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Arrests only serve to harden hearts

HONG KONG (SE): In a democracy the backing of public opinion should be sought through a nonviolent process, the project officer from the Justice and Peace Commission, Jackie Hung Ling-yu, told the Sunday Examiner.
 
Hung believes that the recent arrest of democracy advocates simply to silence their voices is a betrayal of this process on the part of the government.
 
Calling it a form of white terror, she commented that this should have no place in the public discussion.
 
Nine people who took part in a protest outside the Chinese Liaison Office in Wanchai on November 6 last year were arrested on April 27.
 
Although all were later released on bail, they are being charged with various offences, ranging from unauthorised assembly to inciting others to cause disorder in public.
 
Hung said it is not usual for the police to arrest people so soon after a protest and she believes the unaccustomed haste is an attempt by the Hong Kong government to put a chill down the spine of people organising protests for the July 1 anniversary of the handover of the territory from British to Chinese sovereignty.
 
This she sees as especially important this year, as it is the 20th anniversary of the historic event and the president of China, Xi Jinping, is scheduled to be in Hong Kong for a three-day visit, during which he will swear in the new chief executive, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.
 
Neither of these will be without controversy.
 
However, Hung believes that any attempt to silence protest voices is meaningless, as people have become accustomed to taking risks in order to express their discontent about various issues in society since the Umbrella Movement in 2014 and the violent clash with the police in Mongkok at the Lunar New Year in 2016.
 
However, Hung said that she does not think the repressive tactics will be effective in the long run, as they do not solve any problems and people will continue to plan disruptive activities in the future.
 
She stressed the importance of struggling for democracy in non-violent ways, although she admitted that it is becoming increasingly difficult in the present political climate, as both the police and protesters are becoming more aggressive.
 
However, she emphasised that it is the peaceful protests that are able to win public support in the long run, especially if any violence that may occur can be shown to have originated with the police.
 
On the other hand, Hung pointed out that if protesters foment violence, then they are giving the government an excuse to crack down on them.
 
Hung commented in a reflection posted on the commission website on April 23 that the nonviolent strategy does not reflect cowardice, as it takes courage to remain calm under pressure and it is known that dictatorships welcome violent dissent, as it creates division, not only between the police and the people, but in the democratic camp itself.
 
The commission will launch a Chinese translation of a book called Thou Shall Not Kill on May 21.
 
It is written by the late Father Primo Mazzolari, an Italian priest who strongly pushed the line that there is no peace without justice and that peace can be achieved without violence.
 
The bishop of Hong Kong, John Cardinal Tong Hon, together with Father Maurizio Ghilardi, from of the diocese of Cremona in Italy, and PIME Father Franco Mella will also be present.
 
Pope Francis will visit the grave of Father Mazzolari, as well as that of another Italian priest who devoted his whole life to educating young people in the ways of peace and strongly opposing the militarisation of the Church and the state, Father Lorenzo Milani, on June 20, in the towns of Bozzolo and Bariana.
 
The visit will take place in a private and unofficial manner.

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