“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair … We had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.”
This opening passage from Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities” is one of the most famous passages in literature. Yet, it has never resonated with me as much as it does today. It almost feels like Dickens was writing about today’s Hong Kong, rather than the French Revolution.
When millions marched together on Hong Kong’s streets, the world saw the best of Hong Kong. At the same time, we were witnessing the death of freedom, police brutality, and the collapse of Hong Kong’s civil rights—the worst times of Hong Kong history.
The season of darkness fell upon masked faces and protestors dressed in black, running from police in the night. The season of light emerged when the sun rose after nights of protest, candles glowed in remembrance, and phone lights glowed in tandem with the lyrics of “Glory to Hong Kong.” As the protests shut down, the light in our hearts remains. With light in our hearts, we have everything we need in this world.
Hong Kong has been driven to hell, so we have nothing to lose. This fearless hope itself, places us in heaven.
I am writing this on June 24, 2021. Hong Kong’s pro-democracy media, Apple Daily, has published its last newspaper before shutting down. Apple Daily is no longer a newspaper but a symbol.
In 1975, a 28-year-old named Hu Ping wrote an essay while waiting to be reassigned to a new labor assignment during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. It was circulated around China on handwritten posters and published in underground magazines. The essay is named “On Freedom of Speech,” and it became hugely influential to a generation of Chinese democracy activists. Hu Ping would go on to become the editor-in-chief of the New York pro-democracy journal, Beijing Spring.
In his essay, he wrote:
“Of all the political rights given to citizens by the constitution, freedom of speech comes first. When an individual loses the right to express his or her wishes and opinions, that individual is bound to end up a slave or a pawn.
Of course, to have freedom of speech is not necessarily to have everything, but the loss of it will inevitably lead to losing everything.
Everyone knows the importance of the principle of the fulcrum in mechanics: the fulcrum itself may do nothing, but only by its virtue is the action of the lever possible. They say that Archimedes, the discoverer of the principle of the lever, once said: “Give me a fulcrum, and I will move the world.” In political life, is not freedom of speech just this sort of fulcrum?
What is “freedom of speech”? It is the freedom to express all manner of opinion.”
Forty six years have passed since 1975, the year Hu Ping penned this essay on the right of Chinese citizens to freedom of speech. Today, Chinese citizens are still denied the freedom of speech, and the darkness of CCP authoritarianism has even spread overseas.
The frightening illusion of darkness is that it appears infinite. But darkness cannot exist with the light of even a single small candle. The Chinese people’s hope for freedom is the beginning of such light.
On Weibo, authorities strictly prevent users from learning about the revolutionary origins of the CCP. Writers calling for political reform and aid for the rural poor are shut down.
The Global Times reports that Chinese youth are becoming impassioned about revolution after watching a popular new CCP drama “Awakening Age.” Many students posted screenshots of group messages on Weibo, saying that they would learn from the experience of revolutionary CCP predecessors and unite student groups to put pressure on the school. Multiple universities in Hunan have used such tactics to demand air conditioning.
Mao Zedong led an uprising to seize power by violence opposition against the central government of China to establish the CCP’s power. In order to validate their legitimacy, the CCP must rationalize and legitimize their revolution.
This celebrated attitude of violent revolution against authority inevitably seeps into the minds of Chinese citizens. This should really scare the CCP.
Marxism, Leninism, and Maoism all justify violent subversion of state power that oppresses its people. But what happens when the CCP itself is the state power that oppresses its people?
The autocratic regimes that rise from Communism can never resolve this deep-seated contradiction. The former Soviet Union and Eastern European regimes fell one after another. In North Korea, the sudden shift into hereditary politics is tantamount to returning to its previous feudal era, before the communist uprising. The Chinese Communist Party has mutated into a centralized capitalism machine fueled by nationalist propaganda.
During Deng Xiaoping’s rule, the CCP leveraged economic growth to legitimize its authority. But after Xi Jinping came to power, the tone has changed. Xi hoped to replace communism with aggressive nationalism. But in recent years, the CCP’s policy hopes to return to its Maoist roots.
The CCP’s rule sits on a pile of deep-seated contradictions and ideologies based on hatred, violent revolution, and power struggles.
The CCP uses hatred to legitimize its reign. Its ideologues use this hatred in an attempt to turn China’s citizens against all foreign nations. They use this hatred to justify the oppression of Tibet, Xinjiang, and Hong Kong.
In the rural areas of Hebei, the children of poor families hate the rich in the city. CCP youth hate Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the United States. Poor people hate rich people. CCP government officials hate officials with greater power.
The CCP system came into power through legitimizing violent revolution based on hatred. There will come a day when it will turn against itself.
Alexander Liao is a columnist and journalist in research on international affairs in the United States, China, and Southeast Asia. He has published a large number of reports, commentaries, and video programs in newspapers and Chinese financial magazines in the United States and Hong Kong.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.