My Take

Civil disobedience has its consequences

PUBLISHED : Friday, 31 July, 2015, 2:09am
UPDATED : Friday, 31 July, 2015, 2:09am

Civil disobedience by definition breaks the law. It may be for a good cause but don't be surprised if you get dragged into court and thrown into jail. Do the deed, pay the price. That's how you gain respect; it's certainly not by moaning about it. Yet, many young protesters today seem surprised when they find themselves before a judge; their supporters are outraged.

Deputy Magistrate Michael Chan Pik-kiu has been the target of abuse in court and on the internet ever since he convicted a group of anti-parallel trade protesters for assaulting or obstructing the police. Among these are Ng Lai-ying, convicted of assault and jailed yesterday for three months and 15 days; her boyfriend Kwong Chun-lung, 20, was sentenced to a training centre, while Poon Tsz-hang, 22, was given five months and one week in jail, after both were convicted of obstructing police.

A 14-year-old boy, who was also convicted of assault, was sentenced to a rehabilitation centre.

The defendants have been granted bail to file for appeal.

Sympathetic commentators have ridiculed Ng's conviction for assaulting an officer with her breast, conjuring images of her using her sensitive parts to beat up the hapless officer. But the judge has made it clear the seriousness of her offence was that she falsely counter-accused the police inspector of indecent assault.

Classic civil-disobedience activists accept the consequences of breaching the law, however bad, by taking the punishment. Through their suffering, they expose the illegitimacy of the law and the state that administers it.

Many young protesters today hold no such belief. They do not think they should suffer any consequences, even if they confront and fight police officers, break into private and closed-door meetings and hound whoever disagrees with them. Take those student protesters who effectively hijacked a University of Hong Kong Council meeting this week. They seem to think they are above the law.

There are many liberal or pan-democratic politicians and commentators who encourage or even glorify those youthful protesters.

When you think you are right, you don't need to listen to anyone else. Anything you do is justified.