[Updated on May 6, 2016 ]
See also “We are all localists“
[for an abridged version, see Voice of Hong Kong ]
Protestors threw bricks and glass bottles etc during clashes with the police on Feb. 8-9 (the first and second days of the Lunar New Year).
The premise of this blog post: the focus is on what methods are more effective (called “pragmatic nonviolence”); the issue if the use of violence is morally right or wrong (called “principled nonviolence”) is set aside.
Painstaking research shows that nonviolent resistance is far more likely to succeed than violent resistance. See, most of all, Chenoweth and Stephan’s award-winning research which shows a success rate of 53% for nonviolent struggles v. 26% for violent struggles: “Peaceful Protest is Much More Effective Than Violence for Toppling Dictators“; Chenoweth’s TED talk; the Freedom House’s report on how nonviolent resistance is the path to durable democracy; Col. Bob Helvey’s conversion to nonviolence as a force more powerful. (More references under “after occupy” and “The fallacy that nonviolence has not worked”, some are pasted below.)
Edward Leung Tin-kei of HK Indigenous is plain wrong in asserting that “a bloody path of violence is inevitable during the pursuit of democracy, as seen in the history of every democratic place around the world.” Those who advocate violence have the burden to do thorough homework.
Other pro-democracy groups debate the effectiveness of the turn to violence. See 激進派本土派辯抗爭策略 袁彌明：堅持非暴力 梁天琦重申無底線. Meanwhile, new HKU student union chair also disavows violence (孫曉嵐形容自己現時的抗爭底線是不傷害他人身體，亦不會用學生會的名義帶領同學這麼做。)
Long Hair may be out of favor with “localists” now. But he is right that violent resistance could not be effective in HK. Listen to Long Hair on Commercial Radio (社民連 梁國雄). On the same program, Centaline’s boss Shih Wing-ching admits that he had thrown rocks during the 1967 riots. However, in general, Hong Kong people would not support violent struggle unless they are pushed to the cliff. (See 施永青：中國人逼到走投無路先會革命) This argument is supported by scholarly research.
One of my favorite books in teaching contentious politics is Jeff Goodwin’s No Other Way Out. The title is self-explanatory. Fishball protestors clearly saw that they had no other way out this time. (See 抗爭者的眼神告訴我 他們在絕地求生; A ‘rioter’ is born in Mong Kok) However, it is noteworthy that a book that examines armed revolutionary movements in the 20th century draws this conclusion: “As both a repertoire of contention and a motivating ideal, [armed] revolution seems to have lost much of its popular appeal and influence.” [p. 298] “Perhaps the central reason for the increasing prevalence of nonviolent or unarmed protest, however, is the general expansion of most states’ infrastructural power.” [p. 296] Infrastructural capacity refers to a state’s “institutional capacity to penetrate its territories and logistically implement decisions.” [p. 38]
Indeed, violence has a slim chance only when resisters are confronted with an infrastructurally weak state that cannot patrol every inch of its territory (as when the CCP was fighting against the KMT during the civil war). Violence has next to zero chance in the face of an infrastructurally strong state. Although Che Guevara succeeded in Cuba, his efforts to spread armed struggles elsewhere failed miserably. More recently, a long list of armed struggles have transited to nonviolence. (See Journal of Peace Research-2013-Dudouet)
Some commentaries draw analogies with the Arab Spring and Taiwan’s 228 incident. Ominously, both are cases of failure. (Never underestimate the little guy: What the Mong Kok clashes have in common with the Arab Spring)
The fishball protest represents radicalization in the aftermath of the nonviolent umbrella movement. When nonviolence is seen as having failed, it is not surprising that some people are radicalized. (【年輕人對武力抗爭看法改變】; 戴耀廷公開信：暴力抗爭在香港沒有出路 : “當「和平、理性、非暴力之路」不通，有些人「理性地」選擇走上「暴力之路」”. But note Hong Kong’s unrecognised mini-victories) This dynamic of perceived failure leading to radicalization and marginalization of moderate voices is again thoroughly analyzed by Goodwin. (See The ‘Third Way’ To Nowhere)
However, did the umbrella movement fail to achieve its goal (genuine universal suffrage in 2017) because the movement was nonviolent? See my analysis of why the umbrella movement failed in the Journal of Democracy (also “The fallacy that nonviolence has not worked”).
Is nonviolence inherently weak (“和理非非”) so that protestors have to resort to what they call “forceful resistance”? (旺角衝突後，進步民主派的集體失語; 從改良到革命) This is ignorance of what nonviolence is about. NV is “a form of warfare — the only difference is you don’t use arms.” (Rosenberg 12) Nonviolence is “a method of political conflict, disruption, and escalation.” Around the world, nonviolent resisters call themselves “warriors”. As Kurt Schock explains what nonviolence is and is not (NV Schock):
- It is active; not inaction, submission, passivity, not passive resistance
- It is nonviolent; but not anything that is not violent
- Not limited to legal actions
- Not limited to negotiation or compromise
- Not James Scott’s everyday forms of resistance/weapons of the weak/disguised resistance
- Not pacifism; it is pragmatic/strategic nonviolence, not principled nonviolence
- Not spontaneous people power: it takes planning, organizing, strategizing
- (See “Peaceful protest has failed us?” (“after occupy“–scroll down)
It is also a mistake to think that the “forceful” approach succeeded in reducing the number of mainland tourists in 2015. The radicals claim credit and the conservatives blame them. In fact, the situation has not seen much improvement in areas close to the border, see「一周一行」實施近一年 上水居民稱水貨客問題仍存在. Jewellery stores in Mongkok have suffered more. Yet, the decline in mainland visitors was overdetermined by a whole string of economic factors: mainland tourists’ interest in other destinations, the strength of the HK dollar at a time when other currencies were depreciating, and, most of all, China’s slowing economy. One only needs to look at Macau and see dramatic reduction in mainland tourists without anti-mainland protests. (See Hung Ho-fung’s China Boom.)
Although the official narrative charges that the protest involved a premeditated plan, post-mortem analyses suggest that most protestors were acting spontaneously, out of anger after one police officer fired two shots. (Ambrose Lee labels Mong Kok protesters as ‘beasts’ who have lost their sense of rationality ; 97後首次定性「暴亂」，旺角示威者：「這是第一次，但不會是最後一次 ) Here is another scholarly insight: No form of resistance could be effective if it is spontaneous. The lack of organization is also the real cause for the umbrella movement’s failure. (See “what went wrong“.) Nonviolent action requires more than occupation of busy streets; it takes planning, organizing, and strategizing.
Why violent resistance tends to fail? Because of the simple logic of balance of firepower: The state enjoys the comparative advantage in violent confrontations. In contrast, even the most armed security forces could be confused when confronted by disciplined nonviolence. (It is like 以柔制剛.)
One key reason why violent protests are more likely to fail than nonviolent protests is that violence backfires on those who wield it. HKI’s Edward Leung recognizes that the violent protests have backfired. (梁天琦 見到民情好大反彈，示威者都要思考，針對國家機器的同時，如何減少對無辜市民的影響，但覺得難指導每一個示威者。) People Power’s Erica Yuen notes that the police use of tear gas against nonviolent protesters motivated more people to arrive to show support on Sep 28, 2015, but few people turned out in Mongkok this time. (袁彌明指雨傘運動警方發射催淚彈後金鐘擠滿人群，而旺角當日則沒有大批群眾支援。In this episode, protestors’ violence has backfired more than the police’s use of excessive force. It is particularly unwise to attack reporters.(See “police and thug abuses–the lesson of backfire” and “escalation by protestors can also backfire“.) (Freedom of the press only way to protect protesters’ rights, says Journalists Association; 梁天琦指不認同示威者襲記者但不會「切割」 ; 示威者可打壓記者？梁天琦：真係好難答 ; 黃之鋒撐傳媒：排拒客觀報導只會令警更暴力; 記者採訪被警察盤問「如何看港獨」 律師：市民可保持緘默).
Another key reason is that success is more likely when those who wear blue jeans can neutralize those who wear blue uniforms. How do unarmed protestors have a chance against the regime’s full coercive might? Only when those who wield the gun defect to your side or at least refuse the order to shoot. This is why nonviolent movements are often symbolized by protestors handing out flowers to police officers. Attacking police officers, even those who are abusive, only helps to rally support for the regime. (Former Law Society chair goes so far to suggest shooting protesters) A police officer who suffered injuries still expresses concerns for young people (“雖然今次俾年輕人打，但不會放棄對年輕人的工作，希望大家多關心年輕人的問題“) Many police officers complain about why only a handful of traffic police were assigned to the protest site (旺角騷亂警隊新貴引爆前線怨氣 ) , which triggered one of them to fire 2 live shots, which then angered protestors who escalated their actions. (There is unconfirmed report that the authorities made such an arrangement on purpose to serve as a bait to provoke protestors, following the script of “Ten Years.” See 那夜旺角是不是政府的陰謀，還重要嗎？)
There is still some chance to win over the police. Let me copy from the post “HK risks descending into a police state“:
It is also worth considering Srdja Popovic’s advice–focus the ire on the CY Leung government and try to win over police officers, even one at a time. … Popovic’s message:
“we, together, are the victims of the system. And there is no reason …to have war between victims and victims. One victims are in blue uniforms, other victims are in blue jeans, but there is no reason for that blood in the middle of those two columns. So we picked up four or five headlines in the news with that message, and we know that it produced results within the police.” (A Force More Powerful)
“From the beginning, Otpor had treated the police as allies-in-waiting. Otpor members delivered cookies and flowers to police stations (sometimes with a TV camera in tow). Instead of howling at police during confrontations, Otpor members would cheer them.” (Tina Rosenberg, “Revolution U,” Foreign Policy, 2/16/2011)
Most of all, nonviolence is a force more powerful because success depends on the extent of popular participation. In this game of winning hearts and minds, nonviolence attracts while violence repels.As Long Hair points out in the radio program, Che Guevara was turned in by the very peasants he wished to liberate. This insight is even more relevant in the HK context. I have long observed that even Gandhi would look like a radical in very conservative HK. Recall that Occupy Central once wondered if they could mobilize even 100,000 supporters as of early June 2014. Given what I have been hearing from family and friends and strangers during the Lunar New Year week, the turn to violence has significantly alienated the less-than-committed, driving even those who hate the CY Leung regime to support the crackdown. (See survey results by The Third Side 新思維發表民調「旺角警民衝突.」) The best outcome from this episode is the radical flank effect: if democracy supporters are prepared to take more forms of nonviolent action to avoid further descent into violence. The danger is that radicals may be convinced that it is futile to mobilize popular support and pursue what they think is right(「勇武」真的不需要民心？) — history shows that the “vanguards of revolution” with no basis in popular support could only perpetuate dictatorship (see the Freedom House report). (梁 天 琦 ： 出 身 與 本 土 無 衝 突: 本民前相信「以武制暴」，但社會輿論仍反對暴力，梁天琦隨即反駁：「輿論有用咩？」更以美國獨立做例子，指要帶來真正改變往往靠少數人「喺前面衝」。他指香港獨立值得一場公投，但被問及公投理念與「少數人帶領」相違背，梁就指「所以我咪走出嚟參選」，出選是為希望強化香港人主體意識。)
Director Chow Kwun-Wai of “Self-Immolator” in the film “Ten Years” says: Violence could be counterproductive (“幫倒忙”、“好心做壞事”) and that would lead to tragedy. (新聞透視 本土與港獨 at 13 min.)
It is worth noting that Chin Wan, who now advocates “forceful resistance,” once promoted “joyful resistance” :「快樂抗爭就是懷抱歡喜心，直面痛苦，啟發思想，集結龐大民眾，以人民總量令到壓迫者畏懼，宣揚民眾的快樂生活方式而使到壓迫者愧疚而信服，從而達致彼此的解放。」 See also 杜耀明书评：在文化战场上快乐抗争–介绍陈云著《终极评论，快乐抗争》
Hong Kong’s future looks increasingly grave. (The blog post on the erosion of freedoms has grown to be intolerably long.) However, the way out is not to resort to violent acts in the next protest, but to think about other forms of nonviolent resistance that have been proven to be effective in other difficult cases. (See “Civil Resistance: A First Look“; see also “after occupy” and “the fallacy that nonviolence has not worked”. )
It is not too late to think about “forceful nonviolence.”
People Power issues a pamphlet advocating class boycott, work strike, and general boycott《從舉傘到三罷》
[May 5, 2016] Dalai Lama urges Hong Kong not to quit democracy fight, says pro-independence activist after visit: The Hong Kong Indigenous member, who previously stated his group had no boundaries in its protest methods, said the Tibetan activists tried to persuade him to adopt non-violent means. Also 4港青年印度演讲 向流亡藏人介绍香港政情
Q and A on violence and nonviolence (Mar. 8, 2016)
But if the New Year riot make the localist movement a violent one, I am curious as to whether the following movements around the world should be classified as violent or nonviolent:
– UK woman suffrage movement that involved bombs and windows breaking
– US gay right movement that still enshrined the Stonewall riot (some say it is the movement’s origin)
– Taiwan democratic movement that still glorified Zhongli incident and the like that involved setting police station on fire
– Korean democratic movement where Molototov cocktails is standard gear of the students
– Europe’s anti-austerity movement where streets are routinely set on fire and rocks fly
– US Black Live Matters movement in which a few protests ended up in riots and looting
And so on. The New Year conflict is like child play compared with any of the above.
Yes, throwing bricks counts as violence. Think about Palestinian boys throwing rocks. There is a great variety of violence. The threshold is if you hurt anyone, and throwing bricks meets the low threshold. A more difficult case is self-immolation, when you hurt yourself but not others. Tibetans resorted to self-immolation after the 2008 riots for the reason that this method wouldn’t hurt anyone else. But some experts think that it is violence nonetheless, against yourself.
Note that for people who advocate nonviolence, the issue if the use of violence is morally right or wrong (called “principled nonviolence”) is set aside; the focus is on what methods are more effective (called “pragmatic nonviolence”).
The more interesting Q is if the resort to violence contributed to successful outcomes in these cases. Since the HKU VC is advising Edward Leung to read Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom, let’s use that example for now. Mandela organized the MK. In the end, the anti-apartheid struggle succeeded. But correlation is not causation. The resort to violence against Africa’s strongest regime was hopeless, if not also harmful to the struggle. It was the nonviolent township boycott that finally won over white business leaders who then campaigned for change.
See: Stephen Zunes, ch. 11 “The Role of Nonviolence in the Downfall of Apartheid,” in Zunes, Kurtz, and Asher, eds.,Nonviolent Social Movements, Blackwell, 2004, 203-229.
According to Kurt Schock, “Nonviolent Action and Its Misconceptions: Insights for Social Scientists,” PS Political Science and Politics, Oct. 2003, pp. 705-712 (NV Schock):
When asked about methods of nonviolent action, a common response of participants was “‘We tried that [nonviolent action] for fifty years and it didn’t work. Sharpeville in 1960 proved to us that violence is the only way left’” (Wink 1987, 4). Yet, when Wink pressed them to identify the tactics that were most effective in challenging the state over the past two years, they produced a remarkably long list of nonviolent actions: labor strikes, slowdowns, sit-downs, stoppages, and stayaways; bus boycotts, consumer boycotts, and school boycotts; funeral demonstrations; noncooperation with government appointed functionaries; non-payment of rent; violation of government bans on peaceful meetings; defiance of segregation orders on beaches and restaurants, theaters, and hotels; and the shunning of black police and soldiers. This amounts to what is probably the largest grassroots eruption of diverse nonviolent strategies in a single struggle in human history! Yet these students, and many others we interviewed, both black and white, failed to identify these tactics as nonviolent and even bridled at the word (Wink 1987, 4). (Schock, p. 710)
This passage also suggests that people always jump to the conclusion that NV has failed them and so they have “no other way” but to turn to violence. But in every case, NV has not worked only because people have not exhausted the great variety of NV methods.
As for the umbrella movement, I already argued then that the method of occupying busy streets was not sustainable and was doomed to fail. The solution was not to abandon NV, but to think through more effective NV methods that would have a better chance, e.g., methods at forcing the hands of members of the election/nomination committee. Unfortunately, there was no organization. Both HKI and Civic Passion actually helped to kill the movement by paralyzing the leadership and organization and then blamed the Federation and Occupy Central. No organization, no success. Successful people power is not spontaneous.
I particularly urge you to watch Chenoweth’s ted talk. I have known her since our grad school days. She wrote her diss on terrorism. When we heard about NV being a force more powerful, she was seriously skeptical: “prove it!” Well, she set out to prove it, by compiling her own dataset.
We should also note how the big environment （大氣候） has changed. Armed revolutionaries were lionized in the 20th century. But we now live in the 21st century when there is little sympathy for violence. But more importantly, state capacity is so high that violence simply has no chance. When confronted with high state capacity, NV is no guarantee, but has a much better chance. Thus, a long list of violent struggles have even dropped their weapons and turned to NV. See Dynamics and factors of transition from armed struggle to nonviolent resistance by Véronique Dudouet.
cf. See a program on nonviolence against Link, a listed company that manages shopping arcades in public housing estates and overcharges rents《對付領展霸權指南》
On the call for independence (Mar. 12, 2016)
Reaction to ‘If you love China, you hate Hong Kong’
Since no one was talking about independence just a few months ago, until the release of the film “Ten Years”, I wonder if the film is making a self-fulfilling prophecy. (Director of “Self-immolator” says that the theme of independence is only intended to push for freedom of speech ( 新聞透視 本土與港獨 at 13 min.)
If young HK people are advocating independence through the Scottish or Quebec route, that is, through nonviolent means, then it is not necessarily a bad thing. The young people would have to mobilize public support, and most likely have to form a pan-localist camp. What is really dangerous is if young people want to use violent means. It would take more than a miracle to achieve independence by throwing bricks. I am actually happy to see that Edward Leung had some success in canvassing for votes, hopefully that would direct him toward nonviolent means. This would be much better than if they close themselves off and self-appoint as the vanguards… [本民前相信「以武制暴」，但社會輿論仍反對暴力，梁天琦隨即反駁：「輿論有用咩？」更以美國獨立做例子，指要帶來真正改變往往靠少數人「喺前面衝」。他指香港獨立值得一場公投，但被問及公投理念與「少數人帶領」相違背，梁就指「所以我咪走出嚟參選」，出選是為希望強化香港人主體意識。(梁 天 琦 ： 出 身 與 本 土 無 衝 突)]
If the goal is to stir up troubles to make HK look ungovernable, nonviolence is a more effective means to make a place ungovernable. That is exactly the philosophy behind Gandhi. Recall what nonviolence is and is not. I repeat that the umbrella movement failed not because it was nonviolent, but because there was no organization, no united leadership to pursue more effective nonviolent means. There was talk of city-wide strikes to paralyze the city on day one, nothing happened. There were other calls, all fell through. The same folks — the Civic Passion camp and HKI — who conclude that nonviolence failed them actually paralyzed the umbrella movement’s initial organization.
If the independence camp continues to have no organization, the young people would only vanish in jail without achieving anything. Across the world, young people throw bricks/rocks out of frustration. That is actually the natural path of escalation. It is fine if you only want to release your anger and are willing to go to jail for it. But you can’t achieve anything. No organization, no success. And if you are going to organize/mobilize support, nonviolence is more effective. Because nonviolence doesn’t react out of sheer emotion, it actually requires strength and discipline [From the story: A lack of organisation is its Achilles’ heel, says Mr Lau.]
It is also worth noting that in struggles of minorities against majorities, the minority has a better chance if it tries to win sympathy from the majority. Black S Africans worked hard to appeal to white Afrikans. Palestinians have tried to win support from liberal Israelis. If this is any lesson, then it could be a strategic mistake for young people to nurture mutual hatreds between HK and mainland china. Upholding civic identity and universal values is not just consistent with HK’s existing core values, but also helpful to winning over liberal Chinese.
Those who support independence are banking on China’s collapse. China’s economic slowdown is timely and offers some hope. But if you think that a democratic China is just as likely to be hypernationalistic and erode HK’s freedom, what is the likelihood that it will allow independence? Advocates of independence have to campaign for support.
HKNP plans ‘more substantial’ action, last resort ‘armed uprising’ not ruled out: Chairperson of the newly-formed pro-independence Hong Kong National Party (HKNP) Chan Ho-tin said that his party is planning to take more substantial action this coming month. He also said an “armed uprising” was unnecessary, but may be an option of last resort in the future. The party has around 30 core members and half of them are students. Chan said during an RTHK programme on Monday that the party mainly targets young people and students and they will be handing out more flyers on the streets later this month. They also intend to host forums and organise book clubs to promote Hong Kong independence and nationalism…. “I think there is no need for an ‘armed uprising’ in Hong Kong… but we don’t rule out this possibility. If all other methods don’t work out, and an armed revolution is the last resort, then let there be an armed revolution.”
HKNP is recruiting members and volunteers: Will ethnicity argument work for pro-independence party: But until now, the party won’t say how it plans to go about achieving Hong Kong independence, besides saying it’s committed to using “all methods” to fulfill its goals… Instead, it’s encouraging people to revisit history and study the ethnic imperative for an independent Hong Kong.
Hong Kong Independence Movement Is Open-Minded on Tactics: HKNP leader Andy Chan (陳浩天) told TNLI in Hong Kong on Saturday that the group’s line — “by any means necessary” — is not a promise of violence, but a commitment to not “restrict ourselves.”
Words Of Hk Independence Turn To Action, Or Kind Of: The emergence of the first political party that flies the banner of Hong Kong independence carries significance more in symbolism than substance. It represents the formation of the extreme faction within the localist force
Hong Kong National Party under legal scrutiny as government studies whether group broke law ; Govt puts pro-independence party under legal scanner ; DOJ urged to investigate new pro-independence party; ‘Independence call against international laws’ ; Treason or free speech? Talk of independence touches a sensitive spot ; ‘Self determination’ alludes to ‘independence’, and is still against Basic Law – lawmaker Priscilla Leung ; 北京港府構思設「三閘」 阻港獨派進入議會
Peaceful calls for Hong Kong independence are protected by Bill of Rights, ex-top prosecutor says ; How Hong Kong independence can be legal ; Hong Kong must reject the paranoid paradox: Dare to exercise your freedoms and you may lose them
Why Beijing is taking HK National Party seriously ; Top Beijing official warns new pro-independence party ; Beijing Speaks Loud Against Hk Independence, But Silent On Article 23 ; China’s Zhang Dejiang slams localism and Hong Kong independence movement
‘Beijing will send in troops if Hong Kong declares independence’: “Taiwan has its own troops and it is geographically separated from China. But why does it not dare to declare independence? It is because they know the consequence – there will be war.” Chan Ho-tin said he believed the West would help Hong Kong resist if Beijing sent troops to “invade” Hong Kong… Wong Yeung-tat said Hong Kong was too important a financial centre for Beijing to use military force. [But the abduction of Lee Bo shows that Beijing has other means to control HK without rolling in the PLA.]
Pro-independence genie can’t be put back in the bottle: thanks to an article in Undergrad, a University of Hong Kong student publication. The article, aptly titled Our 2047, argues that Hong Kong should seize the opportunity to determine its own future in the run-up to that fateful date when all treaties relating to the 1997 handover of Hong Kong to Chinese sovereignty expire…more and more of our young people are disillusioned with “one country, two systems”. They no longer believe that the Basic Law truly protects our freedoms or ensures judicial independence and civil rights or promotes our values and way of life.
Beijing Sets Fire, C.Y. Adds Oil To Independence Call: A series of Beijing policies since 1997 have effectively pushed young people towards the path of independence. They include Beijing’s:
- Violation of its promise of universal suffrage in the Basic Law;
- Violation of its promise of political space for Hong Kong under “one country, two systems” policy;
- Imposition of the mainland ideology on Hong Kong in the name of “patriotism”;
- Push for “integration” through Five-Year Plan;
- Exportation of China’s ideology and mode of behaviour to overseas as a result of the nation’s rise, causing impacts on other societies.
Demosisto, formed of former Scholarism members, advocates self-determination and a referendum for post-2047 HK through nonviolent resistance. It does not agitate for but does not rule out independence after 2047:「如果在中共主權裏面，是能夠有民主自治，我們是完全接受，但如果在承認中共主權前提之下，是無民主自治，那只能夠選擇港獨。」; 「香港眾志」成立 羅冠聰：港獨非禁忌不應扼殺討論
“Over 30 young individuals from various pro-democracy groups have jointly signed a declaration entitled “Resolution for Hong Kong’s Future”, stating that Hongkongers themselves should decide the political status of Hong Kong after 2047. The declaration, which was posted on Reform HK’s page on Thursday morning, was signed by pro-democracy figures acting in their personal capacity. They include Civic Party members Alvin Yeung and Tanya Chan, the Democratic Party’s Eric Lam, political science scholar Brian Fong, and social commentator Max Wong.” (Let Hongkongers decide city’s future after 2047, pro-democracy figures say; 民主派中青代發表《香港前途決議文》全文) They advocate self-determination and nonviolence.
Chin Wan advocates the city-state status but not independence: China are to be taken care of by the mainlanders themselves, they are none of Hong Kong’s business [sic]
HK govt and Beijing blamed for failed reform: A survey shows that most people do not identify localism with independence. Only 10 percent of those surveyed associate the two together, while more than 60 percent of respondents believe localism is simply meant to protect Hong Kong’s way of life, culture and history. Tong urged Beijing and the Hong Kong government to correctly identify and address the localism issue, and do all it can to safeguard the One Country, Two Systems principle.
[July 3, 2016] A RTHK survey shows that 7% of the respondents are supportive of independence, 67% against, 24% undecided (回歸十九年 at 18:10)
[Sep 2014] Beijing’s representative in HK had ruled out genuine universal suffrage under “one country, two systems”: Reuters published a story on September 11  in which it reported that Zhang Xiaoming had told several pro-democracy lawmakers that “the fact that you are allowed to stay alive, already shows the country’s inclusiveness”, according to two people who attended the August 19 meeting with Zhang and declined to be named… his intended meaning was that Beijing had already shown “great political inclusiveness” in allowing some democrat lawmakers to run for legislative office in Hong Kong. He said media reports of the meeting had a “malicious intention”.
In the slightly longer term, there is this pessimistic prognosis:
The ‘Fishball Riots’ are CY Leung’s greatest New Year’s gift: When the Fishball ‘Riot’ is finally settled, one thing will be clear. CY Leung will emerge as the big winner. Despite his stern condemnation of the events that unfolded in Mong Kok, Leung likely welcomed the events in Mong Kok as his greatest New Years’ gift ever — an open invitation to erode Hong Kong’s civil liberties in the name of public security. Just like how the Patriot Act enabled the United States government to circumvent civil protections, Leung will waste no time to cease this incident as a method to destroy and mainlandize Hong Kong’s civil liberties.
Background: The police were criticized for planting a bomb plot in 2015. This adds weight to the argument that the violent protest presents a golden gift to the authorities. “Jon Ho, spokesman for Hong Kong Localism Power, told a Commercial Radio programme today his group had no connection to 10 members of the “National Independent Party” arrested for allegedly plotting to set off bombs to cause mayhem and bloodshed. Ho also questioned if the party was a genuine localist group, citing suspicious features of material belonging to the group seized by police officers.”
紅螞蟻鬥黑螞蟻，誰在笑？ 權謀無變過，歷史在重演，看今天的香港，不禁倒抽一口涼氣。前新華社香港分社社長周南，最近直接談到中央「由亂而治這樣的干預是好事」。毛澤東擅長挑動鬥爭，大破大立，信奉天下大亂，則形勢大好。挑撥離間， 「由大亂到大治」的文革遺毒，正在香港蔓延。… 輿論層面，則頻頻點火，觸動民眾「怕亂」心理，把和平抗爭等同混亂、混亂等同癱瘓香港、等同「無啖好食」。
By calling the violent protest a riot, the CY Leung government tries to justify harsh treatment of protests. And by calling protestors “radical separatists,” Beijing may be laying the groundwork to reintroduce the national security bill:
Feng Wai, Vice-Director of State Council HK-Macao Office: Hong Kong has its unique culture, including the ways of expression. We [the mainland and Hong Kong] have two different sets of language and ways of expression, so communication is very important. The country has done a lot of things for Hong Kong Sometimes we didn’t talk about them properly. We need to present the “China story” properly. We need to express our thoughts in languages Hong Kong can comprehend and is acquainted with, and in ways that are acceptable to them.
京官對旺角騷亂輕描淡寫 練乙錚：年輕世代不買賬 北京要另謀對策: 港台新一代更明言要造反，不僅在在證明大陸那一套沒有吸引力，「更說明起碼江朱、胡溫、習李這三代領導人的對台工作基本上失敗。不僅失敗，而是愈來愈糟糕，台獨港獨思潮最激烈最澎湃的年齡組別，竟不是五六七十後的『老三屆』，而是跟共產黨本來沒有不共戴天之仇的八九十後。」
Impact on the Legco by-election
In the Legco by-election in New Territories East, the relative support for the pro-regime DAB candidate, the very moderate Third Side candidate, the moderate Civic Party candidate, and the more radical HK Indigenes candidate (a no. of HK Indigenes members participated in the protest) provided a timely thermometer to test the temperature of the society. (Watch a debate on RTHK’s The Pulse in English; Why Edward Leung’s candidacy makes LegCo bypoll more interesting ; Rationality Versus Emotion In Feb 28 Poll ;【新東補選】楊岳橋勢失票 旺角黑夜致選情添變數 ; 《新東補選模擬結果》; 【與林日曦商榷】選一個你自己喜歡的？等如送周浩鼎入局 ; Pro-HK self determination candidate’s election materials rejected by Electoral Office again)
Alvin Yeung on the bankruptcy of the Legco and the turn to violence: 【財委會發言】2016年3月12日 高鐵後休會辯論
Update after the election, see newer blog post “We are all localists“
Commentaries that support vs. denounce the violent protest:
Almost 70 percent of Hongkongers still support peaceful protests, according to CUHK poll: almost 70 percent believed that peaceful and nonviolent tactics should continue to be used when putting demands to the government. However, 15.9 percent of the respondents also agreed with the view that radical tactics were the only way to make the government respond to demands… Two-thirds – 66.9 percent – of respondents believed that both sides should solve problems by “making concessions to seek common ground.” In a separate question, 45.4 percent expected social conflicts to worsen in the coming three years.
Most young people not averse to violent tactics in protests: Nearly 60 percent of Hong Kong citizens feel protesters used excessive violence during street demonstrations and clashes with the police in the recent past, a survey has shown… As many as 59.1 percent of respondents in the age group of 18-29 said they would not exclude the use of violence when fighting the establishment, the Hong Kong Economic Journal cited a Lingnan University survey as showing.
University forum on protest methods allegedly banned by school as it ‘may promote violence’: “Models and pathways of resistance – a debate between peaceful non-violence and valiant”
PROGRESSIVE LAWYERS GROUP: Gratuitous violence by our police force has no place in our city. Responding to violence with violence is also not the Hong Kong that ordinary folk would want to see.After the riots in Mong Kok, Hong Kong must come together and say ‘no’ to violence
Mongkok Riot A Wake-Up Call: With the use of violence in protest escalating to a level unacceptable to the mainstream society, the Government is eagerly keen to hit hard on protestors they deemed as trouble-makers by invoking the riot law. At a time when the wounds inflicted by the Occupy Central movement are not yet healed, the new round of arrests and prosecutions in the wake of the Mongkok riot will pour salt to wounds.
From a civic organizer 小麗 : 桂林夜巿小販支持者的心聲：令人痛心的一夜: 我當晚一直伴在腸粉大王旁邊賣腸粉，其實小販一直有遷移，我們所在位置（山東街KFC旁）其實很平靜，和衝突的位置雖然只一街之隔，但卻是兩個世界。而因為擺賣的工作真的很忙，對於小場地以外的大環境所發生的事當時未能一一確知。
Bacchus Pang: 我不反對所有勇武抗爭，但要看時機、看策略、看正當性。… 警方近年的暴力手段、政府的腐敗，積聚下來的憤怒，一次過在前晚爆發出來。… 但洩憤就是洩憤，這不是抗爭，抗爭需要的是政治目標，但前晚沒有。
如你不能加入他們 也不要阻止他們: 「實力如此懸殊，（暴力）抗爭有用嗎？」… 去拼不一定有用，但不拼就只能坐以待斃。
Accounts by and about participants
Localist aims to form ‘own government’: Edward Leung, of the group Hong Kong Indigenous, told an RTHK election forum that the government and the police had used oppression as their primary weapon against protesters who took part in the 2014 Umbrella Movement.
Explained: who are Hong Kong Indigenous and what was their role in the Mong Kok protest and riot? “We are a group of nameless Hong Kong people who are on the frontline of protests. Since the old resistance methods have failed against the authorities, we have no choice but to stand out and break the stalemate,” the statement on the Hong Kong Indigenous’ Facebook page read… Together with other localist groups such as Civic Passion and Hong Kong Localism Power and National Independent Party – involved in a suspected bomb planted in a rubbish bin outside the Legislative Council last year – Hong Kong Indigenous had gained popularity in recent years, in parallel with a growing desire in Hong Kong to curb Beijing’s rising influence in the city. (Also Who are HK Indigenous?)
HK Indigenous : 黃台仰「給港人最後錄音」：寧為玉碎，不作瓦全: 最後光復行動迫使政府取消一簽多行改為一周一行，走私水貨的問題亦減輕了許多。… 但我們希望大家回想2015年2月8日(指光復屯門)之後，當日就是因為我們沒有受到社會輿論及政府打壓而卻步，我們仍然堅持發起光復行動最後才能帶來改變。
理性的盡頭就是武力 – 熱血時報網站連結 : 香港人向來機靈，經歷過雨傘革命和光復行動，香港人終於學懂反守為攻。香港人就地取材，黑警有盾有棍，就從地上掘出磚頭作遠投；黑警人多勢眾一字長蛇陣，就燃燒垃圾桶、路牌等以火作路障，阻止速龍隊攻襲。你們都是英勇的戰士，明知站在前線有被捕風險，但為了保家衛國仍然勇於站出來，衷心感激你們。
黃賢偉看到身邊的人開始掘地上的石磚，向對面的警員投擲。「我從來沒有想過事情會發展成這樣，也沒有想過會有人當面攻擊警察，襲警要坐牢的！但我一直很討厭香港政府。我在香港大學畢業，一直任低薪工作，買不起樓，只能在旺角租住劏房。去年，我開始轉職地盤工人，工作辛苦危險，但每個月可以賺到3萬，這是我比我之前的薪金多一半。但要買房子，我仍然付不起100萬首期，我32歲了，人生已經沒有希望。」此刻的黃賢偉，回想心頭積壓已久的鬱悶，眼前則是示威者向警察投擲磚頭的畫面，他說他腦海響起英文歌曲「You are not alone」（你永不會獨行）。
A series that explores HK identities in the post-umbrella era 我係乜乜乜
Police violence and massive arrests on riot charges
Hong Kong Indigenous leader Ray Wong arrested following Mong Kok unrest ; Person who did ‘not speak Cantonese’ threatened to kidnap me, says localist group leader Ray Wong ; 拘黃台仰 警展示證物「電磁炮」 科普實驗器材淘寶有售 大學講師諷尋常家居都可稱軍火庫 ; 不忿黃保釋 前副廉政專員籲網民起裁判官底 倡設「法庭監察」令法官為裁判負責
Meanwhile, protestors who broke a glass door of the Legco building to protest against developments in the Northeast were given a lenient sentence of community service (Community service for 13 New Territories development protesters who stormed LegCo building; 反東北13人判服務令 裁判官認同抗爭無須悔意 促堅守非暴力). However, ‘Riotous’ protesters who stormed LegCo deserve jail time, says High Court judge
More than “fishballs”
Pan-democrats fail in bid for independent Mong Kok clash probe ; Why Hong Kong’s Government Won’t Look Too Closely at The ‘Fishball Revolution’ ; Why government rejected independent probe into Mong Kok clashes ; 吳靄儀踢爆梁特拒組調查委員會之謎 籲不應姑息施行暴政
What will happen after the protesters are punished? To me, the cause of the “riot” is as simple as it gets: the incident took place because the indignation among our young people at mounting social injustice, deteriorating judicial independence, Beijing’s increasingly aggressive stance and the uneven enforcement of the law by the police over the past few years has reached the tipping point. Many of them are getting increasingly frustrated with the unjust political system and their powerlessness, and an increasing number of them are now becoming more eager to go to greater lengths to redress the injustice. Our society is sitting on a powder keg that is continuing to expand, and all it takes is a small spark to ignite it, like what happened in Mong Kok last week.
Never underestimate the little guy: What the Mong Kok clashes have in common with the Arab Spring : this so-called “Fish Ball Revolution” really isn’t about fish balls at all – it is about citizens fed up with the daily abuse by an unelected and unaccountable government led by an unelected and unaccountable chief executive…. no matter how rash and misguided the protesters appear, none of them would have risked prison by throwing bricks at the police if they had better, more effective ways to make themselves heard.
PROGRESSIVE LAWYERS GROUP: 1. Just as the riots of 1967 were more than just about a labour dispute in San Po Kong or political upheaval across the border at the time, the events overnight were more than about the selling of hawker food on a busy street during a festive season or any political movement. 2. Just as it was disingenuous of the British colonial government to blame the then riots on a small group of violent political agitators, when much deeper and wider social problems existed in Hong Kong society at the time, it would be identically disingenuous now to pretend that the events overnight was an isolated incident of violence.
cf. on the socio-economic basis of the rise of radical politics in the US, see It’s the Economy, Stupid!—2016 Redux
Fishball what? Revolution? Riot? Disturbance?
Every political struggle involves competing narratives. Supporters of participants speak of the “fishball revolution.” CY Leung labels the protest a riot. Beijing uses the term separatism. The Security chief complains that the term “revolution” sanctifies the violent protest.
Beijing signals less tolerant approach in branding instigators of Mong Kok riot as Hong Kong ‘separatists’: “On the early morning of February 9, a riot plotted mainly by local radical separatist organisation rocked Mong Kok,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said in the official statement… Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung dismissed allegations that the serious charge for all but one of the defendants being prosecuted so far was “tailor made” to match Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s description of the Mong Kok clashes as a “riot”.
Compared with earlier episodes in HK
Timelines and accounts of the unfolding of events
Let me repost sources on nonviolent action from “the fallacy that nonviolence has not worked“:
Erica Chenoweth at TEDxBoulder, “The success of nonviolent civil resistance” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YJSehRlU34w
Max Fisher makes Chenoweth and Stephan’s argument simple: “Peaceful Protest is Much More Effective Than Violence for Toppling Dictators,” Washington Post, 11/5/2013. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2013/11/05/peaceful-protest-is-much-more-effective-than-violence-in-toppling-dictators/?wpisrc=nl_cuzheads
Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan, “Drop Your Weapons: When and Why Civil Resistance Works” http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/141540/erica-chenoweth-and-maria-j-stephan/drop-your-weapons
World cases that show that nonviolence is a force more powerful http://www.aforcemorepowerful.org, esp. Ch. 13 “The Mythology of Violence”
198 nonviolent methods: http://www.aforcemorepowerful.org/resources/nonviolent/methods.php
Gene Sharp‘s lessons for successful nonviolence:
- Plan a strategy — you can’t improvise and expect success; classic negative example: Tiananmen. The occupy movement now joins the list.
- Overcome atomisation — get organized
- Target pillars of support (more below)
- Resist violence/maintain nonviolent discipline
- Expect regime repression and make it backfire–that requires that you maintain nonviolent discipline
- Don’t give up hope — as long as you haven’t given up, you haven’t lost
Tina Rosenberg, “Revolution U,” Foreign Policy, 2/16/2011. (http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/02/16/revolution_u): “NV conflict as a form of warfare — the only difference is you don’t use arms.”
CANVAS and Srdja Popovic et al, “A Guide to Effective Nonviolent Struggle” http://www.canvasopedia.org/library
Srdja Popovic, “How to topple a dictator,” TED, 2011 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z3Cd-oEvEog; “How to Topple a Dictator (Peacefully),” NYT, 2015 http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/02/13/a-military-manual-for-nonviolent-war/?_r=3
A Hong Kong blog on Popovic: Umbrella Blossom
- Freedom and democracy are best advanced by powerful, broad-based, and cohesive civic coalitions employing non-violent tactics; in 32 transitions in which strong non-violent civic coalitions were active, 24 countries (75%) are Free, 8 (25%) are Partly Free, and none are Not Free today.
- The largest gains for freedom occur as a result of transitions driven primarily or in large measure by significant civic protest and mobilization. Of 50 such transitions, 32 have led to high levels of respect for political rights and civil liberties. By contrast, in the 14 transitions from authoritarian rule in which the driving force was from the “top down” and led primarily by reform-minded power holders, only 3 (21%) are Free, with strong performance in terms of fundamental rights. Three other transitions were sparked by international military intervention.
- When cohesive and strong civic coalitions emerge in an environment where there is little or no violence, the result almost uniformly is a high level of freedom. Pre-transition, 9 such countries were Partly Free and 9 were Not Free. Today, post-transition, 17 are Free, and only 1 is Partly Free.
- Even in settings of significant or high violence, the prospects for freedom are significantly better when the opposition refrains from using violence. In the 20 countries in which both the government and segments of the opposition used violence, only 20 percent of the countries are Free today, while 60 percent are Partly Free, and 20 are Not Free. By contrast, in the 12 countries where the authorities employed violent force but the opposition resisted with nonviolent tactics, 7 (nearly 60 percent) are Free, while 5 (more than 40 percent) are Partly Free.
See also the structure of power/pillars of support and alternative nonviolent tactics in what could be more effective.
- Theoretical premise from Gandhi: Power is relational rather than monolithic
- Key strategies and methods conducive to success: separation of a regime from its “pillars of support”
- Pillars of support: The target is not the pinnacle of state power. Rulers draw their resources and legitimacy from multiple loci of power. “A government is like a building held up by pillars.” (Rosenberg)
- Pillars: police, military, civil servants, the media, teachers/education system, workers, business community, church, int’l support, etc.
- Power graph: chart each pillar’s level of loyalty to the regime over time, see which pillars had fluctuated and what events caused the change.
- See CANVAS, “A Guide to Effective Nonviolent Struggle” (http://www.canvasopedia.org/library)
USIP Global Campus’ online course on nonviolence: Civil Resistance and the Dynamics of Nonviolent Movements. Some select lectures:
2.1.1 Strategic Effectiveness
3.2.2 Courageous Leadership
Long Hair often wears t-shirts with the iconic image of Che Guevara. He observes that the CCP’s power grew out of the barrel of a gun and that many resistance movements in history were violent. But HK cannot replicate the CCP’s armed struggles. Long Hair’s conclusion is supported by scholarly research.