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Hong Kong: Network Mobilization Against Religious Hegemony

Yesterday (Feb 15), more than 800 people participated in a demonstration against Christian Right Wing in Hong Kong. The rally has no traditional NGO back up and it is mainly mobilized via facebook groups.

Sidekick reported about the rally via twitter during the rally and put the messages together in her blog. Actually she joined the rally because she read my message in twitter:

因為之前在twitter,見oiwan 說 :

雖然對於2月15日的遊行抱有疑惑,但會去做民間報導。畢竟這是網絡動員與淫審論爭的大事件!

於是令我也興起參加之念。
昨晚跟紫草 im,叫他今早吵醒我,所以雖然昨晚不算睡得太好,也能夠起來參加,跟他一起去……

Earlier on, I read oiwan in twitter that:

“Although I have certain doubts about the Feb 15 rally, I will go there for citizen reporting. Moreover, this network mobilization is a big issue regarding the indecent censorship debate!”

The message encouraged me to join.
Last night I asked cek ho via IM to wake me up this morning. Although I didn't sleep well last night, I still managed to join the rally with him…

Below is a video on the gathering before the rally:

And here comes a selection of Sidekick's twitter messages:

# 12:11p.m. 現在遊行人數應有四百人左右。
# 12:13p.m. 大會呼籲大家去到恩福堂時要保持冷靜,安靜。我們會在那裡默哀五分鐘。
# 12:16p.m. 我們在恩福堂門口綁上藍絲帶
# 12:18p.m. 下雨了!不過我有戴帽,cnbloggercon 的rss 帽,標準網民打扮。
# 12:20p.m. 林輝說,覺得九成人是新面孔,好開心。
# 12:25p.m. 我們離開了長沙灣的恩福堂,現遊行往太子的明光社。我們邊行邊喊口號,警察封了兩條行車線給我們。
# 12:32p.m. 我們在路上,遊行隊伍越來越多人。@oiwan 覺得應有500人了。
# 12:34p.m. 新口號:明光社,食屎!
# 12:37p.m. 今日遊行,女生不算少了。@oiwan 估佔兩成。
# 12:42p.m. 新口號二:蘇穎智,收皮!
# 12:48p.m. 一個達六七百人,佔四份一馬路的遊行,竟然不見有電視台新聞部採訪。@oiwan 覺得好離譜!
# 12:55p.m. 到西九龍中心。林輝說遊行隊伍像貪食蛇,越行越長。:)
# 01:07p.m. 差不多走到太子了,快到明光社了!
# 01:11p.m. 看不到龍尾
# 01:18p.m. 盲光社,可恥!
# 01:20p.m. 聽說後面就是盲光社
# 01:23p.m. 我們已經過了明光社,但卻繼續前行。不知終點在哪。
# 01:25p.m. 大會說遊行人數有八百人!

# 12:11p.m. The number of rally participants is around 400 now
# 12:13p.m. Organizers urge us to keep calm and quiet when we reached Yanfook Church. We will stay silence there for 5 minutes.
# 12:16p.m. We tied a blue ribbon in front of Yanfook Church
# 12:18p.m. It is raining now! Well, I have a cap, the rss cap from the cnbloggercon. A standard netizen look.
# 12:20p.m. Fred Lam said, 90% of the participants are new faces, and he is very happy about that.
# 12:25p.m. We leave the Yanfook Church at Cheung Sha Wan and rally towards True Light Society in Prince Edward. We keep shouting slogan along the way and the police blocks two car lines for us.
# 12:32p.m. More and more people joined the rally. @oiwan feels that there are about 500 people now.
# 12:34p.m. New slogan: True Light society eats shit!
# 12:37p.m. In this rally, the proportion of female is ok. @oiwan estimates that it is about 20%.
# 12:42p.m. New slogan: Patrick So, eat banana!
# 12:48p.m. A rally with more than 6-700 people and occupied one fourth of the road, yet there isn't any T.V news doing the report. @oiwan says this is outraging.
# 12:55p.m. We reach West Kowloon center, Fred Lam says the rally is like greedy snake, it gets longer and longer. :)
# 01:07p.m. We almost reach Prince Edward, True Light Society is near!
# 01:11p.m. Can't see the end of the rally line.
# 01:18p.m. Shame on Blind light society!
# 01:23p.m. We have passed True Light Society, but keep on walking, don't know where we are heading to.
# 01:25p.m. Organizer said there are about 800 people joining the rally.

ESWN has translated two Chinese newspapers reports on the rally and Doctor Fat's reflections after the rally:

In the history of religion in Hong Kong, the date Feburary 15, 2009 will be remembered.

On that day, several hundred citizens (mostly netizens) marched in the streets to “support the values of civic society and oppose right-wing religious hegemony.”

As an ordinary citizen and as an ordinary participant, let me first of all sincerely thank the persons who organized the demonstration march as well as the other volunteers. They turned a dream into reality and a call into an action. As I walked along the Cheung Sha Wan Path down to the Flower Market, I was indescribably moved: A group of people with different faiths, different sexual tendencies, different political stances, different education and backgrounds can come together for the same feelings (or perhaps the same anger) in a peaceful, rational and restrained manner.

In fact, all the concerns before the march about any violence were redundant. The marchers may have occasionally yelled out aloud but it did not bother me. Overall, the demonstrators were very disciplined and self-restrained. In front of Yanfook Church, everybody chose to hold a silent protest and to tie blue ribbons on the barriers outside the church. Dr. Chen's reading of “Ask less for love from others, but give all your love out instead” from St. Francis’ Prayers was supported and approved.

I saw that the Christians were able to read from the Bible as they marched, I saw that the Hong Kong Golden Forum friends could hold up their banners, I saw that gays could hold their hands together without fear, and I saw that students could protest aloud about the fake responses [that their school organized] as well as articulate their vision for education. We came together by respecting each other. We may have argued over the Internet over our views about religion, but once out in the streets, the rationality, restraint and tolerance were admirable and touching.

Before the rally, there are some discussions on internet mobilization. Cek Ho argued that internet mobilization is based on reaction against someone or something:

這種以「攻擊對象」主導的運動,導致了社會運動的一種結構性改變。我們不可能由籍著宣揚某種信念而動員;而是必需等待某人做了某事,而成為被攻擊對象,才能作出有效的動員。215 遊行的團體宣稱堅持「公民社會」,不過,香港從來不缺「公民社會」的論述和支持者,為甚麼它偏偏能在這時刻爆出?為甚麼它能在 Facebook 中,以一天近乎 200 人的驚人速度增長?因為,這 group 的名字是《香港反「保守基督教派霸權」運動》。「保守基督教派」這名詞,一看就知是最近在《淫審》和《家暴》條例中,大放厥詞的極端基督教勢力。這些保守勢力,一早已讓人牙癢癢的,欲除之而後快。時勢造英雄正確無比,不過造時勢是,卻往往不是英雄而是狗熊。

可是,這亦導致了社會運動上的難以管理。以仇恨為主體的運動,當仇恨發洩或退卻後,它就會從火線上退下來,無法再被動員,亦難以在相關議題上作出動員── 因為議題可能有關聯性,但卻未有白癡走出來,淪為攻擊對象,呈現一種仇恨對象缺席、沒著落的狀態。

Such mobilization tendency in “attacking other” has changed social movement structurally. We cannot just mobilize based on our belief but have to wait until someone has done something, or someone becomes a subject for attack in order for the mobilization to be effective. The organizers for the 215 rally position themselves in the civil society, however, the civil society has been there, how do we explain its sudden emerges? Why it can grow so quickly in the facebook, with the speed like more than 200 members per day? Mainly because this group is called “Anti” conservative Christian hegemony. Conservative Christian is related with the extreme Christian sect in the Control of Obscene and Indecent Article Ordinance and the Domestic Violence Ordinance, their speeches and behaviors have made many people angry. Time gives rise to hero, but Stupid bear creates time.

However, because of this, it is rather difficult to manage such movement. When hatred is the driving force for the movement, when it is cool down, it will be difficult to be mobilized again — as no idiot will give in himself to fuel people's anger. When hatred is absent, the mobilization would be disintegrated.

I have replied Cek Ho with another post at inmediahk.net:

紫草說對了一半,網絡的特性往往是「即時性」和「反應性」(reactionary),心之所感,再複製、重組和散播相關的訊息,形成一股情緒。更重要的是把這些情緒反應轉化為動員(要有理據),再轉化為運動(要有改變社會的議程),則要細緻地經營論述,鞏固既有的網絡。我覺得大家都在學習。

回到這次「反保守基督教派霸權」的動員,「反應情緒」主要來自家暴條例和淫審諮詢的宗教右翼聖戰號角,另一個源頭是那些以泛道德作為管治手段/政治籌碼的政客。雖然這次遊行,組織者打正旗號「反」保守基督教派霸權,但有別於其他網絡動員,組織者很強調網絡的團結:「able to join hand」,而且在動員的過程中,亦不斷地修正綱領

Cek Ho is not totally right. It is right that network communication are usually “instant” and “reactionary”, when you have strong emotion, you reproduce and disseminate it and it generates a sentiment circulating in the network. However, it is more important to transform the sentiment into reason and social transformation mobilization force. In order to do so, we have to articulate the problem and consolidate the network. We are all learning in the process.

Back to this anti-conservative Christian hegemony mobilization, the reactionary sentiment comes from the Holy war launched by the Christian right concerning the Domestic Violence and Obscene article ordinance, another sources is those politicians who try to manipulate moral issue as a means of social and political control. Although the rally is titled as an “Anti” Conservative Christian Hegemony campaign, organizers have stressed solidarity within the network and have been amending their agenda in the process.

After the rally, I have identified a number of mobilization core from the participants:

除了一些鬆散的個人透過 facebook 等網絡聚合,據我於互聯網和現場的觀察,遊行的動員,有幾個核心:一.主辦的核心(包括香港青年聯會);二.高登、奧賣葛、投訴波兒(以上三者有些重疊);三.同運團體;四.社民連;五.進步基督教徒;六.獨媒、影行者、媒體工作者。本來以為會出席但缺席的社群包括 blogger、維基人、文化藝術工作者、正統學界(有些大學的小組,如港大社工小隊,但學聯學生會似乎沒有積極動員)。

整個動員,不靠主流媒體或街上 banner 的吹谷、沒有政治明星(社民連幾大巨頭禮貌地避場),而是幾個動員核心的成員,一個連一個的拉出來,而這些參與者,對事件的了解相當深,隨便問一個人,大概都能講出十個理由他/她為什麼要出來行,而不是靠情緒和慣性,所以這八百人潛在的力量很大。

Apart from some individuals aggregated via the facebook, I can identify a number of mobilization core from my observations both from the internet and on the scene: 1. Organizer core (including the Hong Kong Youth Federation); 2. Golden forum, Ohmygod and complain against pnoyo (some overlapping in the three); 3. LGBT groups; 4. League of Social democrats; 5. Progressive Christian; 6. Inmediahk, independent media groups and media workers. Should have mobilized but with weak presence groups are: bloggers, wikipedians, artists, traditional student organization (there were some student groups, such as social workers from hku, but the Federation of University Student Unions were not actively involved).

The whole mobilization was not based on mainstream media, nor banner in the street. There wan't any political stars (LSD's leaders avoided their presence). The mobilization was based on all these core groups, one linking up to another. That's why most of the participants have good knowledge of the issue. You can pick up a participant randomly and s/he can give you a dozen reasons why s/he participated in this rally. This is not based on sentiment nor habit, and the 800 participants have strong potentials in future mobilization.

In the facebook, many members explained why their decided to join the rally, rationally and with positive values:

Don't Fok: 如果今次都唔出聲既話,唔會再有人可以幫我地呢d小市民出聲架la!!!
fuck the 霸權主義者everyday!!!

Don't Fok: If we don't speak up this time, no one else will speak up for us. fuck the hegemonist everyday!!!

Michael Luk: I promise I'll be in my best behavior on Sunday, but it's really hard to keep cool: These evangelical frenetics have been around abusing our mind and suppressing our civil rights through terror and censorship for too long. These “Christians” disseminate hate and suffocate free thoughts in the society. It's about time to kick them out from schools and the streets, and let them traumatize each other in their own churches.

Paul Chan: 這不是基督教徒的社會, 這不是天主教徒的社會, 這不是佛教徒的社會, 這不是非主流教徒的社會, 這不是無神論者的社會.

這是我們不分宗教信仰和不分種族的社會, 所以請你們互相尊重, 和諧共容. ^^

Paul Chan: This is not a Christian society, this is not a Catholic society, this is not a buddhist society, this is not an atheist society.

This is a society that is not marked by religious belief not race, so please be respectful and be tolerant.

Kin Chan: 少數基督教派絕對唔可以代表全部香港人的價值觀
少數基督教派更加唔可以將自己的價值觀強加於人

Kin Chan: A minority of Christian cannot represent all Hong Kong people's value, a sub-sect of Christianity cannot impost its value on to others.

Fan Hin Hung: 點解要抹殺青少年正確教育青少年明辨是非ge機會?
點解因為要創造一個”純潔”ge世界而剝削其他人ge自由?
點解唔俾青少年認清呢個世界,呢個社會ge另一面?
點解要過份保護我地ge下一代?
點解要灌輸大人自認為”完全正確”ge睇法俾我地ge下一代?

Fan Hin Hung: Why do we have to take away the opportunity for our youth to learn about right and wrong?
Why do we need to create a “pure” world and exploit other's freedom?
Why don't we let young people to know more about this world, the other side of the society?
Why are we over protecting our next generation?
Why are we indoctrinating the adult's “absolutely correct idea” to our next generation?

ChurmanNg: No matter how Pastor So presented his view, it is not the main point that i am criticizing, it is his freedom to give his own speech.The main idea for my opinion is that we should not analyze this issue from the perspective of ethical value, but the priciple of law, which is protecting everyone in the society,should be written based on respecting differnet kinds of value in the society. Note that even Christian is not the god, we can not force the others to accept the value we believe in.To make the others understand that the value of Holy Bible is absolute truth, we should preach by love,and our good examples.

Eleanor Cheung: sorry, i won't be able to attend (have to work).
hope people in our society, whether christian or not, have more understanding for each other lah. wouldn't it be nice if one day we can transcend this dualistic discourses and struggles between conservative vs liberals; pro gays vs anti gays; god vs devil etc.
i'd like to send loving kindness (metta) to those who are religious right (宗教右翼霸權); may be what they lack is a bit of love. according to christianity, god loves unconditionally, i hope they can feel god's love for them as well as for all beings unconditionally, no matter they are christians or non christians, gay or not gay, israelis or palestinians etc.

HK Akaraon: I am a christian myself but I don't really like those who are on the far end of the line – (the conservative Christian) (保守基督教派). I rather stay somewhere between heaven and earth and anywhere else except hell rather than meeting them in person or even talk to them. I know some people like that but trust me they won't believe in any other people's concept except their own until you prove them wrong or when they suffer from their own self made consequences. (Those HARDCORED RIGHT – WINGED EXTREMISTS!!!) If you think that the the stuffs on TV will make your child turn bad (DONT WATCH IT THEN). If you think that magazines will make them turn bad too (DONT LET YOUR CHILD GET THEIR HANDS ON IT THEN) DONT THROW YOUR BLOODY RESPONSIBILITIES AS A PARENT TO THE GOVERNMENT AND THE WORLD. YOU ARE A FAILURE AS A PARENT AND GOD GAVE YOU FREEWILL SO…. STOP BEING SO STUCK-UP!!!!!!!!

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