I’m currently contributing a short, light-hearted political column to Hong Kong Time Out Magazine. Below is the uncut, original version of my latest piece…
“Why do you care?” I must’ve been asked it hundreds of times at various protests over the last few years, and in particular during last month’s Rail Link rallies. Much to my embarrassment, fellow activists seem bewildered, impressed and even flattered that some gweilo is rocking up to a local demo – and it’s often a Kodak moment. My response is that we aliens are also tax-payers and stakeholders in HK society. Our voice deserves to be heard, especially after living here for a few years – ex-pats needn’t feel they have to leave their political conscience at home. However, not all causes I choose are so positively received.
I received fewer compliments last year when campaigning on the more contentious issue of Tibetan self-determination. One local suggested it was as provocative as them donning a Bin Laden t-shirt in New York. Although a flawed comparison, I was making a point because I felt it was right, not because it was popular – and an issue doesn’t have to affect someone directly for them to show solidarity. Thankfully, most locals graciously supported my entitlement to expression despite their disagreement with the subject.
Though foreigners who join protests in other countries can face immediate deportation, HK’s Basic Law guarantees freedom of speech for every resident, regardless of nationality. The Filipino community certainly knows how to stand up for itself and other non-natives in HK should also feel comfortable with speaking up, even if they feel the subject matter is unpopular. Discourse and dissent are good for a healthy society and it’s particularly important here, as our SAR status has an expiry date. Switching on to politics today preserves civil liberties for the future and everyone is invited to help defend them.