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Benny Tai Yiu-ting

Benny Tai and free speech in Hong Kong: how critics of restrictions defy logic

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 15 April, 2018, 10:32am
UPDATED : Sunday, 15 April, 2018, 10:32am

Kelly Inglis’ letter (“How Benny Tai’s detractors have got it all wrong”, April 10) criticising my views on restrictions on free speech (“Four things Benny Tai should know about ‘free speech’ and the clash of freedoms”, April 6) raises an important, logical issue. 

The author argues that if there is a rule against one-sidedness, to prevent this rule from being one-sided, there should be consideration of opposing views, which could logically only involve a counter-rule allowing one-sidedness. This would result in no rule. 

This is the same as saying that if one is truly sceptical, to be consistent, one should also be sceptical of scepticism. The problem in both cases is tautology.

The term “partisan” implies bias or advocacy. An academic is supposed to try to tell the truth, objectively. Thus, an academic taking a partisan position is only acting as a citizen. 

Suggesting that this differentiation between truth-telling and being partisan is in itself partisan commits the same logical error of circularity.

The author gives the impression that laws can be ignored. If societal norms too could be ignored, would the author be in favour of having a public discussion on the examples that I used, namely, “pleasures derived from rape” or “efficient ways of murder”?

Societal norms, including the norm of tolerance of minority views, vary from society to society. Problems arise when norms from one society are applied to others.

Michael Ng-Quinn, professor, University of Redlands, California