CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 18 May 2019

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History repeats itself

A national day celebration calls for a collective expression of the spirit of the nation and gratitude for the people, while remembering significant events of the past that contributed to making the nation what it is today.

Hong Kong recently marked two significant dates; the anniversary of the declaration of the People’s Republic of China, proclaimed by Mao Zedong on 1 October 1949, and the second anniversary of the launching of Occupy Central on September 28.

Although there is no comparison in the importance and significance of the two dates, nor can the impact they have made on national affairs be thought of in a remotely similar light, both have had their effect on life in Hong Kong.

While the return of the British colony in 1997 to Chinese sovereignty was a much celebrated event as a coming home to the motherland, some of the joy has soured over the years and Occupy Central became the most significant expression of the disappointment in the new age.

But in many ways it was history repeating itself. Rarely do people hold out against governments, it is injustice and the continual deaf ear turned to their cry that spark sufficient ire to prompt extraordinary action.

In 1854, a few hundred men blockaded themselves in a rough, handmade stockade on the gold fields in Ballarat, Australia. Theirs was not a revolution to overthrow a government, but an expression of the frustration of people when their interests are continually made subservient to those of big government and big money.

Known as the Eureka Stockade, an oath was sworn under the Sign of the Southern Cross to resist exploitation. Resistance did not last 79 days, but only a few hours. The ring leaders were rounded up and a miffed prosecution office charged them with treason, an accusation the courts did not buy.

Within three years, the ringleader, an educated man of deep faith in God, Peter Lalor, was sitting in parliament, where he later rose to the speaker’s chair.

Hong Kong has seen a concerted attempt to demonise those who sat in the streets and disrupted the life of the city during their epic stay, and to write off the whole episode as a failed and dismal waste of time and money.

While there may not have been any immediate change, the sit-in did have a profound effect on the political conversation in the territory, the results of which did not become tangible until the September 4 elections for the Legislative Council, which saw its makeup rattled around significantly and at least six people elected, who if it had not been for the massive protest, probably would not even have run as candidates.

Like Eureka, there had been no call to oust a government, but a plea for a listening ear and an end to the subjugation of the interests of the people to those of big government and big money.

As history has shown repeatedly, when the voices of the people are constantly ignored and then compounded by the injustices perpetrated against them, the status quo will be attacked and leave many ambivalent towards celebrations of the collective spirit of the nation, fracturing the harmony of society. JiM