A different kind of protest for equality

A year after mass protests in Hong Kong, pro-democracy leaders may be shifting tactics, acting with equality rather than just demanding it.

Demonstrators in Hong Kong march on the first anniversary of a mass protest against the now-withdrawn extradition bill June 9.

Just days after mass protests for racial equality began in the United States, Hong Kong marked the one-year anniversary of its million-person march for democratic equality. On June 9, hundreds of people used the anniversary to again rally against attempts by China to impinge on the freedoms still existing in the semi-autonomous city.

Tuesday’s protest was smaller than past ones in large part because pro-democracy leaders have realized the limits of street demonstrations. Trying to shame the Communist Party in Beijing has only played to its fears of losing power, forcing it into more brutal crackdowns and mass arrests. In late May, the party decided to impose new laws on Hong Kong that would allow its security agencies to directly suppress critics.

A far better tactic to keep Hong Kong’s liberties, say protest organizers, might be to openly exercise the kind of equality they wish to preserve.

They have only begun to look for examples. Yet the idea is to treat the Communist Party as an equal, even if its leaders treat Chinese citizens as unequal by ruling without open and democratic elections. In other words, equality means not acting with self-righteous superiority but treating others as you would like to be treated.

Last November, pro-democracy voters won most of the seats in local elections for district councils – one of the few examples of democracy left in Hong Kong. This not only shocked Beijing but also showed the city’s voters that equality has power. Now student groups and 23 unions have joined forces to hold a referendum on June 14. It calls for a boycott of classes and workplaces as a “collective dissent” against Beijing’s proposed new law.

If at least 60,000 people vote at informal polling stations or online, and 60% of them endorse the action, workers and students will leave their work or classrooms over three days. Not only the vote itself but also the organized strike will be an exercise in equality.

The universal ideal of equality is not an empty value. Nor is it given by others. As Tocqueville wrote in “Democracy in America,” “One has to understand that equality [first developed in society] ends up by infiltrating the world of politics as it does everywhere else. It would be impossible to imagine men forever unequal in one respect, yet equal in others; they must, in the end, come to be equal in all.”

The protests in the U.S. and Hong Kong differ in many aspects. Yet they both focus on improving people’s understanding of equality – whether in the voting booth, in a courtroom, or in a confrontation with police. After a year of street protests, Hong Kongers may be venturing to act boldly with equality, not merely demanding it.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to A different kind of protest for equality
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today