Sunday, October 29, 2017

Undaunted by likely prison term, Hong Kong Indigenous Leader Speaks Out

Ray Wong during our interview. Photos © Daniel C Tsang
Ray Wong (黃台仰), the 24 year-old founder of Hong Kong Indigenous, a Hong Kong political party advocating Hong Kong Independence, continues to speak out for a Hong Kong way of life increasingly endangered by what he depicts as the former British Crown Colony's new colonizers, the Peoples Republic of China.  He does so despite facing a likely lengthy prison term in a forthcoming trial.

He faces a potential decade behind bars if convicted of 'rioting' in the so-called Fishball Revolution of 2016, where riot police, according to Wong, beat up bystanders and sprayed pepper spray, after he and his group went to Mongkok to help unlicensed street hawkers set up their stalls during Lunar New Year celebrations. 

As he related during an almost hour-long interview (in Cantonese, the language spoken in Hong Kong) recorded16 October 2017 at his party's offices in
Hong Kong Indigenous tee shirt
an industrial warehouse building in the New Territories, his greatest fear is not prison but what happens outside while he is incarcerated, as he anticipates.  He recalls a nightmarish dream where for five years in prison he remains politically committed but on leaving the prison walls he discovers a totally changed Hong Kong, one that does not care about its future.  Luckily dreams are not predictors of what will actually happen.

[Weeks after the interview Ray Wong absconded to Germany, which granted him and fellow dissident Alan Li asylum as a refugee last May. -- 26 May 2019 Update.]

It was during his teens from Form 3 in secondary school when he realized interacting and speaking Putonghua with classmates from the Mainland the immense gulf that separated Hong Kongers (or Hong Kongese) from those who came from across the Chinese border to take classes at his school.  First there was the disdain the Putonghua Mainlanders had for him and his fellow Cantonese speakers, but more than that, he realized they were not able to think freely, having been raised under a political regime that placed everything under the dictates of Communist Party.

Hong Kong Indigenous bag
Born in Hong Kong, he started interested in politics as a pupil in secondary school,and would soon participated in local social movements, to the worry of his mother (his parents are separated), who today wonders why he has to put his life on the line, worried about what happened to Liu Shao-bo, the Nobel Prizewinner who died in prison in China.  His parents, he pointed out, came from the Mainland, and know what the Chinese government can do to dissidents.  Thus he feels sorry getting his mom be so worried, but he believes in the event communism ends in China, as some China watchers are anticipating with the impending collapse of a bloated economy, it will present an opening for an alternative future for Hong Kong.

Hong Kong Indigenous leaflet 2017
He and his fellow party members were in Mongkok last year to do what they did without incident the previous year, help hawkers who were setting up to sell fishballs and other delicacies during the Lunar New Year holidays, Wong says this time the local police started beating up not the hawkers but bystanders and using teargas.  That's how the events escalated during the Fishball Revolution.

Often accused by detractors of being a nativist, he insists his party does not discriminate against Mainlanders, just those who emigrate to Hong Kong without adopting the values of a cosmopolitan Hong Kong, pointing out that there is no citizenship test required about Hong Kong culture.  He notes that fellow Hong Kong Indigenous activist Edward Leung, whom we interviewed last year, was born on the Chinese Mainland but identifies as a Hong Kongnese.  In Hong Kong Indigenous, he says there are some 75 core members with 200 to 300 other supporters. 

He sees his mission now is to let the world know about how China is oppressing the people of Hong Kong.  Having travelled to meet with officials in Europe he finds they lack deep understanding of the reality of how China oppresses people within in its control.  He sees the route taken by other activists to potentially complain about human rights violations to the United Nations as "impractical", given Big Power control there.

Now that all Hong Kong political activists face a more authoritarian and intense crackdown by the Hong Kong Government, backed by Beijing, the various political factions seem willing to talk to each other.  Witness an event that took place just last month, on September 24.  HKU Law Prof. Benny Tai (戴耀廷), a leader of Occupy Central in 2014 was seated with Wong and other believers in democratic reform on a panel discussion after a community screening of indie filmmaker and arts professor Evans Chan (陳耀成)’s in-depth documentary on the Umbrella Movement, “Raise the Umbrellas” (撐傘), amicably discussing the past and future of Hong Kong activism.  – Daniel C. Tsang.

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