Letter from a Hong Kong prison misses the point on freedom
Jailed Occupy protest leader wrongly quotes George Orwell in a message broadcast to the world and then tells us we are the ones being deceived
One of the most talked-about events of the past week has been the online publication of “Letter from Prison” from jailed Occupy protest leader Alex Chow Yong-kang.
It has been circulated thousands of times and collected many more likes. Maybe we are witnessing the birth of a new contribution to the venerable prison literature of the past century.
“Without democracy,” Chow wrote, “any talk about the rule of law is a luxury.”
So I guess the appeal court that has jailed him for seven months is a kangaroo court, no?
He then cited author George Orwell: “In a world of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”
Hong Kong, he implies, has become such a place.
“At a time of proliferation of lies,” he wrote, “we must be courageous to tell the truth to society. Do not be afraid of the powerful and rich and keep silent. We ought to know silence, cynicism, apathy and resignation are the biggest accomplice to all sins and injustice.”
Quite, but I would add that some people keep silent because they are afraid of going against public opinion, or some fiery segments of it. Also Orwell never said or wrote the words Chow quoted; you just can’t trust what you read on the internet.
I suspect the (mis) quote probably morphed from something a 20th century Marxist, the Italian Antonio Gramsci, once wrote: “To tell the truth, to arrive together at the truth, is a communist and revolutionary act.”
You can find it in his collected works.
The whole point of Orwell’s famous novel, 1984, is that in a world of universal deceit and political oppression, not only can you not say a true word, you can’t even think it.
Here in Hong Kong, though, a young protest leader serving a minor sentence can write and publish whatever he likes from prison and be treated like a hero. His message is freely broadcast to all four corners of the world.
He tells us we are being deceived and lied to, but that he and his comrades know the truth and are not afraid to tell us.
Isn’t that the whole point of a free society, that you can believe in and fight for Jesus, Mohammed, or the Goddess of Democracy and what not, and think anyone who doesn’t agree with you is either a doofus or a knave?