Translation: Netizens Voice Support for Hong Kong Protesters

What began six months ago in Hong Kong as a protest against a proposed (and now withdrawn) extradition bill has widened in scope to address collective concerns for the future of the relative freedoms and democracy enjoyed there. Amid the demonstrations, Beijing has been attempting to present a counternarrative against pro-democracy protesters to the domestic audience and to the world at large: that the movement is a foreign-backed assault on Chinese sovereignty by a violent and radical minority. However, events on the ground suggest otherwise: pro-democracy candidates experienced sharp victories in local elections late last month, and a massive rally last weekend on the six-month mark of the initial protests indicate that far more public support exists in Hong Kong than Beijing is willing or able to admit.

Meanwhile, Beijing’s efforts to suppress expressions of solidarity from Chinese in China or abroad, coupled with steady media reports on nationalist counterprotesters at support Hong Kong rallies in international cities, serve to suggest near unanimous Chinese opposition to the demands of demonstrators in Hong Kong. Support, however, can be found, despite the substantial risk that comes with it

Last month, a special page on titled @WeSupportHongKong (內地生撐香港) was launched to allow mainlanders living abroad a place to anonymously express their feelings about the Hong Kong movement. Twitter-user @midwaydude, one of the page’s administrators and co-founders, describes the page as a “tree hole” (树洞) project where Chinese supporters of the Hong Kong movement can share their thoughts despite the environment of peer pressure they likely live in. (The phrase “tree hole” comes from the fairytale “The King With Donkey Ears,” and has gained new currency as an online space where netizens can enjoy anonymous and free online expression). CDT has translated @midwaydude’s introduction to the Facebook page:

In cooperation with Twitter account 中流青年 (@midwaydude) we are launching this “tree hole” campaign to gather and anonymously publish personal comments supporting the anti-extradition bill movement in Hong Kong from mainlanders employed or studying in Hong Kong or abroad. 

@midwaydude’s statement has been re-posted below:

It is abundantly clear, the escalating state of affairs that have forced demonstrators into extreme circumstances is a conspiracy.

Setting this aside, I guess that 70-80% of the mainland students in Hong Kong take a position no different from that of a mainland official.

However, what I’m interested in is the opinions of the remaining minority, those who speak Mandarin, but have connected with the Hong Kongers.

For them, life in this rapidly changing environment of protest must be very difficult, as they face the official information warfare from the mainland along with peer pressure and the inherent distrust of the Hong Kong people.

Perhaps you can’t make it to the frontlines, and even peacefully marching comes with significant psychological pressure. This I can understand. 

But the conversation isn’t only made up of those on the frontlines and those behind them, it also includes you all from the mainland who support their resistance.

Your information, your blessings, your proposals for donations…all of that speaks for itself. 

This is a hard time for all, this is easy for no one. It’s all very difficult, and I am not sure what the ending will look like.

This page can be used by mainlanders in Hong Kong and abroad as a “tree hole” to share the thoughts and opinions of friends who understand the anti-extradition movement with everyone. If you want people to hear your story, you are extremely welcome here.

We are open for submissions, you can post to this special page. Submissions will be anonymous, as private messages will be deleted after they are published.  [Chinese]

Since the page launched on November 14, a steady stream of anonymized messages of support have been shared. CDT has translated a few examples:

“Once I Too Was a Protester”

Once I too was a protester. Corrupt officials sold the villagers’ land, and the villagers had no way to appeal. They could only protest in the streets and block the road. What they got was only violent suppression, just like in Hong Kong today. Some people were choked out by armed police, others were knocked down unconscious and nobody took notice. No news outlets and no journalists dared to report on this because of directives from above. The internet was sealed off, not even a word or a photo could be made public. When mainlanders face the government, they are powerless, helpless, and hopeless.

But the Hong Kong people, they still have hope, they still have a future. I only hope that Hong Kong won’t follow in the footsteps of the mainland, they must continue to walk their road towards their own future!  

Glory to Hong Kong!

(This is a tree hole project to support Hong Kong sponsored by this page and Twitter-user @midwaydude. You are welcome to contribute your thoughts to the tree hole.) [Chinese]

“[Ideological] Repression Within a Circle of Mainland Professors in Hong Kong”

I am not a mainland student, but a professor with a background in the mainland (I hold a Chinese passport but serve as a professor in Hong Kong). Today at major Hong Kong universities, the vast majority grasp to an like Xu Jiang [the teacher at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology who in a gesture of support for Beijing gave a Chinese flag to a student at graduation] does. As one of a minority of people who support Hong Kong’s democratic movement and who understands the demands of the youth in Hong Kong, I am often quite depressed. I’m afraid that if my political opinions were known to my colleagues, or if I even say something that shows sympathy with the youth and the demonstrators, I’d be pushed aside by my colleagues. So, since the anti-extradition campaign began, I’ve been bottling up my feelings. 

In my community of mainland professors, everyone often discusses how to suppress the demonstrations, support the police, and stop the riots. A recent affair was hard for me to accept. There was an online vote touching on Annie Wu Suk-ching, and mainland professors one-by-one called on everyone to cast their support for Ms. Wu. I think what Annie Wu said is extremely malicious, going so far as to say that she “given up on two generations of youth,” meaning the youth protesting, and also those currently in elementary and middle school. It’s a given that ordinary patriotic “little pinks” [online cyber-nationalists]” support this kind of argument. But, if within a group of mainland professors everyone is supporting this, it makes me very uncomfortable and angry. As educators, everyday we all come into contact with so many Hong Kong students, and directly because of these Hong Kong students our university gets government funding and we have dignified, high-paying jobs. We have these good jobs, and we ought to give back to these students. How can we say we “give up on the youth”?! 

In my classes, there are numerous Hong Kong locals, on the backs of their laptops they stick “Recover Hong Kong, Era of Revolution” slogans, and some will deliberately wear masks in class in resistance to the anti-mask measures. However, they still respect my role as their teacher, ask questions, and take their assignments seriously. Why would you completely deny people for making small political demands? If you won’t accept these young people and you give up on them, why would you continue to teach at their colleges? Do you deserve the high salary of HKU? Ms. Wu said she “gives up on the youth,” but still runs Maxim restaurants on each and every campus, grabbing profit from them. Now that Maxims have been vandalized, from my point of view it was deserved. While you are teaching the youth of Hong Kong and collecting high government-subsidized salaries, out of the other side of your mouth you say you “give up on the youth,” how can you say that!?

In contrast to Xu Jiang, we also have upright, brave, empathetic, and conscientious mainland professors who stand with the Hong Kong students. On November 8, there were also mainland professors who mourned the death of Chow Tsz-lok  with HKUST students. This is our duty as professors.  

Thanks for this page. I registered a new FB account specifically to [come here] and enjoy a bit of free speech.

(This is a tree hole project to support Hong Kong sponsored by this page and Twitter-user @midwaydude. You are welcome to contribute your thoughts to the tree hole.) [Chinese]

“Resist Fear”

Beloved Hong Kong People, I feel very sorry for my cowardice. 

Hong Kong is the first place in my life where I’ve experienced freedom. The 6/4 candlelit vigil was one example, and I walked in the July 1 march because of freedom. So far I can only speak shoddy Cantonese. 

In June I began incessantly sharing information on the anti-amendment movement, and due to this I was taken by police and questioned for a long stretch. Under that pressure, I began self-censoring, I stopped forwarding news related to Hong Kong. I accept the pressure that the state machine puts on me, and I also accept that I am my timid self. But what I’m unable to accept is that without free expression all I can do is watch the police and not dare to forward any news.

I wish to support your expression of opinion, but that’s difficult to do. I wish to offer you all warmth, to let you know that your hardships are not lost on all Chinese people, that many of my friends are empathizing with your suffering.

Even as I write this I am very uneasy, my machine is working at full speed, perhaps I am scared amid this resistance.

(This is a tree hole project to support Hong Kong sponsored by this page and Twitter-user @midwaydude. You are welcome to contribute your thoughts to the tree hole.) [Chinese]

“Awakening”

Hello, I want to share with you the influence the Hong Kong demonstrations have had on me.

I grew up in the mainland, and was always a “little pink.” A volunteer fitty-center, a little pink brimming with pride. Once when I was young, I did something foolish: “I didn’t bring my national flag to the conference like the textbook [said I should], this won’t do, I’ll make a flag out of this pink tablecloth.” The other people at that conference, mostly foreigners and some Chinese, all gazed at me like I was an idiot. That was the first time I reflected that what was taught in the textbooks wasn’t true, that this isn’t the way to interact with people internationally. Foreigners and Chinese who’ve spent a fair amount of time abroad surely think I must’ve been humiliated. I haven’t told anyone else about that incident, because I was indeed ashamed.

After being abroad for a dozen years of observation and learning I can certainly tell which place has a better system. But, I’d often use the myths I learned at home to persuade myself, to exonerate [China] on [its] domestic affairs. This was until the Hong Kong demonstrations.

This was the first time since I’ve been abroad that I’ve been exposed to first-hand information about demonstrations. This wasn’t like the Cultural Revolution, or the June 4 1989 movement where you had to listen to what older people said. And it wasn’t like Xinjiang or Tibet, where there were no reporters. During the demonstrations, there were eight or nine channels and dozens of video cameras all broadcasting. You could see the reactions of all sides online. For the first time, I realized just how shameless the domestic media reports are. I used to think that CCTV was just selectively reporting, but now I know that CCTV is surely a fraud. 

All along I’ve been concerned about Hong Kong, been cheering the Hong Kong people on and hoping that they remain unharmed. Sometimes, I wish that I could find a small town or an island in Australia, and we could move all the Hong Kongers who love freedom there. This place [HK] can go to the small group that supports the CCP, and we can let the CCP watch its decline. The place where the majority of real Hong Kongers go, it’ll be prospering in less than ten years. 

But I also know that many Hong Kong people want to protect the place where they grew up, and don’t want CCP encroachment. This I can only admire. I hope more people can wake up, be they in China or abroad, and not let Hong Kong people fight on their own!

(This is a tree hole project to support Hong Kong sponsored by this page and Twitter-user @midwaydude. You are welcome to contribute your thoughts to the tree hole.) [Chinese]

See also CDT’s translation of supportive netizen comments on a YouTube video of a Cantonese version of “Do You Hear the People Sing?”, performed by a group of Hong Kong students. For more on @midwaydude’s campaign, see “‘Tree Hole’: Where Mainland Chinese Confess Their Support For The Hong Kong Protests” from SupChina.

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