I am Brian Leung, one of the many protestors storming the LegCo on 1st July.
I would like to thank the organizing committee for making this event possible, and allowing me to deliver a short speech.
Please forgive me for not being able to join forces with you all at the frontline, for now. But I do want to share my thoughts with you all.
A Community Imagining Other’s Suffering
In early June, I was still in America, focusing on my study
But when the anti-extradition law movement broke out – hundreds of millions of people taking to the streets, tear gas being fired everywhere, and the police opening fire on the protestors
I was always looking at my phone or my computer for news updates.
I saw young people at the age of 16 or 17 being chased and beaten up by the police amid the smog.
Imagining their trembling in fear and anxiety, and thinking of the worry-free days they would have had
I was very tearful and desperately looking for the moment to go back to Hong Kong.
When I finally got back to Hong Kong, I felt, on the one hand, excited;
on the other hand, a deep sense of grief, for the loss of several activists sacrificing their lives to protest against the government
This grief burst in the most dramatic and unprecedented manner on 1st July.
On that day, outside the Legislative Council, I witnessed the protestors trying to break the glass doors relentlessly.
Having gone through the division in civil society during the Umbrella Movement, I was surprised by how united everyone was on site.
Although other protestors did look worried, they continued to show their support for those at the frontline.
I think the main reason for such unity is how other protestors can stand in the shoes of those who chose to escalate their action even if it is not totally agreed. How other protestors can share their pain and desperation as a result of the common experience of injustice, abusive arrest, and martyrdom.
As for everything happening inside the chamber that night, I don’t think any more explanation is necessary.
Uncertainty surely abounds when it comes to my future. But just as many other even braver Hongkongers, I would still put the movement over my safety.
Many close friends let me know later on that they simply can’t imagine the amount of distress I have to go through. However, I can't help but think that our situations are not all that different.
When we choose to side with the movement and become a protestor, we inevitably become an exile, alienated, abandoned by our city.
Every protestor carries their respective burden – misunderstanding from family members, distancing by friends, or bitter accusation from the pro-Beijing supporters.
We may live under the same sky, but we are as if miles apart. All of a sudden, a city that we were once familiar with and dear to, becomes barely recognizable.
Distance does create a sense of alienation. But, sometimes, there is nothing more alienating and making us more like a stranger than being right in the middle of the city.
So, you could probably imagine what we are all going through.
I think this is what it means to call ourselves a community, that we are able to imagine others’ suffering, and willing to shoulder one another’s burdens.
A slogan in the movement tells it all, “I am taking the bullet for you; would you go on strike for me?”
In reality, neither anyone has the obligation to take any bullet, nor anyone has to go on strike for any other.
But only when everyone’s suffering is our own, and when every sacrifice is for us all, would a community emerge. We honour their sacrifice, recognizing and passing on their spirit in every protest.
In essence, the identity of “Hongkonger” exists nowhere else but in our minds. And we reconstitute and strengthen this identity through our every struggle and daily practices.
We take them as our arms even if we have never seen their true likenesses; we take them as our kin even if we are never related to them in blood
Every sacrifice they made -- their blood, freedom, or even lives – are here to nurture this community of suffering.
As long as we keep on shouldering each other’s suffering and having their sacrifice at heart, Hongkongers shall persist as a community, however much we stretch the boundaries of space and time.
The fact that tens of thousands of overseas Hongkongers have demonstrated their support to the movement proves my point.
A deficient regime of sheer violence
In contrast, we are facing a regime of sheer violence and deficient in imagination
They cannot understand why young people would exchange their wellbeing for the better tomorrow of this city. They cannot comprehend the tremendous power of self-organization and spontaneity embedded within a free society. They cannot see ideal and dignity in humanity but only the pursuit of material interests and lust for power.
The only thing they get hold of is sheer violence and brutality. They unleash the beast within the police force to arbitrarily suppress protesters, pamper triads’ violence, and even threaten people with armed forces, proving that the government simply continues its brutal nature in the name of legitimacy.
In this movement, valiant protestors are recognised and proved indispensable. However, in the long run, we also need to outsmart this regime of nothing more than brutality by strategies of greater imagination, creativity, and wisdom.
We have come up with a plethora of tactics, including occupation of streets and the Legislative Council, district-based gatherings, gatherings by professional, gatherings at the airport, general strike, Lennon Walls, and international publicity campaigns.
An important lesson is that social forces are intricately interconnected as networks. Each node of social force brings about new possibilities of further mobilization and new challenges to the regime. Excellent examples include the civil servants as well as the transportation sector based on the MTR or the aviation industry.
Therefore, we must uncover more openings of the authority within our city and further our organization and mobilization.
By the same token, Hong Kong is also embedded within the broader networks of not only China but also the world. As such, we have to analyse both our internal and external circumstances and formulate the unique position of Hong Kong. Finding new points of leverage on the international front is of utmost importance to furthering our movement.
In my experiences of studying abroad, my imagination is broadened of what it means to build international alliance.In France, I understood the history of many diasporic communities in Europe and the Americas, which continued their battles even after they had emigrated to foreign countries. They safeguarded and advanced their homelands’ interests by actively building overseas organizations, mobilization, and lobbying.
In the US, I met many Taiwanese and Tibetan Americans who have devoted their lives in building organizations & networks and lobbying efforts. I was extremely impressed by the level of commitment demonstrated by their young leaders of new generation into various organizing efforts and movements.
In short, building international alliance never necessarily comes into conflict with their local identities, but often helps foster the political development in their respective countries.
The international community is enormous in offering a lot of valuable lessons for Hongkongers. But exactly due to the size of this community that we lag so much behind other nations in terms of our efforts in building stronger connections.
These include explaining and contextualizing our situation to international media and institutions, organizing and mobilizing overseas Hongkongers, building networks with various NGOs and INGOs, and lobbying for any legislations or acts protecting Hong Kong’s democracy, human rights and freedom.
Furthermore, the 50-year promise of “one country, two systems” expires in 2047.
We must elevate the Hong Kong issues to an international level as soon as possible.
This gathering is thus an excellent starting point in fostering the implementation of “Sino-British Joint Declaration” on the part of the UK, and the legislation of the “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act” on the part of the US, and hopefully more countries in the future.
On one hand, the frequent financial interactions between China and the world have benefited tremendously from the fact that Hong Kong is a separate customs territory and China’s offshore financial centre. This special status is, and should be, dependent upon Hong Kong’s institutional distinctiveness from the Chinese system in terms of our autonomy and our protection to freedom.
On the other hand, many democracies in the world have been sliding into authoritarianism, while people have lost faith and optimism in the ideals of freedom and democracy. At this moment, the energy, resilience, and aspiration for democracy and freedom as demonstrated by Hong Kong’s civil society represent a valuable source of inspiration and contribution to many troubled democracies and civil societies.
Situating Hong Kong in the overlapping international network to formulate strategies is a key step in strengthening and safeguarding Hong Kong’s democracy and freedom in the long run
The whole anti-extradition law movement has forced the regime to unveil its true facade – one that is so rotten to its core.
There is no way for us to submit ourselves again to the past rotten order rooted in lies and injustice.
However absurd the reality might be, this is our stepping stone to a brighter future: we shoulder each other’s suffering; we take off the mask of peace, rationality and justice to reveal this brutal regime; we build more extensive and stronger international alliance.
“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair.”
Just as we would’ve never imagined this movement to rebirth out of the ash of the Umbrella Movement, our hope for justice and freedom would never come to an end. This flame will set ablaze one day. Our protest will eventually succeed.
I will keep fighting with you and all Hongkongers.