Peter Kammerer
SCMP Columnist
Shades Off
by Peter Kammerer
Shades Off
by Peter Kammerer

Hong Kong protests: a ‘colour revolution’ or peaceful demonstrations hijacked by radicals? Let’s not twist history

  • To represent the movement that brought hundreds of thousands to the streets seeking justice as an attempt to wrest power from authorities is to ignore reality
  • In the current political climate, poorly defined national security red lines can easily be abused
History often has several versions of events, depending on which side is telling the story. Two years on, the protests that for months brought Hong Kong to a standstill are portrayed by Beijing and its supporters as being a violent “colour revolution”.
I remember them differently; they began as huge, peaceful demonstrations centred on democratic ideals that in their later stages were hijacked by a minority of radicals with ulterior motives.

To represent the movement that brought hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions, to the streets seeking fairness and justice as being an attempt to wrest power from the authorities is to ignore reality.

Beijing imposed its national security law on Hong Kong almost a year after the protests began and the tough provisions quickly brought them to an end.
Those accused of subversion and other serious crimes – mostly for organising an unofficial primary election to choose candidates for Legislative Council elections, links to perceived foreign interference, or unlawful assembly – have been the city’s highest-profile supporters of Western-style democracy. Many had a prominent role in the demonstrations.
A subsequent shake-up of the voting system, again dictated by the Chinese leadership and swiftly put in place, ensures that such people have little or no chance of holding public office and shaping the city’s direction and development.


Hong Kong Legco approves Beijing’s political overhaul including ‘patriot’ rule

Hong Kong Legco approves Beijing’s political overhaul including ‘patriot’ rule

It is little wonder that Western democratic governments are outraged. Their political systems are in one way or another similar to what democrats were ultimately seeking for Hong Kong.

The fact that I and others are products of such a way of thinking, and believe people who govern should be fairly chosen by a majority of citizens rather than a hand-picked minority elite, will obviously cloud how pro-Beijing people may see us.

Furthering this line of thinking, the thousands of people, many of them Chinese, who are now leaving Hong Kong for Australia, Canada, the United States and other Western democracies, are surely also perceived as misguided, disloyal or unpatriotic in Beijing’s eyes.
Those accused of crimes who jumped bail and fled or have sought political asylum are another category; some are clearly fugitives from the law.

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History has moved on and the red lines of the national security law affect many aspects of life in Hong Kong. Some beliefs and actions that were once acceptable and tolerated are now considered illegal.

For having written in support of some of the aspirations of demonstrators during one of the most turbulent times in Hong Kong’s recent past, a number of readers are obliquely suggesting I am a supporter of independence, which is now considered among the worst of crimes.

National security red lines are poorly defined and easily misused. In the current political climate in Hong Kong, they can be easily abused by people who disagree with the opinions of others.

They are even being used to rewrite history, making out that the narrative of events on one side is not what actually happened.


China’s Rebel City: The Hong Kong Protests

China’s Rebel City: The Hong Kong Protests

I cannot dispute that violence and vandalism were part of the protests and such behaviour can never be condoned. But I also know that such acts were carried out by a radical minority within an otherwise peaceful movement.

Hong Kong is an inalienable part of China. Those who believe it could survive apart from the rest of the nation are foolish; the city depends on the mainland for most of its basic necessities, including food and water. The ancestral home of most Hongkongers is on the mainland; it is where their roots lie.

It is also where the city has to look for its future growth and development, and that can only be done through integration and acceptance of reality.

Beijing is now firmly in control of Hong Kong; it has made that obvious. It is a matter of historical interpretation as to whether that is what the imposition of the national security law was about. But no matter which side of the political spectrum allegiances lie, please let’s not twist history to push a particular agenda.

Peter Kammerer is a senior writer at the Post