I’m currently contributing a short, light-hearted political column to Hong Kong Time Out Magazine. Below is the uncut, original version of my latest piece…
Hunt for a scapegoat
Mao Zedong’s adage ‘to kill the chicken to scare the monkey’ sums up nicely the plight of HK super activist Christina Chan, whose bail expires later this month. Chan, however, is no chicken – the HKU student rose to (in)famy as the face of the local Tibetan justice movement and ‘Post-80s’ generation dissenters. Her politics, which would be considered mild and mainstream in many other territories, have earned ‘feisty’ Christina notoriety amongst the pro-establishment camp.
Shortly after leading pro-democracy activists to the China Liaison Office on January 1st, she was arrested outside RTHK HQ by undercover triad police for supposedly assaulting an officer – her home was raided and her tattoos photographed. There was no need for the high drama; the police had her address and phone number, but it was time to send a clear message.
Days later, regulators received over 130 complaints against Oriental Sunday Magazine after they printed borderline obscene, telephoto images of Chan in her own home. The public outcry would’ve certainly been louder had they depicted say, Long Hair or Tsang, brushing their teeth in their underwear – but Chan suffers such invasions as she is young, attractive and female.
Very few young people and students engage with politics so directly and her scapegoating is a stark warning to all who are tempted. If you speak out, you too can expect abuse, death threats, harassment from police and your private life splashed over tabloid magazines. You can also forget about trips to the mainland and Macau, where Chan has been denied entry.
Perhaps there is something in Beijing’s insistence that HK is too ‘immature’ for universal suffrage. Instead of pigeon-holing those who express opposition as radical extremists and accusing them of ‘hijacking’ issues, we must embrace dissenting views, or we can forget about our dreams of a meaningful democracy.