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Lee Cheuk-yan: Patriotism is to love the people


Editor's note: Former lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan pleaded guilty to organising a demonstration on October 1, 2019. The following is translated from his submission for mitigation. 

李卓人:這是我的苦戀,愛國是那麼沉重(陳情原文全文)

 Yet I have chosen to live a life of truth. I think, therefore I persist.

Your honour.

I understand your honour has said only the law and not politics will be considered when it comes to conviction or sentencing. Even though, I still wish your honour could appreciate the political ideals behind the peaceful demonstration on October 1, 2019.

I was admitted to the civil engineering major of the University of Hong Kong in 1975. And like many university students at the time, I started to reflect upon my responsibility to the society and the country under the influence of movement of “knowing China and caring for society” at the time. “Where should China go?” was one of the topic that inspired my soul-searching, and is still timely today when we come to consider it. This has sowed the seed of my four-decade long responsibility for China’s way forward.

After I graduated, apart from joining the union and democracy movements, I have always fought for China’s human rights. Because I have always believed that the answer to China’s way forward lies in democratic reform. The 1989 movement has completely changed my life, from devoting myself in mobilisation, the supporting work before and after the Alliance was founded, to bringing part of Alliance’s donation to Tiananmen Square and visit the students, workers, intellectuals there on May 30, 1989.

On the night of June 4, we left the square after knowing the the troops will shoot to disperse. Gunshots were heard the entire night while staying in the hotel, tanks occupied the square in the early hours, while bodies and wounded were kept carried on Chang’an Avenue outside of our hotel.

I had been through the most terrifying three days in my life after being detained from June 5, but thank to the rescue operation by people of Hong Kong, I managed to return home on June 8.

I was thrown to the deepest desperation from once at the top of hope for democracy in China. I presume this was how many Chinese and Hong Kong people felt at the time. But we did not give in, we went through the rock bottom, and moved forward with the struggle for China’s democracy and freedom.

Ever since then, we have been chanting slogan “no national celebration, but only national shame” with an aching heart. On October 1, 2019, we were on the streets as always, demanding to vindicate June 4 and fight for democracy.

Your honour, I have already struggled for democratic reform in China for 40 some years. This is my bitter love. Such a heavy word it becomes to be patriotic. “You love the country, but does the country loves you?” Writer Bai Hua once painful said. As “patriots” become the talk of the town, and Chinese government keeps prompting “patriots ruling Hong Kong”, but who really is the bona fide patriot? If it means to love the country, it will be much easier, just follow the party and its political stance, “implement if one understand, implement even if you don’t understand, and understand while implement it,” It will be so much easier to listen to the party.

Yet I have chosen to live a life of truth. I think, therefore I persist. My patriotism is to love the people, as the state’s function is to protect people’s freedom and dignity, and not to control people’s thinking and acts. Your honour, this is how I started and remain committed to take to the streets over the years, this is the road to democracy I have chosen.


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