King III’S sin­cere ig­no­rance

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - HK COMMENT - CHAN WAI- KE­UNG The author is a lec­turer at the Col­lege of Pro­fes­sional and Con­tin­u­ing Ed­u­ca­tion at Hong Kong Polytech­nic Univer­sity.

oth­ing in the world is more danger­ous than sin­cere ig­no­rance and con­sci­en­tious stu­pid­ity.” This is a per­cep­tive say­ing by Martin Luther King Jr who rightly de­cried po­lit­i­cal prej­u­dice that had no ba­sis in re­al­ity. There is in­deed noth­ing more danger­ous than some­one who be­lieves some­thing sim­ply be­cause some­one else has told them it is true.

His son, Martin Luther King III, how­ever, seems to have failed to keep this adage in mind, re­cently hood­winked by a Hong Kong dis­rep­utable news­pa­per into ex­press­ing his sup­port for the “Oc­cupy Cen­tral” cam­paign, which is some­what in­com­pat­i­ble with his fa­ther’s anti-seg­re­ga­tion stance.

On Wed­nes­day, Ap­ple Daily car­ried the front page head­line: “the son of Martin Luther King Jr is en­dors­ing Benny Tai’s ‘Oc­cupy Cen­tral’ cam­paign”, quot­ing King III as say­ing: “be un­re­lent­ing in fight­ing the bat­tle un­til you can get the kind of just gov­ern­ing struc­ture you want (in Hong Kong)”. Re­gret­tably, in the news re­port, King III did not elu­ci­date his rea­sons for his en­dorse­ment of the cam­paign. Nor did he ex­plain why the gov­ern­ing struc­ture is un­just in Hong Kong.

Un­de­ni­ably, Ap­ple Daily jour­nal­ists did an ad­mirable job in trav­el­ing a long way to in­ter­view King III in per­son to mark the 50th an­niver­sary of his fa­ther’s fa­mous “I have a dream” speech. But, did the jour­nal­ist give King III suf­fi­cient back­ground in­for­ma­tion about the evo­lu­tion of Hong Kong’s po­lit­i­cal sys­tems and Tai’s no­tions of democ­racy dur­ing the in­ter­view? Was King III able to make a fair as­sess­ment of Tai’s pro­posed cam­paign with his limited knowl­edge of Hong Kong? I re­ally doubt it. King III’s ig­no­rance about Hong Kong pol­i­tics has greatly called into ques­tion his ap­proval of the “Oc­cupy” cam­paign. The jour­nal­ists, ex­ploit­ing his “sin­cere ig­no­rance and con­sci­en­tious stu­pid­ity”, ef­fort­lessly mis­led King III into say­ing what they wanted to le­git­imize Tai’s po­lit­i­cal agenda in line with the news­pa­per’s anti-Bei­jing ide­ol­ogy.

Is Tai’s “Oc­cupy” cam­paign re­ally com­pa­ra­ble with the civil rights move­ment launched by Martin Luther King Jr, as Tai and Ap­ply Daily sug­gested? Is cur­rent so­cial in­jus­tice in Hong Kong akin to the Amer­i­can so­cial ills in the 1950s? Noth­ing, in fact, is more in­apt than this com­par­i­son.

To be­gin with, King III in the in­ter­view spoke of, “the Mont­gomery Bus Boy­cott” to an­a­lyze the in­jus­tice of the 1950s epit­o­mized by the pol­icy of racial seg­re­ga­tion on the Mont­gomery pub­lic tran­sit sys­tem, which dic­tated that black pas­sen­gers fill seats from the back, whereas white pas­sen­gers fill those from the front. It was this so­cial and racial in­jus­tice which mo­ti­vated his fa­ther to em­bark on his non-vi­o­lent re­sis­tance to the US govern­ment.

It is com­mon knowl­edge that in­jus­tice in the 20th cen­tury de­picted by King III does not ex­ist in to­day’s Hong Kong. Our HKSAR govern­ment has never seg­re­gated or dis­crim­i­nated against any cit­i­zens in pub­lic on the grounds of race or po­lit­i­cal stances. By con­trast, it was the Bri­tish colo­nial govern­ment that once barred the eth­nic Chi­nese from liv­ing on The Peak, a moun­tain on Hong Kong Is­land. Like­wise, it was the Bri­tish of­fi­cials who re­port­edly kept lo­cals with pro-Chi­nese Com­mu­nist or Kuom­intang stances from join­ing the civil ser­vice be­fore 1997. Sadly, dur­ing the colo­nial pe­riod, Benny Tai and other Bei­jing bash­ers never launched a civil dis­obe­di­ence move­ment in de­fi­ance of the Bri­tish racial and po­lit­i­cal hege­mony by mod­el­ing them­selves on Martin Luther King Jr and Ma­hatma Gandhi.

It is not un­til 2013, 16 years af­ter Hong Kong’s han­dover to China, that Tai and his fol­low­ers, in the name of civil dis­obe­di­ence, pro­posed the “Oc­cupy” cam­paign against those who would dis­ap­prove of their ideas about “univer­sal suf­frage”. But, what Tai is propos­ing is ac­tu­ally not a civil rights move­ment sim­i­lar to the one launched by Martin Luther King Jr. On the con­trary, it is an un­demo­cratic cam­paign which dis­re­gards the fu­sion of dif­fer­ent opin­ions, mak­ing Hong Kong so­ci­ety po­lit­i­cally seg­re­gated, di­vided and sti­fling.

A telling ex­am­ple is a fo­rum or­ga­nized by Tai on June 9. Grossly dis­tort­ing the con­cept of “De­lib­er­a­tion Day” pro­posed by the Amer­i­can po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tists James Fishkin and Bruce Ack­er­man, he in­vited al­most 700 cit­i­zens to at­tend the fo­rum on prepa­ra­tions for their “civil dis­obe­di­ence move­ment”. It was in the fo­rum that Tai seg­re­gated the par­tic­i­pants on the grounds of their po­lit­i­cal stances. For in­stance, if one op­posed Tai’s “Oc­cupy” cam­paign, he or she would be de­prived of the right to sign up for the fo­rum. Like Rosa Parks, he or she was woe­fully barred from tak­ing a seat re­served ex­clu­sively for Tai’s sup­port­ers in the fo­rum.

Clearly, it is not the HKSAR govern­ment, but Tai, who has abra­sively seg­re­gated and dis­crim­i­nated against peo­ple on the grounds of their po­lit­i­cal po­si­tions. It is in­deed ironic that the son of Martin Luther King Jr, a vo­cal critic of the pol­icy of seg­re­ga­tion, is en­dors­ing a Hong Kong cam­paign which has po­lit­i­cally, al­though not racially, seg­re­gated peo­ple.

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