are being persecuted. Opposition groups and some overseas commentators have called the jailing of Joshua Wong Chi-fung, Alex Chow Yong-kang and Nathan Law Kwun-chung, a suppression of dissent. The New York Times editorialists have called the trio “prisoners of conscience”.
They are nothing of the sort. Free societies routinely jail protesters whose actions result in violence. The three spearheaded the storming of the government headquarters at Tamar which triggered the 79-day Occupy protests of 2014. If nothing else, their actions caused injuries to 10 security guards.
Though they were asked to impose tougher sentences than the community services the three were originally ordered to complete by a lower court, the High Court judges have been lenient in jailing them for six to eight months. The maximum sentence could have been up to five years.
The opposition has been quick to denounce the rulings as persecution. In a statement of breathtaking irresponsibility, disqualified lawmaker “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung claimed the court was effectively cooperating with the executive branch to root out dissent. In a similar vein, an editorial in The New York Times claims Hong Kong is in danger of losing its status as a free haven within China. Tellingly, as further evidence to its claim, the Times cites the alleged kidnapping and torture of Democratic Party member Howard Lam Tsz-kin, completely oblivious to the fact that he has been charged for fabricating his story.
It’s clear that many opposition politicians and activists only respect the rule of law and an independent court when rulings turn their way. Some foreign commentators are only too happy to parrot their claims, however specious.
Long column inches have been devoted to the recent jailing of activists. But perhaps the wisest commentary is from the latest judgment: There can be no excuse for those committing unlawful acts in the name of exercising those very freedoms they claim they are fighting for. Pursuing what activists think are noble ideals is not a free pass for undermining social order and public safety.
Who has led, or rather misled, our young idealists to jail? It’s not the public prosecutors. It’s those “educated people” who, as the judges wrote, recklessly encouraged others to break the law while claiming the moral high ground.
Those people know who they are.