Dialogue with Joshua Wong at Humbolt University of Berlin

By Chaoting Cheng (Freie Universität Berlin)
Sep. 12, 2019

与黄之锋“交锋”亲历记

成朝庭(柏林自由大学)

2019.09.12

In the evening on September 11, 2019, Joshua Wong gave a speech at Humboldt University in Berlin. As an enthusiast of political science and an observer of the current affairs, I wished to have a close look at this representative figure of the Hong Kong demonstration, so I participated in this event. Since I have learned a lot of different political theories, I know each and every of them has its own rationalities as well as limitations. Therefore, I always try my best to be neutral and objective towards complicated political affairs, and I believe I can tolerate different perspectives and opinions. Of course I expected the leading figures of the demonstration movement in Hong Kong were the similar ones because they claimed they were fighting for democracy and freedom.

Almost all the German mainstream medias were present and have reported this event. There were also a lot of audiences, many of them had no seats and hence sat on the ground. When Wong entered the hall, he was warmly cheered like a hero. He made a speech for roughly ten minutes. Objectively speaking, although his English has a strong Cantonese accent, but quite fluent. He knows how to incite the audiences because he is good at utilizing some brilliant and great rhetorics such as democracy, freedom, human rights, universal values, and so on. Ordinary people could be easily inspired by these passionate words. In fact, all great politicians, whoever they are, elected ones or authoritarian dictators, are very good at utilizing lofty ideals and values to motivate their followers. Churchill, Kennedy and Obama are among them, but unfortunately so are Hitler and Stalin.

This event was completely Wong’s homecourt. His speech was full of slogans and made many audiences so excited that they constantly applauded. They probably thought a new hero, who was fearlessly fighting against the formidable regime in Beijing, was emerging, and he is still so young and full of passion.

Originally, I only wanted to take a closer look and didn't plan to ask any question, but several audiences from mainland China did. However, they were ruthlessly booed and heckled by the supporters of Wong. In fact, I did not quite agree with these audiences from mainland China either, and I thought their skills of asking questions should be improved as well. Nonetheless, in any case they have the right to express their own opinions peacefully. It is not in line with the values of democracy and freedom to mock them. This situation motivated me to ask Wong a question to judge his awareness of democracy and freedom, knowledge and competence.

This time Wong came to Berlin, probably because Berlin was the then forefront of the confrontation between the United States and the former Soviet Union during Cold War. He called Hong Kong as "New Berlin" in the "New Cold War", hence he wanted to win the support of "free world". Therefore I asked him the following questions:

"Freedom and democracy are the aspirations of all of us. Therefore, different and minority opinions should be tolerated and respected. If you claim you are fighting for freedom and democracy, then it is easy to convince the people around the world to support the movement in Hong Kong. But if you say Hong Kong is 'New Berlin' in 'New Cold War', then you are actually talking about the geopolitical confrontation between the great powers. I am not sure if you understand what geopolitics means. Even the United States did not openly declare a new cold war against China. Therefore, it is very likely that you are making seven million Hong Kong citizens victims of geopolitical confrontation between great powers. In Europe, Ukraine is a typical example. When Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine, the West could do nothing and has done nothing to rescue Ukraine. Geopolitics is a dangerous game. Do you think that your promotion of new ‘cold war’ is a responsible behavior for Hong Kong people?"

Why were the mainland Chinese audiences, who had asked questions earlier and later than me, booed by the supporters of Wong? The first reason is that Wong’s followers had no willingness to tolerate different opinions at all. The second reason, in my opinion, these mainland Chinese were using Chinese narrative to express their opinions, such as “Hong Kong is pursuing independence” and “Hong Kong people rioted due to their worsening economic prospects” and so on. But these arguments are not powerful enough to convince German audiences. In fact, freedom and democracy are indeed the aspiration of all people, including the Chinese people living in mainland China. The Chinese government cannot explicitly oppose the values of freedom and democracy either, they just claim China has a different understanding from the West. But Cold War is an all-round confrontation between the United States and the former Soviet Union in geopolitical, ideological and military terms. In this kind of confrontation Hong Kong is not playing a game, but being played by great powers. Whatever the result is, Hong Kong citizens would pay for acting as proxy of external great power(s). Wong should understand what “Cold War” really means when he says this word. But unfortunately, the concept of geopolitics is obviously beyond his knowledge reserve.

The atmosphere of the event was completely one-sided, and Wong’s supporters were not willing to tolerate any different opinion or criticism. However, my questions were politically right, reasonable and factual, all the audiences, whoever they are, from Hong Kong or the Germans, failed to find fault with me. Wong did not answer my question directly either. He just responded that he did not expect everyone to agree the narrative of “new cold war". He said, some China experts had mentioned this concept after the Sino-US trade conflict took place, therefore he used it. Then he repeated his appeal to urge Chinese government to fulfill its promise of allowing direct election in Hong Kong. Honestly speaking, Wong is not a knowledgeable person, his strategy is therefore repeatedly talking some gorgeous words like "democracy, freedom and human rights".

Last but not least, I have to mention the following fact:

In order to ask a question, I have raised my hand for four times, but the moderator, a Hong Kong lady, always told me to wait. At the fourth time, she still did not give me the microphone, but gave it to a German audience who just raised his hand for the first time. After I protested that I had raised my hand earlier, she finally gave me the microphone, but very reluctantly. The reason is just because I am a Chinese. This is a typical discrimination and completely contrary to the values of democracy and freedom. Given their actual behavior I have every reason to doubt the possibility that Wong and his supporters would tolerate and respect different opinions, should they seize power.

昨晚黄之锋到柏林洪堡大学演讲,作为一名政治科学爱好者和时局观察者,我希望能够近距离观察一下这位香港示威运动的风云人物,所以就参加了。由于我平时总是接触形形色色的理论和观点,深知每一种看法都有其合理性和局限性,所以我总是力图保持一个中立客观的立场,相信自己能够容忍不同的观点。

昨晚的活动,德国各大媒体悉数出动,观众也很多,很多人是席地而坐。黄一入场,就受到英雄般的热烈欢呼。他先讲了十几分钟,客观地说,他的英语虽然有口音,但还是很流利,另外他说话也有煽动力,因为他善于讲一些漂亮话(民主、自由、人权和普世价值等)。普通人当然很容易被这些充满激情的话语感染。其实,所有的政治家,不管是民选的还是独裁者,都很善于运用崇高的价值和宏大的理想来打动民众。邱吉尔、肯尼迪和奥巴马如此,希特勒和斯大林也不遑多让。

这场活动,完全就是黄的主场。他的口号式发言,让在场的香港人和德国人激动不已,不断鼓掌。他们大概觉得一个新的不畏强权的英雄人物诞生了,而且他还是如此年轻而充满激情。

本来我只打算近距离观察一下,并不打算提问。但是,几位中国大陆背景的人提问之后,遭到全场无情起哄。其实我也并不太赞同这几位大陆人士的观点和技巧,但是无论如何他们也有表达的权利,对他们进行嘲弄起哄是不符合民主自由价值观的。这一幕激发了我的斗志,因此,我决定也要问一个问题,看看黄到底有几斤几两。

黄这次到柏林来,大概是看到了柏林是当年美苏冷战对峙的最前沿,所以他把香港比喻成“新冷战”中的“新柏林”,而他则要争取“自由世界”的支持。所以我就问了他如下问题:

“自由和民主是所有人的渴望,因此,不同意见和少数派意见应得到容忍和尊重(解释:前面大陆人问问题时被起哄,是因为使用了大陆的话语体系,诸如港独、香港人是因为经济前景黯淡才闹事等等。但这些说法都很难得到德国观众的认同。要打动德国观众,就必须使用他们的话语体系并一开始就站在制高点上,让其无法起哄。自由民主的确是包括大陆人在内所有人的追求,中国政府同样不敢反对自由民主,只是强调对此有不同于西方的理解)。如果你说是为自由民主而战,这很容易就在世界各地获得支持。但如果你说香港是‘新冷战’中的‘新柏林’,那么你实际上就已经在谈大国之间的地缘政治角逐了,我不确定你是否明白什么是地缘政治(解释:冷战是美苏之间的全方位地缘政治、意识形态及军事对抗。显然,地缘政治超出了黄的知识储备,于是他的同伴急忙向他解释)。即便是美国,也并没有公开宣称要发动一场反对中国的新冷战。因此,你们很可能在将七百万香港市民变成大国地缘政治对抗的牺牲品。在欧洲,乌克兰是一个典型的例子,当俄罗斯合并克里米亚的时候,西方无能为力。地缘政治是一个危险的游戏,你觉得你推动‘新冷战’的做法是一种对香港人负责任的行为吗?”

昨晚活动的气氛完全是一边倒的,在场德国人一样不能容忍不同意见。但是,我的问题既有高度也有深度,无论是香港人还是德国人,都无法起哄。黄没有正面回答我的问题,他的知识储备中应该还没有“地缘政治”这个词。他只是回应说并不指望所有人都同意“新冷战”的说法,他是看到一些中国问题专家就中美贸易战提到这个说法,他就拿来用了。他又重复说,香港运动的诉求就是要中国政府落实承诺。老实说,黄肚子里货并不多,他的策略就是翻来覆去地说“民主自由人权”这样的漂亮话。

另外补充一点:他们如果掌权,只会更加霸道不民主。我举了四次手,每次女主持人都让我等着。最后一次,那个主持人还是不想把话筒给我,而是想给我旁边一个刚举手的德国人。直到我说,我先举手,她才不情愿地将话筒给了我。无非是看我是中国人,这就是典型的歧视啊,完全与民主自由价值观背道而驰。