Shiu Ka-chun was one of the nine leading Umbrella Movement activists found guilty of public nuisance for their involvement in the 2014 pro-democracy protests on Tuesday. He read a statement in court on Wednesday morning ahead of his sentencing. Hong Kong Free Press has translated the speech from its Cantonese original.

A statement by Shiu Ka-chun

On the eve of Easter in 2013, I decided to join “Occupy Central with Love and Peace” (OCLP). On the eve of Easter in 2016, I decided to run for a seat in the Social Welfare functional constituency in the legislature. On the eve of Easter in 2019, I am in court for public nuisance charges and am waiting for judgment. This is my statement.

In 1989, I entered Hong Kong Baptist College to study social work, and quickly realised the disparity between “taking care of myself” and “fixing society.” June 4th, 1989 was a mirror, which reflected the nation’s violence, and also moulded who I am today. As a member of the June 4th generation, I etched the incident into my life because it determined what I believe or disbelieve, to whom I am loyal or disloyal, what I love or hate.

I don’t believe that this land does not need passionate and earnest dissidents, and neither do I believe social reform is a kind of fashion that can become outdated. If the atmosphere is not right for reform, then we can do it slowly, bit by bit.

Shiu Ka-chun
Shiu Ka-chun. Photo: Ezra Cheung.

In the first stage, I believe that words can defeat time. I am incapable of revolution, because it demands blood and flesh, but I am also incapable of silence. So I can only use the most dispassionate way, of critiquing the injustices of our society.

In the second stage, I thought “one person can walk fast, two people can go far.” At the start of 2013, my fellow social workers and I learnt how to resist tyranny, how to organise, and how to play my own part well. I learnt how to become stronger after being injured, how to resist fear and despair. In other words: how to start a social movement among social workers.

“Occupy Central with Love and Peace” officially started with an article written by Benny Tai on January 16, 2013. I attended the OCLP press conference in late April in my capacity as a social worker, and was coined by the media as one of the “ten martyrs.” Because of this, I could not disappoint people’s expectations, so I kept on creating conditions favourable to OCLP. For example, the “I’m a social work and I want to occupy Central” forum, a deliberation day for the social welfare sector, the social worker team for OCLP, and the social welfare sector strike on September 29.

At the OCLP deliberation day for the homeless, I came to know the late Chui. Chui was suffering from late-stage liver cancer and slept under the bridge on Tung Chau Street. Despite being in her sixties, she wanted to play her part for democracy, and insisted that we push her in her wheelchair to take part in the “Walk for universal suffrage.” Chui said, major political events in the past have either intentionally or unintentionally excluded her. She was living on the street, like a cockroach…

The pressures during the movement did not only come from the government, but also from the crowd. In the morning you can boldly criticise the establishment and win the public’s affection. Unfortunately, when you return home at night you may have already become a derided scoundrel, just because you expressed an unpopular viewpoint at noon. I was always reminded to have an independent spirit: independent of those in power and big business, independent of the crowd, and independent of my own sense of honour and shame.

Mid-December 2014, the government cleared the streets. Fear was almost everywhere, and there was no uninfected space in society. Fear had already become the most common emotion, and people even used it to see the world. I’m not saying I was not afraid. I just didn’t want to continue being afraid. I could not feed my own fear.

I ran for the Legislative Council because I wanted non-violent resistance to not be over. I needed to tell my companions that they can be disappointed but not lose hope. I ran for office to safeguard our council, to support the social movement with my seat. I ran for office to secure a left-wing viewpoint on social policies inside the legislature, and to promote social justice. I ran with the slogan of “Lighting a candle in a dark room, planting a flower at the end of the world, break free from the bottleneck, revive the social welfare sector” and I won.

In the past two years of working at the legislature, nothing has gone right and everything has been disheartening. There has been some minor progress in reviewing the law for residential care homes, the Lump Sum Grant Subvention Scheme, the school social work service, the social worker team for new housing estates, and reviewing the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance. But in general, the sense of frustration coming from my Legislative Council work is unspeakable. You ask if my work is tiring or not? Even if I am tired I have to stand.

At this moment, I stand with eight righteous people to face judgment. These people – no matter how the times change, how society becomes spiritually bankrupt, dark desires running wild – will live righteously and with respect. They are cautious in their words and deeds and can tell right from wrong.

At this moment, I want to report to the Occupy trio: I have completed the task you gave me. From the “ten martyrs,” to the “person holding up the pants of the Occupy trio,” to co-defendants today, and maybe even fellow inmates. I have walked this bitter road with you to the end, and it was my honour.

At this moment, I want to remind those who live in the dark to not get used to dark, not to defend darkness out of habit, and not to scoff at those who search for the light.

At this moment, I want to say to my companions, a jail sentence is not a full stop and should not be one. On the path to justice, today’s judgment can be a comma, a semi-colon, even a question mark or an exclamation mark – but definitely not a full stop.

At this moment, I warn the authoritarian government: even if you kill all the roosters, you cannot stop the coming of the dawn.

Kong Tsung-gan‘s new collection of essays – narrative, journalistic, documentary, analytical, polemical, and philosophical – trace the fast-paced, often bewildering developments in Hong Kong since the 2014 Umbrella Movement. As Long As There Is Resistance, There Is Hope is available exclusively through HKFP with a min. HK$200 donation. Thanks to the kindness of the author, 100 per cent of your payment will go to HKFP’s critical 2019 #PressForFreedom Funding Drive. 

funding drive press for freedom kong tsung-gan

Guest contributors for Hong Kong Free Press.