Skip to content

Why Can’t Civilized People Attain Democracy?

[Editor’s Note: After China’s National People’s Congress finalized its decision to "control" who gets nominated to run in the election for the chief executive of Hong Kong in 2017, the people in Hong Kong went to the street to demand true universal suffrage. At first, it was known as the "Occupy Central" movement. The world looked on in amazement. Pro-democracy media supported the movement, while the pro-Chinese Communist Party (CCP) media blamed the protesters for disrupting the social order and damaging Hong Kong’s economy. Diane Liu, an independent Chinese writer, discusses the maturity of the protesters and how civilized their actions are, as well as the lies and distortions that the CCP disseminates in order to defame them. A translation of her discussion follows.] [1]

“The quality of our people is too low. [Editor’s note: meaning Chinese are less civilized] Democracy has to come slowly.” When Mike Wallace interviewed China’s then-president Jiang Zemin on CBS, this was the explanation that he gave to justify why China didn’t have universal suffrage. Soon this argument was spread among many Chinese “intellectual elites.” Whenever they talked about democracy [in China], they used this argument as a shield.

What is even worse is that overseas Chinese are saying the same thing. I couldn’t help wondering whether this argument was passed from these overseas Chinese to mainland China. I have heard several PhDs, attorneys, and doctors in the U.S. say the same thing.

Whenever I heard Chinese use this kind of “self-deprecating” wording, I felt angry. I asked them a series of questions, “Do you know that only a democratic system can improve people’s quality? Why can’t democracy come fast, but only slowly? It sounds as if you feel you are a person of good quality. Then why can’t you start democracy with yourself first? Do you feel that the CCP’s Central Committee members are people of good quality? Why can’t democracy start with the Central Committee first?”

There was an even worse time. More than a decade ago, my daughter, who was a college student, had dinner with two close friends. All of them were the second generation of Chinese immigrants. One girl’s father was a top professor in his research field.

They never talked about politics before. But on that day, those two girls quoted Jiang’s statement. My daughter countered them, “Taiwanese are also Chinese. They have a good democratic system. Hongkongers are highly civilized people. For years, their economic freedom has been ranked number one in the world. Why can’t they have democracy?” Hearing her arguments, those two girls wanted to terminate their friendship with my daughter.

Seeing my daughter in tears, I said to her in great pain, “Those lackeys whose minds have been twisted by the CCP are now educating our next generation to be lackeys!”

Today, the people of Hong Kong are using their actions to pursue universal suffrage and freedom in order to prove to the world that the Chinese people are highly civilized. Let’s see how they fight for freedom on September 28. Let’s also see whether it is the CCP that poisons society or it is the Chinese people themselves who are not civilized.

In history, when people stand up to the regime and to injustice, they are the people who have ideals. They tend to be a minority group in society. The majority of those who stand up are pure, passionate, idealistic, young people. In Hong Kong’s “Occupy Central” movement, the young people have been the main force, but the high number of participants and the public’s wide support show that the protesters are not the minority.

Benny Tai Yiu-ting (戴耀廷), Chu Yiu-ming (朱耀明), and Chan Kin-man (陳健民) are the organizers of the “Occupy Central” movement. Their friends call them the most modest politicians in Hong Kong. They initially estimated there would be 5,000 participants and considered the turnout of 10,000 to be beyond their expectations. They thought that it would be hard to call upon Hongkongers because they faced a lot of pressure on make a living and didn’t have much time to think about freedom and democracy. Their plan of “Occupy Central” was just to sit on the ground and wait for police to carry them off.

However, to their surprise, students started to strike ahead of the plan. The “Occupy Central” movement started earlier. The second surprise was that Hong Kong citizens overwhelmingly supported the movement. The peak number of participants exceeded 200,000. The third surprise was that on September 28, the first day of “Occupy Central,” police used tear gas on the public. The fourth surprise was that the tear gas triggered more Hongkongers to go to the street to protect the students, which turned “Occupy Central” into “Occupy Hong Kong.” The fifth surprise was that the umbrella became the public’s self-defense weapon against the tear gas.

The following is what happened at the scene. You will see how umbrellas were used to deal with pepper spray and tear gas. You will also see the touching moments on the day of September 28.

On that day, 7,000 police successfully cut the communication lines between the organizers and the general public. They confiscated the sound systems planned for the event. The three organizers became commanders without soldiers. Legislators Emily Lau Wai-hing (劉慧卿), Fernando Cheung (張超雄), and Yeung Sum (楊森) who came to reason with the police were arrested for “obstructing their work.”

However, tens of thousands of people were calm and orderly and continued their protest on Hong Kong’s streets. The “Occupy Central” movement had truly become a spontaneous public movement without organizers. Western reporters called it a public movement without central leadership. This was also the most severe challenge that the ruler has faced since China took Hong Kong back [in 1997].

Although the government had declared “Occupy Central” illegal when the movement was in the planning stage, tens of thousands of Hongkongers still participated in it.

Actually, the police used pepper spray as early as when students entered the Civic Square on the night of September 26. The war of pepper spray and umbrellas started then. The pepper spray and umbrellas have become the symbols of the police and the protesters.

Many protesters wore goggles, masks, or motor cycle helmets. Some even put plastic food wrap on their faces and bodies. What happened later proved that the two key weapons to fight tear gas were a strong will and an umbrella.

The first scene that attracted the world’s attention was the protesters’ use of umbrellas against the pepper spray that the police used. It happened on the afternoon of September 28, when the police tried to clear protesters out of the middle part of the Tim Mei Avenue. The police confiscated the umbrellas from the protesters who stood in the front line. The protesters then retreated back slowly. People standing on the crossover bridge above Tim Mei Avenue opened their umbrellas and threw them to the protesters below. Umbrellas of all different colors flew through the sky, slowing coming down. More and more umbrellas kept falling, as if fairies were spreading flowers over the world. The people beneath received the umbrellas with loud cheers.

At dusk, the police switched to tear gas. It happened suddenly. The first tear gas shot came at 5:58 p.m. The police fired a total of 87 shots in 9 locations. As soon as the people’s initial fears were gone, some people shouted, “SHAME ON the police!”

It was hard for the protesters to tell whether the tear gas was from grenades or fired by gun shot. The police used both.

A young man stood in front of the police for the whole duration for five hours, from the first tear gas shot to the last one. His only weapon was an umbrella! At 10:40 p.m., major English media around the world made him their headline news. Pictures of him defending himself from the tear gas were distributed to the world. People started to call him “today’s ‘tank man’” [referring to the Chinese man who stood in front of a line of tanks to stop them from advancing during the Tiananmen Massacre in 1989] or the “umbrella man.”

That night, Hongkongers brought more umbrellas to the streets to protest. Thus this democracy movement acquired the name of the “umbrella movement.”

I received a video of the protesters’ taking over Mong Kok. The video comments said, “Netizens were angry about the police firing tear gas and called for ‘Occupy Mong Kok.’ Soon, over ten thousand people came to Mong Kok and occupied Nathan Road. Protesters shouted for universal suffrage and sang the song that appealed for freedom, ‘The Boundless Sea and Sky (海闊天空).’ The sound spread through Mong Kok. Some of the women knelt before a policewoman to ask the police to stop harming the students. Citizens, no matter rich or poor, came to support the protesters. People brought water to the site. Stores let protesters charge their cell phones for free. Someone even drove a HK $2 million Ferrari to the site to create a road block in order to support the protesters’ democracy appeal.”

In the video, I saw legislator, attorney Tanya Chan (陳淑莊) step onto a stage and ask the protesters, “We are all Hongkongers. We are highly civilized. Can we do it [remain civilized during the demonstration]?” The people shouted back, “Yes, we can!”

Late that night, young people with umbrellas in hand formed a disciplined troupe on the streets. No one smoked. What was even more touching was that, when the young people were running away from the tear gas, they still picked up the trash from the street. Since the students’ strike and the “Occupy Central” movement started, the streets the protesters used have been extremely clean. The volunteer trash collector students also separated the trash by type.

A wooden sculpture shaped as a giant man holding an umbrella arrived at Admiralty after a few days. The people on the streets cheered. Artists had created it in only a few days. They didn’t have a name for it yet.

Let’s replay the days’ events on September 28. Many “supply stations” were set up on the streets that the protesters took. Water and food were provided by the public. Supplies, where the donors’ names were not known, kept coming to the “supply stations.” The volunteer station managers kept saying “We have enough. Please stop sending them.”

“Supply stations” were all over the place on the main gathering site, Connaught Road, south of the government office. It was estimated that over fifty thousand people gathered there.

First-aid stations and temporary toilets were also set up. The former had the mark of a red cross and the latter one was a tent on the sewer, surrounded by a circle of umbrellas.

However, there was no “donation box.” A woman asked around where she could donate money. Seeing her eagerness, others told her, “As long as your heart is here, that’s all we need.”

When the news that people had taken Nathan Road in Mong Kok came, people stood up and applauded. At night, the protesters also took streets in Causeway Bay. Causeway Bay and Mong Kok, Hong Kong’s two most heavy commercial districts, were taken.

Many protesters were students. There were also people giving speeches at the site.

At another location, a paper with the word “Dog” and another paper with the word “Conscience” were posted on the front of a police car. Displaying posters with words of irony was the biggest damage the protesters created. There were no reports of cars being burned or flipped over. All protesters were calm and peaceful. Tens of thousands of people gathered together. People even said “excuse me” when they bumped into each other.

The police and police cars were everywhere. Some policemen carried long-handled guns. It was an attack weapon that Hongkongers have never seen. It could fire steel balls.

The most unwelcomed person was Hong Kong’s chief executive C.Y. Leung. On a big painting, he was drawn to look like Dracula. The most unwelcomed group was the police. Some people tried to reason with the police. Three girls knelt down in front of the police at the east entrance of Tamar Park. They asked, “We are all Hongkongers. Please protect us!” Not far from them, a few people in their sixties were debating whether the police would use their guns.

There was no obvious organizer at the “square,” but everything was in order. When moving supplies, people quietly formed two one-thousand-foot long lines and passed the stuff in relays. Umbrellas that played a critical role in defending from the pepper spray were lined up on the road side, ready for the next battle. Empty trash bags were laid neatly next to the trash cans. Some people carried trash bags and walked around to look for trash – they were the volunteer trash collectors. Some people would not put banana skins into the trash bags. They wrapped them with plastic food wrap and put them in their own bags, “We’ll take them home to throw them away. We don’t want to add a burden to the trash collecting work here.”

People were wary about CCP spies. When a young man asked an impropriate question, he was questioned, “You are not a Hongkonger. You must have come from the Mainland. Why do you come here?” Another person was also thought to be a spy. After clarification, people knew it was a misunderstanding. From time to time, someone on site was criticized as a CCP spy. Obviously, Hongkongers disliked and watched out for CCP spies.

The police tear gas might have stopped people’s moving to the government center and Central, but it didn’t clear the roads in Admiralty. People spread and re-gathered there. Tear gas brought more Hongkongers, including many who stayed neutral earlier, to support the protesters.

A joyful and self-moving sentiment was on the “square,” but people knew this was not a party. There was no beer and no children. Someone said, “We are in battle.”

Some people commented, “This is a moral movement.” “Hong Kong has been humiliated [by the CCP] for these many years. How can it regain its decency?”

There were many self-reminding posters on the road: “This is not a party. It is citizens rejecting the [CCP regime’s] order.” “This is not a tourist site.” “Prevent the creation of trouble. Don’t respond to provocation.”

Two girls, thirteen or fourteen years old, knelt on the street. One held a sign saying, “This is a time of life or death. How can anyone stand and watch?” Another one said “Building Rome took more than a day. Appealing for universal suffrage will take more than a week.”

Those Hong Kong media that grovel before the CCP and the CCP media have tried hard to defame the “Occupy Central” movement. Radio Television Hong Kong’s Radio 5 broadcast a story called “The Rong Sister’s Cry.” The article said that, on September 28, “the Rong Sister” and her family went to Hong Kong Island to have their last visit with her daughter-in-law who was dying of cancer, but the “big traffic jam” in the harbor tunnel stopped her “for four hours.” By the time they made to the hospital, her daughter-in-law had passed away. “The Rong Sister” was very emotional in blaming the movement. She cried sadly and loudly, but every word she said was clear.

In the middle of the program, “the Rong Sister” said that it was not just her family that suffered this tragedy. “Many people in the hospitals were crying and shouting. Some missed the last moment with their fathers, some missed their mothers, and some missed their wives.” During her description, other people jumped in to criticize “Occupy Central,” the Pan-democracy Camp, and the movement’s actions of blocking the road. Everyone’s insertion fit nicely and the whole program was well orchestrated.

“Rong Sister’s” sad story was widely spread over Whatspp. It was reprinted on Ta Kung Pao, Wen Wei Po, Oriental Daily, the Sun, and Ming Pao on the same day.

Some listeners checked the traffic information on Hong Kong’s radio station. If there were a four-hour traffic jam, it would have been big news. However, there was no “harbor tunnel traffic jam” report. Also someone searched WiseNews and still found no traffic jam news. It seems that only “the Rong Sister” knew about the jam. Some people asked more questions If many people died in those few hours of [the alleged] traffic jam, shouldn’t many news reporters have known about it and reported the story? In the interview with “the Rong Sister,” why didn’t the reporter ask her the hospital’s name?

Some people’s analysis recognized that the creation and spread of “the Rong Sister’s” fabricated story was a streamlined process. The group behind it demonstrated good organization, excellent planning, and many channels to disseminate the story. A small newspaper or a small group definitely did not have such a prompt and wide-reaching capability.

The editor’s comments in the October issue of Hong Kong Front-Line magazine said, “It is not news that the CCP hired people to march. However, the massive hiring of citizens to join the ‘anti-Occupy Central’ was surprising. It was said that the Fujian folks associations were the backbone of the “anti-Occupy Central” march. These people were all hired for money – the Federation of Fujian Associations paid each person HK $300 and its affiliated fellowship associations and alumni associations put in an additional HK $100-200. Each participant got HK $400-500 on top of a free meal at a restaurant. This is a public ‘secret’ talked among Fujianese.” The magazine also showed a picture of a CCP spy paying march participants money at the site.

An “Occupy Central” protester told reporters that Facebook showed a conversation of “Anti-Occupy Central” organizers using money to buy people’s participation. Organizers offered HK $300 for people to go to Tamar to join the “Anti-Occupy Central” march. There were different price tags for different actions. He also saw two men dressed in suits at Langham Place MTR (subway) station, offering people: HK $550 to insult the protesters verbally, HK $800 to beat protesters, and HK $1,300 to get the protesters to beat them. Handicapped people would receive even more pay.

These people who got the CCP’s money felt they had a strong backing and rushed into the “Occupy Central” crowds to beat students and normal citizens. Hongkongers have long known that the CCP’s money changed the recipients into trash with no quality or dignity.

The students and Hongkongers had not previously become twisted because of the CCP’s totalitarianism. They grew up in a normal society. They started their fight in order to resist becoming twisted by the CCP.

This Hong Kong “Occupy Central” movement is a great demonstration of how civilized Chinese people really are. It is also a big exposure of how evil the CCP is. We can see it clearly: The reason that Hong Kong, with a high level of freedom and civilized people, can’t enjoy democracy is due to the Communist Party’s breach of its promises and its perverse behavior. The CCP is the true villain. It is a poisonous tumor that pollutes society, makes the Chinese people less civilized, and ruins the image of the Chinese people.

Fellow mainlanders! Hongkongers supported full heartedly the Tiananmen movement in 1989. Now it is the time that we pay back those who put an end to it.

For the same goal of democracy and freedom, today, we are all Hongkongers!

[1] Secret China, “Why Good People Still Can’t Attain Democracy?” October 9, 2014.