By Jack Hughes
On Thursday, Nov. 21, an international student, who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of personal safety, voiced his opinions on the current circumstances rocking Hong Kong, China, only to have his message censored and met with verbal attack.
The 20-year-old was attending a “Hip Hop For Democracy” event with graffiti art on display in Santa Monica College’s (SMC) main quad.
The event organized by the SMC Public Policy Institute sought to display the connection between popular culture and political evolution in a series of artistic showcases. Students were given paint pens to write messages across colorful boards made by local graffiti artists. Many addressed modern polarizing issues in America, including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the ongoing impeachment proceedings, and female equality issues.
Hong Kong, previously a British colony for more than 150 years, is currently the stage for a series of protests and boycotts. Citizens of the region say they are in rebellion over several social issues and the Chinese government’s attempts to assert more dominant control over Hong Kong. Throughout recent years, Hong Kongers are increasingly less likely to identify themselves as Chinese.
This issue is becoming increasingly tenuous in China, and the different lifestyles and cultures of Hong Kong and China have caused disagreements between people of the nation.
The student, who is a Beijing native, felt that this platform was appropriate to demonstrate support for Hong Kong in this time of conflict in the region.
“I wrote ‘Hong Kong Stay Strong’ in both English and Cantonese,” he said. He believed the message to be innocent and supportive. However, when he saw the boards later on, he was taken aback when he noticed his message had been covered over with black paint at an open mic night for the same program.
He walked up on stage and explained his support for Hong Kong’s citizens. “It was just 90 seconds, so I couldn’t totally explain what I [was] thinking” he articulated. “Some [Chinese] people think these are bad people” referring to the Hong Kong resistance “and [they] stand with their government, but this is a problem, if you let them do this, lots of people will be killed.”
The Chinese native said he felt “privileged” to have a platform to say these things, and his brief speech was met with applause, but some were not so fond of his comments.
As he left the event, two students confronted him.“I knew them … they were from mainland China … I knew people were filming with their phones, I didn’t do anything.”
SMC Political Science Professor and co-director of the Santa Monica College Public Policy Institute Richard Tahvildaran Jesswein oversaw the event as one of the organizers. He attended the open mic night and later saw a video of the confrontation that took place.
He said that the video showed, “Two male appearingly Chinese students… bumping chests with [the pro Hong Kong student].”
“They wanted to start a fight with me,” said the student, recounting the event, “[but] they wanted me to start it.” Cornered and uncertain of what was going to happen, the student noticed they had become a spectacle in the quad. As the aggressors dispersed, the young international student was left shocked and confused.
Professor Tahvildaran Jesswein said, “We wanted to call the campus police … but he didn’t want us to.” The Corsair reached out to the SMC police to see if any other parties filed a report, but they have no record of any assaults on campus Thursday evening.
The student explained his thoughts on why this incident occurred. “This is because of the education in the mainland,” he said. “People don’t understand that the party and the country need to be separate.”
Retrospectively, the student says he “doesn’t want to change the world. I don’t have that much power, but I said what I am thinking … I want more people to know what I [said] that night.” He believes it is important to speak up for those who can’t. “I think of a 15-year-old girl who joined the boycott, and her body was found in the sea of Hong Kong.”
The 20-year-old political science major clarified that the protests were against the government of China, not its people. “I love my country. I love the people there. I just think China should belong to the people, not to one political party.”
He concluded, “The bad people don’t want us to unite, but we must.”