For Immediate Release:
October 13, 2014
An Open Letter from Peace Initiative for Hong Kong To Leaders of Major Institutes of High Education in Hong Kong
Professor Peter William Mathieson, President of the University of Hong Kong,
Professor Joseph J.Y. Sung, President of the Chinese University of Hong Kong,
Professor Tony F. Chan, President of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology,
Professor Timothy W. Tong, President of Hong Kong Polytechnic University,
Professor Way Kuo, President of City University of Hong Kong,
Professor Albert Chan, President of Hong Kong Baptist University,
Professor Leonard K. Cheng, President of Lingnan University,
Professor Yao-Su Hu, Vice President of Hong Kong Shue Yan University,
Professor Stephen Cheung, President of the Hong Kong Institute of Education,
Professor Adrian Walter, Director of the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts,
Professor C. N. Chang, President of Chu Hai College of Higher Education,
Professor Yuk-Shan Wong, President of the Open University of Hong Kong,
As Hong Kong’s key community leaders, you all hold important positions in major educational institutes in Hong Kong. You are also witnesses to what has happened to Hong Kong politically, economically, and socially in recent years, particularly in recent weeks in the midst of a mass peaceful movement for universal suffrage. Therefore, we believe you must have a particularly good understanding of why this has happened and why the occupation of Central Hong Kong has developed into an “umbrella revolution” with support from students and other citizens of Hong Kong.
This movement is about the dignity of the Hong Kong citizens. It is also the beacon of hope for democracy and freedom of all Chinese people around the world.
It has been more than two weeks since the peaceful civil movement of disobedience kicked off on September 22 when the student went on strike. A dialogue scheduled to happen on October 10th between the Hong Kong government and the Student Federation has been canceled, leaving people questioning the sincerity of the government, which has said it is seeking a solution for this political crisis. Currently, the students and ordinary citizens occupying Central Hong Kong face threats of violence from local thugs. Moreover, considering Beijing’s history of using armed forces to suppress peaceful student protests and mass movements, we cannot completely rule out the possibility of another Tiananmen Massacre occurring. At this critical moment, we urge you, as community leaders, to think about what messages you should send and what roles you should play.
A few days ago, President Sung of Hong Kong Chinese University published an open letter in which he calls on the protesting students and citizens to “take a step back.” He writes that “Taking a step back is not equal to giving up and losing the battle…the top priorities should be the broader interests of the society and the most sustainable method to pursue democracy, as well as safety of tens of thousands of students and millions of citizens.”
We are willing to give President Sung the benefit of the doubt and believe that he did this out of his concern about the students’ safety and the wellbeing of Hong Kong’s citizens. However, if the only purpose of his appeal was to talk the students out of their demonstration, we regret to say that he does not live up to what we expect from a leading educator.
The Hong Kong government is not elected by its people. It is a puppet manipulated by the Chinese Communist regime. Beijing has no credibility and often turns to violence to keep its power. This why we are concerned for the safety of the protesters. This is also why the “one country, two systems” concept has become nothing more than empty talk, as freedom continues to erode in Hong Kong. This is what has led to the current political crisis and mass demonstrations.
At this moment, community leaders should demonstrate their courage and stand up to criticize this harsh reality. They should try their best to expose and eliminate abuses of power, neglect of duties, embezzlement of public funds, and all other kinds of fraud and violations. This is what you ought to do in order to free millions of Hong Kong citizens concerned over their safety.
Historically, it has been people committed to containing power who have helped create the liberal democracies that have benefited generations around the world. In the wake of an unprecedented political crisis, Hong Kong’s community leaders must not let the dictators have their own way by turning a blind eye to their lies and violence.
While it is understandable that no community leader wants to see a divided society plagued by infighting, there is one cause-and-effect relationship we must clarify here. Hong Kong society is not torn because of its peaceful demonstrations. It is torn by dictatorship. As Zhu Feng-ling, a student of Chinese University of Hong Kong said in response to President Sung, “We have to fight back because we have been cornered and driven beyond our endurance. ” We cannot agree more. As he said, “We fight not because we have hope, but [because] we know only by fighting can we have hope.”
As presidents and directors of major educational institutes in Hong Kong, you have the obligation to publicly support the righteous action of your students, who are admired by the whole world. You also should help to ensure that the struggle for genuine universal suffrage will not end without an outcome, leaving Hong Kong to be tortured by the unspoken rules of tyranny. The whole world expects you to demonstrate your moral courage as community leaders, and to fight for greater democratic rights and help heal the rifts within this Pearl of the Orient.
We firmly believe that dialogue is the only way out for this political deadlock in Hong Kong. Zhu Feng-ling hopes that President Sung and his colleagues will stop discouraging the students and instead pressure the government into an earliest possible dialogue. We share his hope, but we are skeptical of the sincerity of the Hong Kong government, which is not democratically elected by its people but is controlled and manipulated by the Beijing authorities. Nevertheless, a truly effective dialogue does depend on sincerity from both sides, especially from the Hong Kong government. Indeed, sincerity is a very critical contributing factor in making a dialogue possible and even successful. And only under the pressure and supervision of a powerful third party can this factor take effect. Hong Kong’s community leaders have the responsibility to take this role as the third party. We hereby call on each of you to monitor the words and deeds of the governments of Beijing and Hong Kong, and to push them to have a sincere negotiation with the students in order to seek a legitimate solution for Hong Kong’s political reform crisis.
There is another key factor that can lead to a sincere dialogue by the government, and that is enough pressure being put on it. The amount of pressure really depends on the aggregate scale of the students and the public, which usually starts as a weaker actor. But the general public has strength in numbers, and trying to achieve their goal together at one time is an effective tactic in public protests.
The only time the protests should end is after a dialogue has been initiated and substantive progress has been made. Otherwise, the students and the general public would be left at the mercy of the government. In the present circumstances, persuading the students to withdraw is by no means caring for them. It is pushing them into an abyss and dooming their hard-earned chances for a dialogue and political reforms. What community leaders ought to do now is mobilize more students and ordinary citizens to join the peaceful demonstration, and at the same time closely monitor the government to prevent an armed suppression. Only in so doing can a dialogue be possible and its efficiency be guaranteed, and therefore safety of the students and the general public be truly protected.
You are all leading educators in universities and colleges in Hong Kong, and people look up to you as the elite of the elite and as pillars of society. When a social crises occurs, your voices represent the conscience of the society. In the midst of this political crisis, we again appeal to you to take your responsibilities of social elite and work with people of Hong Kong to create a liberal democracy. People from all over the world are watching you, and all of your fellow citizens in Hong Kong are looking forward to your demonstration of leadership.
Peace Initiative for Hong Kong,
October 8, 2014