Lee Cheuk-yan’s plea: This is my unrequited love, the love for my country with such a heavy heart
It is well acknowledged, as your Honour has once made it clear, that a decision on conviction or sentencing should be based on the law but not politics.
Nonetheless, I wish to make the following submission to assist this Honourable Court in comprehending the political beliefs behind the events of the present case, which I would refer to as the peaceful demonstration on 1 October 2019.
In 1975, I was admitted to study at the Department of Civil Engineering of the University of Hong Kong. Same as many university students of my generation, I was deeply influenced by the student movement at that time which advocated “Knowing China and Caring for the Society”. I began to ponder my responsibility towards the society and my country. I still remember one of the propositions from those days, “Where should China go?”, which has provoked my endless self-reflections over the years and which has remained so relevant as of today. This is what sowed the seeds of my following 40 years of commitment in search of a way forward for China.
After graduation, I have devoted to various labour and democratic movements as well as participating in campaigns in support of human rights in China. This is because of my firm
belief that democratic reform is the answer to China’s way forward. In particular, the Chinese civilian movement in 1989 has changed my life. At first I was supporting the movement from Hong Kong and provided help and support in the founding of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China (HKA). Later on 30 May 1989 I brought some of the donation raised by HKA to Tiananmen Square in Beijing, where I visited students, workers and intellectuals who were participating in the movement. On the night the June Fourth Incident happened, I was made to leave as I heard that the military was about to evacuate Tiananmen Square with force. All night long I could hear gunshots from my hotel. I saw tanks entering Tiananmen Square at the early hours of the day and three-wheeled tricycles passing by my hotel on Chang’an Avenue transporting corpses and injured people non-stop. On 5 Jun 1989 I was arrested and taken into custody, and the 3 days which followed were the most fearful days of my life. Fortunately, some Hongkongers came to my rescue and I managed to return to Hong Kong on 8 June 1989. My hope and optimism for a democratic China turned sharply into hopelessness. I believe that a lot of Chinese and Hongkongers at that time have shared my feeling, but we did not give up. We struggled against all odds in the hope of a free and democratic China.
Since then, on National Day which falls on 1 October every year, there has been no room for any celebration. We could not help but painfully express our grief towards the national tragedy. On 1 October 2019, we were merely performing the same rituals on the streets, making the same demands for a vindication of the June Fourth Incident and a call for democratic establishment.
Your Honour, for over 40 years I have strived for democratic reform in China. This is my unrequited love, the love for my country with such a heavy heart. I remember a quote of sorrow from Bai Hua, an iconic writer from China's "Scar Literature" era (in around the late 1970s): "You love your country, but does your country love you?" Recently the term "Patriot" has been widely discussed across the city as the Chinese government advocates the "Rule of Hong Kong by Patriots". However, who is a true patriot? If loving the country means loving the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), things would have been much easier as the political principles of CCP entail absolute obedience. There was a famous saying that to follow the CCP means "to implement when understood, to implement when not understood, and to understand in depth while implementing", which I believe explains it all.
Yet I have chosen to live in the truth and persist in thinking the way I am. By my own definition patriotism is loving my people. The function of the national institution is to protect the freedom and dignity of its people, but not to control the minds and behaviour of them.
Your Honour, this is a Path of Democracy which I have chosen. For all these years I took to the streets, and all along I have stayed faithful to my original intentions and commitment.