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[Opinion] Demonstration in Hong Kong

Posted December. 10, 2005 07:51,   


“Goodbye, Communist China. Welcome, Democracy.” Last Sunday, tens of thousands of protesters chanting “democracy” filled the streets of Hong Kong. Some protesters even thronged to the plaza in front of a government building late at night. Although such events appear to be naturally associated with a violent atmosphere, every report on the protest by foreign media outlets contained the word “peaceful.” The Washington Post said that the only point over which police and protesters clashed was the number of demonstrators. While police estimated the number of demonstrators at 63,000, protestors put the figure at 250,000.

On July 1, 2003, there was the first-ever (and largest, to date) anti-government demonstration in Hong Kong with some 500,000 people participating. There was no violence that time as well. The memory of violence in the island is so remote that a leftist demonstration in 1967, when it was under British colonial rule, is the most recent record of a violent demonstration. This is possible because of the strict public order law. The law defines a “riot” as a confrontation between demonstrators equipped with square wooden sticks and iron pipes with police, sentences the demonstrators jail time of as much as 14 years, and punishes for even the mentioning of “occupation” or appearing with square wooden bars.

Korea has a strict law as well. President Roh Moo-hyun said in November 2003, “We must correct our demonstration culture to protect law and order and restore national reliability,” instructing, “Clearly let demonstrators know that an illegal violent demonstration gets them nowhere.” However, illegal violent demonstrations which ignore public power are still there. About 1,500 farmers, who were recognized for their violent demonstration in Mexico two years ago, decided to fly to Hong Kong, which will host the ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization, to stage a demonstration.

Alerted by the decision, Lee Ming-kwai, Deputy Commissioner of Police of Hong Kong, sent a letter to Korean farmers. Lee said in the letter that he is also a fan of the Korean Wave and that those in Hong Kong think Korea is a nice country equipped with culture and state-of-the-art technology, gently warning, “A Korean-style demonstration would not work in Hong Kong.” He also added that Hong Kong police will try its best to protect a peaceful demonstration. Which can be viewed as a democratic society, between Hong Kong with its democratic demonstration culture and Korea with its non-democratic demonstration culture?

Kim Sun-deok, Editorial Writer, yuri@donga.com