As pro-democracy protestors stand strong amid clouds of tear gas and pepper spray, assistant professor Denise Ho at the Chinese University of Hong Kong has written an open letter commending her students for their unwavering hope and belief in universal suffrage.
The 1,847 word letter published by online magazine ChinaFile begins with an account of all the peaceful protests she witnessed in the city centre over the past week, before tackling in detail all the reasons she feels so proud.
"I am inspired most of all by your words" one paragraph begins, "I am inspired by the way you understand your role in society," another opens.
"I am inspired by your ability to teach yourself… I am inspired that you are making the student boycott your own."
"What teacher would not be filled with joy to watch his students seize learning so independently, so concretely, and with such passion?" Ho writes. "If we shed tears at this moment it was because we saw how you did not need us anymore, you could learn and act on your own.
"After Chow and Shum’s speeches, a group of you stepped forward to explain why you have joined the movement. You told us that you study social work, you described extreme inequality in Hong Kong and people living in human cages, and you said that you defend social justice. You explained that you were studying to be a lawyer, and you outlined the idea of the rule of law. You said that you were going to be a doctor, and you asked what diseases plague Hong Kong. Your job is to come to the rescue, you said, and your job is to cure. Your words echoed down the length of the plaza and reflected the writing on the “Democracy Wall” of the medical sciences building, “Medicine is fundamentally a revolution: above, it heals the nation, among us it heals people, below, it heals the illness."
As the letter continues, Ho expresses her fears not necessarily for her students' safety, but that their dreams might ultimately be crushed.
"I am afraid for you, and as I told my friends on Saturday it is less a fear for your arrest, or bodily injury—although events since Sunday have shown that perhaps I should fear this too," she admits.
"More than this, I am afraid of what happens if and when the world you hope to create does not come to be. When one of you wrote to say that your parents laugh at your foolishness, or when you speak of your helplessness in the face of society’s indifference, I am afraid of your losing your dreams. The self that swelled with pride to see you organize a teach-in is the same me that does not want to see your heart break. You are young, you have barely even been to China—except maybe with your parents on a package tour, or with me last summer—and it is too early for you to be old."
She concludes the letter by saying that she hopes if nothing else the experience will inform and enliven their studies.
"If my fears lie in seeing you as still too young, my hopes rest in your being able to stand on your own. In the past weeks you have taught me a great deal, and I know that you are not naive. Some of you openly state that boycotting classes won’t bring true universal suffrage. Some of you maintain that beyond the horizon of these weeks, resistance may one day bring Hong Kong an electoral system that can truly serve the people. In the meantime, my hope is one that you have expressed, that you will “stop for a moment and think about what [you] can do for Hong Kong,” that this experience will enliven how you pursue your studies and your future. Not all of you must be activists, but I hope that you will be active, that the flame you carry today will illuminate your way, in darkness and in light."
You can read the full letter here.
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