Canceling Joshua Wong and Nathan Law, In the Name of Democracy
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We hereby petition to reconsider the event, The Johns Hopkins Foreign Affair symposium, featuring Nathan Law and Joshua Wong on Feb. 20, 2020. We, the signatories to this petition, represent a substantial cohort of Chinese students studying at Johns Hopkins University. From posters around campus, we have noticed that this event co-sponsored by the Department of Political Science, which arbitrarily labeled Joshua Wong and Nathan Law as so-called “pro-democracy activists.”
First of all, we question and doubt the purported purpose of this event. We believe that JHU has a misunderstanding of the nature of Law and Wong and the movement that they represent. Regardless of their efforts to portray themselves as so-called “pro-democracy activists” fighting for social justice, what they and their movement have actually brought to Hong Kong is brutal violence, massive vandalism, threats and actions of terrorism, as well as far-right-winged nativist and racist hatred toward Chinese Mainlanders. Countless innocent civilians, including both native people at Hong Kong and travelers from the Chinese Mainland, were ruthlessly assaulted, severely beaten, or even cruelly murdered by anti-government rioters, and many public and private properties were destroyed. To prove what we are saying, let facts be clearly presented to all of those who belong to the JHU community:
Brutal violence has been massively committed during the riot in Hong Kong and terrorism has been frequently used by the rioters as a way to silence those who denounce violence and to persecute those who are from the Chinese Mainland. A senator who stood up against violence was almost assassinated; universities were vandalized and turned to armed fortification against law enforcement; journalists, students, and tourists from the Chinese Mainland or even foreigners who were suspected to be Chinese Mainlanders were targeted because of their ethnic origin and were assaulted, tortured, and even murdered. We would like to remind JHU the fact that many of the Chinese students here came back to campus through transferring at the airport of Hong Kong last year which was illegally occupied and hijacked by the rioters. Many of us still vividly remember our deep fear of being attacked because of our ethnic identity as a Chinese Mainlander, and thus Wong and Law, the leaders of this riot, showing up on our campus is a blatant insult to our feelings and evokes our deep fear of our personal security.
Besides widespread terrorism, far-right-winged racism is another core phenomenon of the Hong Kong riot. Race and ethnicity is a social construct and an imagined community, and the Hong Kong rioters aim to construct a so-called distinctive ethnic identity and frequently used racist hate speech against the Chinese Mainlanders. We believe that insulting, discriminating, and physically assaulting a group of people just because of their racial and ethnic identity is the basic definition of racism, and thus we believe that the appearance of the leaders of this racist movement on our campus is extremely inappropriate.
In case people have the misunderstanding that Wong and Law had no direct involvement with the terrorist actions and racist sentiment of the Hong Kong riot, we must point out that they are the leaders of this movement and they clearly declared that they would not denounce fellow rioters. In fact, not to denounce fellow rioters is one of the most important doctrines of their movement and thus Wong and Law, as the supporters of all the aforementioned crimes, are inherently responsible. I would like to remind the JHU community of the fact that this symposium historically featured so many truly inspiring speakers such as Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, Angela Davis, and Muzoon Almellehan. All of those speakers valiantly fought against racism and advocated for a peaceful world. Eulogizing Law and Wong as other activists promoting environmental and racial justice is not only an inappropriate misplacement but also demeaning for those who truly deserve this recognition.
Secondly, we believe that labeling Law and Wong as so-called “pro-democracy activist” is considerably biased and problematic and the movement they lead is contradictory to the very idea of peaceful and free exchange of opinions. We recognize the fact that as an inclusive campus, JHU has a desire to hear the voice which it deems as being “oppressed.” To arbitrarily labeling Law and Wong as “pro-democracy activists,” however, is not only blatantly ignoring the fact that the debate regarding the complicated political issue of Hong Kong has two legitimate and equal sides, but also unreasonably delegitimizing the opinion of the other side as not “pro-democracy.” We believe that JHU ought to equally present and respect different views and since this is an event hosted by an academic department at JHU, JHU must take the responsibility to be as objective as possible. To arbitrarily glorify one side of a debate as “pro-democracy” while implicitly portrays the other side as against democracy is contrary to the noble spirit of this sacred academy. We would like to again point out that Wong and Law represents a violent movement in which rioters uses racial discrimination and actions of terrorism to silence all of those who are opposing their views and those who are from a particular ethnic origin, and thus believing in their propaganda and glorifying them as “pro-democracy” is totally contrary to the fact.
To express our voice in this petition letter against JHU hosting Wong and Law in this event, we in fact received lots of social pressure and even hate speeches and we are taking security risks as well. Because of this letter, we are insulted by malicious classmates at JHU as “brainwashed people spreading Chinese propaganda” and we are even accused of “taking money from the Chinese government.” Yet we still chose to write this letter. We are also aware of the fact that the Hong Kong rioters exposed the personal information of many innocent civilians who denounce them online and often assault them. Yet we still chose to write this letter.
We chose to do so because many of us still vividly remember our deep fear when we go through the illegally occupied Hong Kong airport because we believe that terrorism cannot silence us from expressing our opinions, because we regard denouncing racism as an incumbent responsibility of us as members of JHU. We cherish JHU as a pure and righteous place to pursue academy goals, and we want to protect her from being turned into the house of cards. Therefore, we petition to you to consider our feelings which are shared by a substantial number of students in the JHU community and to refrain from hosting this event which can be regarded as an encouragement to the violent riot filled with terrorism and racism supported by Law and Wong. Although we acknowledge that it may be a little bit late to cancel the event at this moment and we are aware that the supporters of Wong and Law would accuse us as “denying their freedom of speech”, by initiating this petition, we want to express our strongest voice denouncing these two hypocritical demagogues and to invite everyone at JHU to stand with us denouncing violence, terrorism, and racism toward any particular group of ethnicity.
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