Lessons from advocating Hong Kong on campus

[On Oct. 21], the Baylor Young Conservatives of Texas hosted a Pro-Hong Kong tabling event. During it, we held up the Hong Kong flag, as well as a “Communism Kills” sign and a quote from Thomas Jefferson: “The tree of liberty must be watered from time to time with the blood of Patriots and Tyrants.” This caused a lot of debates to occur, primarily between members of my group and Chinese exchange students. Thinking in line with President Livingstone’s Baylor Conversation series, which stresses civil discourse, I wish that everyone could have witnessed these debates. I would argue that we can separate the discussions we had Monday into three types: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

The Ugly
Some of the discussions we had were rendered useless right as they began. One student approached us shouting “What the f— are you doing here? Don’t f—ing talk about something you don’t know anything about!” We talked him down a little, but the initial hostile encounter made any real dialogue hard to accomplish. It was hard to find common ground with someone who was angry with us before our conversation could even start. Many other dialogues went this way, especially when the mob formed.

The Bad
Other discussions had at least some merit but were based on flawed premises. One group of girls came up to me indignantly and told me that what was happening in China was none of my business. I responded that I believe that human rights all across the world should be defended by everyone, but this argument was less than persuasive to them. They seemed to be caught on the idea that by holding this rally, we were trying to divide or weaken China by supporting Hong Kong’s independence. This was actually not our argument, as we were there to support the rights of Hong Kong’s citizens, though admittedly among those was the right to overthrow a tyrannical government.

The Good
Fortunately, through some of the better conversations we had today, I was able to better understand some of the angry students’ points of view. During one such discussion, we talked about the merits of giving up some liberties for security and stability. Though we ultimately disagreed, as it is a pivotal belief of YCT that a right that the government can take away is no right at all, we both expressed our opinions politely and learned something from each other. One of my Chinese friends, who has been learning Japanese with me these last two years, had a one-on-one conversation with me about the issue, and I think it was a very beneficial one. I was relieved that disagreeing on a political issue would not harm our friendship, an all too common occurrence today in American politics.

All in all, these few conversations where both sides treated each other with respect and acknowledged that both sides came from different backgrounds were able to be the most enlightening. Though being respectful does not mean standing down in your beliefs, taking the time to listen to what the other side thinks can help both of you more fully address each other’s argument, if nothing else. So, while we will continue to gladly talk with those who do not support Hong Kong and try to understand why, our support for human rights is unwavering.

Stefan Fitting
University Scholars major