What is freedom?

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I have not written anything in the past five months because I had no idea what I should write about, given everything that has been happening in my beloved city of Hong Kong. I didn’t know if I should speak out or express my views or tell people how I felt publicly because it seems that anyone who voices their opinions are attacked from both sides (verbally and physically). I’ve seen it happen on the streets on the news, even on WhatsApp groups among friends and even in my own home. There is no right or wrong side in this political turmoil that I am witnessing in HK right now. Both the government and police, and other political leaders and protesters have faults and caused this unrest that’s been going on for five months. I do not support the Carrie Lam administrative government 100% because I believe she did not fully inform or educate the public about the extradition bill that she wanted to pass urgently, nor did she listen when people started voicing out their concerns. They have not been properly educating the people of Hong Kong for the last 20 years about what it means to live under the one country two systems rule and how Hong Kong is and always will be a part of China. They did not do their utmost to lift people out of poverty or provide adequate affordable housing for our increasing population. I do not support the Police Force 100% because they have used unreasonable and excessive force in handling some cases and lost their temper during arrests and interrogations. Though I can understand their frustration, I do not support everything they have done during the last five months. I do not support the pan democrats for spouting hate and shouting angrily and emotionally during legislative council meetings, even inciting the wider public to participate in demonstrations with increasing violence to provoke the police and force a crackdown. I do not support the protesters who now no longer apply for peaceful assemblies but are starting to block major tunnels and roads, occupying university campuses, digging up bricks to build barricades and stopping people from going to work and school, essentially forcing everyone to participate in a general strike. They are no longer peaceful protesters. I do believe that the majority of them are peaceful, but sadly, this radical group has caused serious damage to our city and the political leaders who first encouraged them refuse to denounce or condemn their behaviours saying that they will not ‘cut the mat’ with them, as they see violence, vandalism, disruptions to traffic a small price to pay for political power and control. I do not support any one group or side 100% and see faults from all sides and stand neutral, believing that God is in control of the situation and He is working things out in His time and way. Yet, when I engage in discussions with different people, they want to point fingers and put all the blame on the police, their use of tear gas, and label them as ‘black police’ who deserve all the abuse, cursing, doxxing and bullying for what they have done. Others put all the blame on protesters and rioters for throwing Molotov cocktails, petrol bombs, vandalism and label them as ‘cockcroaches’ who are losers and are brainwashed. Hardly anyone wants to accept that the side they support have done wrong and both deserve punishment.

I don’t ignore the fact that police have used excessive force but one cannot accuse police of brutality if they are holding a Molotov cocktail in one hand and a brick in the other. Nor can one expect to get away with stabbing a policeman in the neck with a box cutter, setting a man on fire or throwing a brick at a man’s head (who passed away, unfortunately). Yet, this is exactly what the pan democrats are asking for, as one of their five demands – amnesty for all those arrested during the protests, not to mention disbanding the police force altogether.

Why can’t all this be solved through reasonable dialogue? How do you reason with someone refusing to listen? Why can’t we freely express our opinions without being attacked or beaten? Since when has differences in opinions and political views become a reason for bullying, social lynching and boycotts? This doesn’t even happen in the US between Republicans and Democrats. You don’t see Republican celebrities being attacked by Democrats smashing a glass bottle on their heads either. So why is this happening in Hong Kong?

For those who would like some background information into how we got here, this is what started this ‘pro-democracy’ movement. What started out as a demand for the withdrawal of an extradition bill (allowing criminals to be extradited back to Mainland China, Macau and Taiwan and any other place HK does not currently have an extradition agreement with. See link for more info) escalated quickly into five demands, now six, as of the start of October. Their demands include:
1. The complete withdrawal of the extradition bill (already withdrawn);
2. Removal of the classification of ‘riots’ when referring to the clashes between protesters and police on June 12;
3. Amnesty for all those arrested in relation to the protests;
4. Setting up an Independent Inquiry Committee into police brutality;
5. Universal Suffrage (originally was that Carrie Lam step down as Chief Executive); and
6. Disband the HK Police Force (added in October).

Are these demands reasonable in any democratic society? The government has already withdrawn the the bill, yet the protests have not stopped. They demand that the government responds to ALL their demands (“Five/Six Demands! Not one less!” as per their slogan). But their definition of ‘respond’ basically means that the government cannot give ‘no’ as a response. So, we are stuck here at an impasse, with neither side willing to negotiate in a rational manner.

The protesters want to tell the world that they are fighting for democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of press etc. They use examples of oppression from Tibet and Xinjiang as reasons to fight against tyranny and Communist China. Yes, these are atrocities that occurred in China, no one says these are acceptable. But you do not use violence or vandalism to fight against these things. That doesn’t make you any better! You cannot exercise your freedom of speech by berating and attacking someone who expresses a different view. Nor can you impose your version of freedom by blocking roads and preventing people from exercising their freedom to travel and go to work or school! We all have the freedom to assembly and protest, but we also have the freedom to choose whether or not to participate! In fact, if their calls for a general strike were actually successful, it would not only cause more chaos and uproar, it wouldn’t help them either. Who would look after the sick, dying, handicapped, or elderly in hospitals and long-stay residential homes? Who would put out all the fires or arrest the thugs who rob or attack you? Who would sell you food or cook for you in restaurants? Who would manage your funds and investments at the bank? Who would look after your children, keep them safe or teach them at school? And who would report the news? Who?

There are many young people being pressured into protesting, for fear of being bullied or being isolated. This fear is very real as many parents have expressed worries and concerns of their kids reporting that they have been harrassed into wearing face masks, forming human chains and joining after-school demonstrations. Children of police officers are also targeted and bullied in schools -in some cases, by the teachers. Journalists from media outlets that report more balanced news or just an ounce of support for the government are physically attacked, having petrol bombs thrown at them, their camera equipment smashed, their vans set on fire and even threatened into handing over their memory cards. Is this how one fights for democratic freedom? Is violence against your own people justified in the name of freedom? Is freedom of speech only applicable to the violent and loud protesters who shout slogans like ‘Liberate HK’ and ‘Revolution of the Times’? Aren’t people with opposing views also entitled to the same freedom of speech? So they want freedom to say whatever they want and freedom to commit illegal acts without consequences? Their means of fighting for freedom are limiting the freedoms of others who do not share their views – is this not another type of oppression?

To be completely honest, I feel like I have lost my freedom over these last few months because of these ‘freedom fighters’. When I think about what it means to be free on this earth, compared to what people are doing to fight for freedom and human rights, I would rather not have it. If it means that someone is attacked for speaking a different dialect or language, I would rather not have it. If it means losing your friends or putting a strain on your relationships just by voicing out your opinions, I would rather not have it. If my freedom comes at a cost of someone else being hurt or suffering in pain, I don’t want it.

If we had true freedom on earth, imagine what it would be like. You are essentially living in a lawless society with no one following any kind of law and order. Although you are extremely free to do whatever you like, you don’t actually have freedom because of everyone else’s freedoms being exercised at the same time. When everyone wants to have their voices heard, you get nothing done. When everyone wants to be the leader or to tell the leader what to do, you get shouting matches during Legco meetings. If you give everyone a vote to elect a leader democratically, it doesn’t mean that person is the most suitable person to lead. If you elect someone democratically with one candidate getting 51% of the votes and the other 49% of the votes, people will still be unhappy. The 49% will protest and dissent or demand re-election. Univeral suffrage isn’t something that can be rushed or forced into a country or region without first educating its citizens and potential voters. How can you trust that the majority of the citizens would elect a competent and suitable leader? Look at Trump and Johnson, the Brexit referendum, calls for impeachment, re-elections and so on. There will always be people who do not agree with the leaders but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should resort to such extreme violence to get your way.

I won’t go on any more about world politics because no one will ever agree on this, but I want to emphasise one point about freedom to conclude my long-winded rant. Having freedom on earth is only an illusion if we focus on our physical environment and fleshly bodies. Your true freedom is in Christ. When Jesus died on the cross for our sins, he freed us from the shackles of sin, guilt and condemnation. I already have freedom when I accepted Him as my saviour, knowing I will be reunited with Him in heaven one day. I already have freedom when I gave God control of my life. I don’t need wealth, success, fame, popularity, academia, or possessions. These things are meaningless and temporary, unlike God’s everlasting and eternal love. The Bible never taught us to fight for democracy or to rebel against our government by attacking police officers, destroying public properties and insulting one another. The Bible taught us to ‘love your neighbour as yourself’. Violence begets violence. If you want to have true spiritual freedom, don’t indulge in the freedom of the flesh. God gave us freedom to love and serve one another humbly, not to attack or hurt or hate one another. We can have different views and still love one another, can’t we? We can live and travel all around the world and still love those who look different and speak different languages and dialects, can’t we? Why can’t we say, ‘You and I are different, but I still love and accept you’? Let’s stop arguing about who is right or wrong, what is fake or real news, who started the fight, or who should be the Chief Executive / President etc. Let’s simply choose God as our one true King above all kings to reign over us and let go of our own need to control everything and be spiritually free in Christ.

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