Hong Kong's Civil Disobedience Campaign Seeks Inspiration from Martin Luther King

U.S. Consulate General Hong Kong and Macau asked Hong Kong people "What is your dream?" at the eve of the 50 anniversary of Martin Luther King's speech on "I have a dream..."

U.S. Consulate General Hong Kong and Macau asked Hong Kong people “What is your dream?” on the eve of the 50 anniversary of Martin Luther King's speech “I have a dream…”

The anniversary of Martin Luther King's “I have a dream…” speech is on August 28, 2013. Hong Kong local media outlets have given it quite large coverage because Martin Luther King's civil disobedience campaign has been widely discussed and debated among the society as a result of the call made by the city's democrats to “occupy Central” as a mean of struggle for genuine universal suffrage – the right of citizens to nominate and vote for the head of government in 2017.

What's more, Martin Luther King III appeared in an interview with a local newspaper, the Apple Daily News, and gave some advice to Hong Kong people: The key to success is to have faith and determination to carry on the action until the goal is accomplished.

The advocates of “Occupying Central” believe that civil disobedience is the best strategy to deal with the Beijing government which is in control of the interpretation of the Hong Kong's Basic Law, the city's constitution. On the other hand, the pro-China groups label “Occupying Central” as a planned riot under the euphemism [zh] of “love and peace”.

One of the anti-occupy central groups, “Speaking for Hong Kong”, is headed by a number of opinion leaders and university professors who claim to represent the “Silent Majority” [zh]. The group launched [zh] their anti-occupy Central campaign with a political statement using broken windows theory in major Chinese newspapers in Hong Kong on August 13:


Today someone has advocated occupying Central. Such action is like throwing a stone at the society. When the windows in Central have been broken, other windows will share the same fate. We don't have shelters from rain and wind anymore. Hong Kong people will suffer from the consequences. Do we want this? Can we accept it?

To prove that “Occupying Central” is harmful to Hong Kong, Chow Yung, a former radio host and an iconic figure of the anti-occupation group, argued [zh] in a newspaper commentary on August 14 that the campaign has violated Martin Luther King's principle:

馬丁路德金最漂亮非暴力抗爭一役是「向華盛頓進軍」。25萬來自美國各地的人,在1963年8月28日聚集在林肯紀念碑,聽覑「我有一個夢想」的演辭。這促使美國國會一年後通過Civil Rights Act,廢除種族歧視。

問題是進軍完畢,有否因利乘便馬上來個「佔領華盛頓」(Occupy Washington DC)?


The most beautiful non-violent struggle of Marin Luther King was the “March on Washington DC”. 250,000 people from all across the U.S gathered around the Lincoln Memorial on 28 of August 1963, listening to the speech “I have a dream”. The action has led to the legislation of the Civil Rights Act and abolition of racial discrimination.

After the march, no occupy Washington DC had taken place.

The fact is that Martin Luther King, among other leaders had a meeting with President JFK soon after the assembly and the 250,000 protesters went home after a night of celebration.

He successfully struggled for the Civil Rights Act by meeting with President Kennedy after the peaceful assembly in Washington DC on August 28 1963 where he delivered his “I have a dream” speech rather than occupying Washington DC.

In respond to the group political advertisement and Chow's argument, Chan Kin Man, a sociology professor from the Chinese University of Hong Kong and an advocate for the occupying Central campaign wrote [zh] on August 16:


Before Martin Luther King cried out “I have a dream”, he had faced a lot of attacks and accusations. At that time, the Southern part of the U.S still had racial segregation policy. A black lady was arrested because she refused to offer her seat to a white man. Martin Luther King launched a bus boycott campaign to protest against the discrimination and urged his fellow Americans to walk instead of taking a bus for work. The campaign lasted for 380 days and the bus company was at the verge of bankruptcy. It also affected the work of bus drivers (both black and white). The government and the church both attacked Martin Luther King for destroying the economy and creating conflict.

由於杯葛行動被視為觸犯當地法律,馬丁路德金被捕下獄。但為了實踐人人平等的精神,他在伯明翰繼續組織一連串「佔領行動」,前前後後被捕29次。公民抗命的確造成短暫的經濟和社會波動,是否值得承受這個代價端視乎社會的價值觀。[…] 他慨嘆在爭取平權的路上最大的對手不是三K黨之流,而是那些緊抱表面秩序的中產階級。

As the boycott violated the law, Martin Luther King was arrested and jailed. In order to enact the spirit of equality, he had organized a number of “occupying actions” in Birmingham and was arrested 29 times. Civil disobedience will create turbulence for the economy and society. Whether the society is willing to take up the consequence depends on its value.[…] [Martin Luther King] he said that the biggest obstacle to the struggle for equality was not the Ku Klux Klan but the middle class who firmly embraced the superficial order.

The debate is an educational process for Hong Kong people and has served as an early celebration of the 50 anniversary of Martin Luther King's speech. The question posed is “what is your dream”, which was coincidentally posted by the U.S. Consulate General Hong Kong and Macau on its Facebook fan's page on August 24. The Beijing government will definitely find most of the answers outraging. Among the 654 responses, about 70% calls for independence of Hong Kong.

In the campaign page of “Occupy Central with Love and Peace” [zh], one can see that Martin Luther King's dream continues to serve as an inspiration for the emerging civil disobedient movement in Hong Kong.


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