Edward Leung, the poster boy of Hong Kong’s localist movement, was sentenced to six years behind bars June 11 for rioting in connection with the unrest that unfolded in Mong Kok over Lunar New Year in 2016. Dubbed the “Fishball Revolution,” protesters angered by the authorities’ attempt to clear street hawkers threw bricks at the police and set items alight while Leung and Ray Wong Toi-yeung held an “election parade.” Shortly after the clashes, Leung earned over 66,000 votes in a Legislative Council by-election but was barred from running in the general legislative elections later that year. He has been remanded in custody since January after pleading guilty to assaulting a police officer during the unrest — a charge which earned him a year-long sentence, to be served concurrently.

HKFP has translated his parting letter, publishing on his Facebook page earlier this week.

Before I returned to Hong Kong, I read an article about the trend of emigration amongst Hongkongers in recent years. The study showed that more and more were moving overseas, and young people in particular were overwhelmingly considering emigrating.

At the same time, I also read comments made by those in the ruling class, saying that if young people in the city were unhappy with the current state of society or pessimistic about their future, they could just leave. This had me wondering: what kind of environment are we creating for our next generation in Hong Kong?

Edward Leung. Photo: Facebook/Edward Leung.

To stay or to leave is no doubt a choice that many are facing. But if Hong Kong people, and especially the younger generation, no longer feel any attachment to Hong Kong and leave for someplace else, then the city’s fate is sealed. On the contrary, it is only when we anchor ourselves here that change is possible and Hong Kong will no longer be a “floating city.”

Of course, the reality is discouraging, and each of us have our difficulties.

Since the commencement of the trial, time has been rewinding itself back to that Lunar New Year night two years ago; sometimes it slows down, and sometimes it stops. My world once again met with the events of the night and has come to a standstill; I believe it will stay there for a while.

These past four months in jail have not been too difficult. I sincerely thank all the friends who came to the hearing or wrote to me. Whenever I recall the scene I see in court: before me a group of defence lawyers, familiar and unfamiliar faces at the public gallery, every nod, smile, wave… it give me courage to face everything ahead of me.

I’m especially grateful for the letters — they are my only means of communicating with the world outside these high walls, and provide me with infinite warmth. This human connection reminds me of why I got into politics.

Lives can affect other lives. As I was preparing for my testimony, I tried to retrace the steps that led me to today and thought of every person on this journey. All this time, what motivated me to participate in politics is the search for a free and democratic Hong Kong.

In pursuit of this ideal society, we encounter different scenarios; each person has their own experience and they come to their own conclusions. Regardless of the choices we made, in order for Hong Kong to become a democratic society, there will inevitably be times we stumble and fall.

Today, I no longer seek the approval of others; I only hope that they have the most basic understanding — the understanding that an unrepresentative political system will only cause frustration to build up amongst the people, that a failed political reform would trigger a series of political storms.

If we are to be living in and steering the fate of Hong Kong, then its wellbeing is intertwined with ours, and a democratic and representative government should be our common objective.

To speak of democracy or political reform at this current point in time feels a bit cheesy and even laughable. And it’s true that in the face of the ludicrous reality, all grand ideals appear ridiculous. I cannot deny the depressing truth that Hong Kong’s democratic progress has met failure after failure — I just believe that in the worst of times, one’s responsibilities become even more important. There is indeed still much before us that we have to do.

Edward Leung. Photo: Stand News.

But proposing certain views in a community means it is inevitable that there will be those who support and oppose these views, and the differences will present themselves in various forms. Likewise, even if our common goal is to drive change in society, the participants of social movements will hold different views on the importance of various matters; there will be divergences and even splits.

Before democracy arrives, we must perhaps first put democracy into action, understand the disagreements and cherish the differences, and thus join together to become a more powerful force. Only autocracies find it impossible to tolerate dissenting voices.

The turbulence of these past couple of years helped me learn lessons that I previously knew only in theory. I am grateful towards all I’ve met, especially my parents who brought me into this world; I don’t think it will be possible to repay them throughout the course of a lifetime. But if I can learn from the lessons today and continue to fight for the next generation, I believe they will be pleased.

June 10, 2018.

Hong Kong Free Press

Hong Kong Free Press is a new, non-profit, English-language news source seeking to unite critical voices on local and national affairs. Free of charge and completely independent, HKFP arrives amid rising concerns over declining press freedom in Hong Kong and during an important time in the city’s constitutional development.