“In the worst of times, people’s responsibilities are ever more important” — Edward Leung.
Edward Leung, Hong Kong’s top independence activist was sent to prison for six years today (June 11) for rioting and assaulting police over the Mongkok unrest in 2016 . At six pm today, a letter to the public appears on his facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/leungtinkei/photos/a.172255923187252.1073741827.172224869857024/448387822240726/?type=3). In the letter, Leung stresses that only when Hongkongers are rooted in Hong Kong can things possibly improve. He calls upon the rich and the powerful to consider how much public anger may be accumulated by a political system that fails to manifest the will of the people. He admits that Hong Kong’s democratic process is losing ground, but he thinks that in the worst of times, people’s responsibilities are ever more important. And he advises Hong Kong activists, who undertake to change society, to seek common ground while reserving differences. Moreover, he expresses sincere gratitude to those who have supported him in court, and most importantly, his parents. He believes that if he continues to fight for the good of the next generation, his parents will be pleased. Below please find a full English translation of Leung’s letter.
Before I returned to Hong Kong, I had read a report on the trend of migration in Hong Kong in recent years. The survey reveals that more and more Hongkongers are migrating overseas, and an overwhelming majority of young people are considering emigrating. At the same time, I had also read certain rich and powerful people’s opinions. They say that if young people are not satisfied with the current situation of our society and if they are pessimistic about their prospects here, they may choose to leave, etc. and etc. After reading these two pieces of news, I was bewildered: What kind of environment are we creating for the younger generation in Hong Kong?
To go or to stay is of course a decision to be made by many people. However, when most Hong Kong people, especially the younger generation, no longer care about Hong Kong, and they want to retreat to somewhere else, the future of Hong Kong will be destined. On the other hand, only when we are rooted in this land can things possibly improve. And then Hong Kong will no longer be a floating city.
Of course, the reality is always frustrating, and we all have our own difficulties.
Since the beginning of the trial, the time has rewound to the night of the first day of the Lunar New Year two years ago. Sometimes it moves slow, sometimes it stands still . My world has once again converged with that night and halted there. I believe it will stay there for quite a while.
During the four months of imprisonment, the days were not too sad. I am sincerely grateful to everyone who have come to court to audit my case and who have written to me. Whenever I think of what I saw in the courtroom — a group of defense counsels right in front of me, every familiar or unfamiliar face in the public gallery, every nod, every smile, every gesture, etc. — my courage to face everything grows . In particular, each one of your letters is the only connection I have with the other side of the wall, which makes my heart unspeakably warm. This kind of personal care reminds me of why I engage myself in politics.
Life can influence life. When I was preparing for giving evidence in the witness box, I tried to trace my footsteps from the beginning to the present, recalling the people I met along the way. What always drives me to participate in politics is the search for a free and democratic Hong Kong. In the process of pursuing this ideal society, we see different pictures; we have our own experiences, and we make our individual judgments. Regardless of how we make choices, we invariably have to stumble on the way, in order to make Hong Kong a democratic society. Today, I no longer expect to be approved by others. I only hope that they will have a basic understanding — of how much public anger may be accumulated by a political system that fails to manifest the will of the people, and how many political tumults may be triggered by a unsuccessful constitutional reform. Now that we make Hong Kong our home, whether it thrives or not should be closely bound up with us. A democracy that can fully reflect social opinions should be our common pursuit.
At this time, to talk about democracy or constitutional reform, may sound like cliché or wild fantasy. And indeed, in the face of the absurd reality, all beautiful visions look ridiculous. I do not deny the cruel fact that Hong Kong’s democratic process is losing ground. I just think that in the worst of times, people’s responsibilities are ever more important. Considering the present situation, we do have a lot that we should do but have not.
However, proposing a certain idea in a community will inevitably lead to support and opposition in the community, and differences will manifest in different ways. By the same token, even activists who undertake to change our society may diverge and even split up, as a result of their different priorities in various matters. Before the realization of democracy, maybe we first have to practice democracy, understand various divergences, cherish our differences, and thereby gather more power. Only dictatorship will not tolerate other voices.
From the turmoil of these few years, I have re-learnt a lot of truths written on paper. I want to thank all those whom I have met, especially my parents who brought me to the world. I think that even if I exhaust my life, it is still not enough to repay their loving kindness to me. But if I can learn today’s lesson and continue to fight for the future of the next generation, I believe my parents will be pleased.
10 June, 2018.
梁天琦 —— 寫在判刑前