for those who requested i put this up, here’s my speech from today’s demo in solidarity w/ hong kong
feel free to use it/circulate it as you like
for some info on the “live-in rule” and the “2 week rule”:
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Hey everyone, my name is Vincent Tao and I’m a member of No One Is Illegal Montreal.
I believe it should be our priority here to stand against the state’s brazen use of violent police force in response to this Monday’s protests in Hong Kong’s downtown core. While the HKP’s most recent display of state-sanctioned brutality is plainly appalling and should be condemned internationally, it is anything but “surprising” in this day and age — sadly, we have come to expect that when the people take to the streets and attempt to exercise their right to occupy public space in any given global financial hub, they will inevitably be met with the blunt end of a cop’s nightstick. From Montreal to Hong Kong, police forces around the world are charging ahead in a one-sided arms race with the people — while we pick up umbrellas and bottles, cops are brandishing bigger and better implements of war every day. So whether a protestor decides to break a window or pick up their garbage, we must denounce police brutality in any place and in any form — all police brutality is excessive.
I am the son of Hong Kongers — [I am a Hong Konger] — so I cannot begin to describe the complicated feelings of longing and belonging I felt when I first saw the images of Victoria Square filled with people my age marching for what they believe in. But when the deluge of Western media reports came pouring in, the message communicated in these images of people power became at once terribly distorted and painfully clear. From the Times to the Economist, Western media outlets are obsessed with the imagination of a “famously orderly” and clean Hong Kong, a postcard image of the prosperous global financial centre painted with a nostalgia for the city’s time under British colonial rule. At the same time that press releases recycle the age-old language of ‘yellow peril’, that ever-looming threat of an always backwards and fundamentally undemocratic China, reporters seek to perpetuate stereotypes of Occupy Central protesters as ‘model minorities’, an image strategically mobilized to shame the anti-authoritarian actions of our black and brown brothers and sisters in Ferguson and abroad.
So contrary to the notion that this is the first time in Hong Kong’s history that the “people are coordinating themselves with little direction from the government or institutions,” and with an exceptional air of middle-class decorum at that at that, we must be reminded that in May of 1967, the youth of my father’s generation set off bombs in the fight for decent working conditions and social planning initiatives from Hong Kong’s negligent colonial administration.
What must not be erased here is the long history of labour organizing, grass-roots mobilization, and protest in Hong Kong. But more importantly, I fear what else may be erased in our hasty celebration of the pro-democracy moment is the actual content of ‘democracy’. What is obscured in the flood of Getty images of youthful students peacefully marching in the streets is the fact that Hong Kong’s population of 7 million are not all bright-eyed MBA prospects and would-be hedge fund managers. In the reports of the protest streaming in as I speak, why is there no mention of the appalling income gap in Hong Kong, of how one in five of the island’s population are below the poverty line, of how suicide rates in the city’s poorer neighbourhoods are 3.5 times higher than they are in the adjacent financial districts? When the world measures Hong Kong’s so-called prosperity by its skyrocketing property prices, it is a sad inevitability that Occupy Central’s televised cry for democracy makes no mention of demands for public housing.
So let me ask you — just who is this ‘democracy’ for? Will universal suffrage be extended to the foreign domestic workers from Indonesia, the Phillipines, Nepal, Thailand, and Bangladesh that make up 10% of the island’s work force? When Leung Chun-ying is ousted as the city’s Chief Executive, will there be an end to Hong Kong’s “live-in rule” and “2 week rule” that force migrant women into a form of state-approved slavery? When Hong Kong achieves ’true democracy’, will there be justice for Erwania, the 23 year-old live-in domestic worker who was just one year ago found to be kept in a cage and tortured by her employers? When migrant workers must keep silence in the face of overwhelming rates of verbal, physical, and sexual abuse from the employers they must live with for fear of near-immediate deportation, how can we begin to talk about democracy?
So I urge you to ask yourselves, what is at stake in Hong Kong’s so-called pro-democracy movement, and just who does Occupy Central represent? Does universal suffrage for Hong Kong just mean universal suffrage for middle-class ‘Hong Kong Chinese’? It is my belief that democracy is bankrupt without justice and dignity for all peoples.