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Hong Kong protesters have 'crossed all lines'

By Li Bingcun and He Shusi in Hong Kong | China Daily | Updated: 2019-11-08 09:01
Taxis line up in a street in Hong Kong. [Photo/www.chinanews.com]

A taxi driver who was part of early demonstration against extradition bill says he is against current form of protest which has turned violent

Editor's note: The escalating violence in Hong Kong over the past five months has taken a toll on the Asian financial hub. The chaos has caused some early supporters to break from the senseless violence. Taxi driver Benny Lee is one of them.

Lee, 45, has been working as a taxi driver for six years. He joined the protests in Hong Kong against the now-withdrawn extradition bill on June 16.

Q: Why did you support the protest in the beginning? What changed your mind?

A: In the beginning, I supported the protests because I opposed the extradition bill. But I supported only rational and reasonable demands. When protests escalated and innocent residents were injured, people's lives became endangered. Stores were also set on fire. The situation went beyond anything that I could support. What I see now has nothing to do with the aims at the beginning of the protests. Now, they are ruining Hong Kong.

I haven't changed my stance (on the extradition bill). But I am against what the protesters are doing now. I am against their way of protest.

Q: Was there a particular moment when you decided the protesters had crossed the line?

A: What infuriated me most was the fires they started everywhere. I think the consequences of the arson outbreaks are inconceivable. No matter what demands the protesters may have, arson exceeds all boundaries.

Arson can cause irreparable damage. It can lead to deaths. If you are setting fires, you really have crossed the line.

Q: Why did you oppose the extradition bill? Have you taken part in any demonstrations?

A: I think the extradition bill, if passed, would set a negative precedent. It requires careful consideration. If it passed easily, many other controversial laws might be passed in the same way. I saw the special administrative region government acting in haste. The government insisted on passing the bill while many were voicing opposition. I thought it shouldn't be like that. So I opposed the bill.

I participated in only one procession, the one on June 16.

Q: Radical protesters have committed many acts of violence that have affected people who do not share their views. Why do you have strong aversion to arson in particular?

A: Much of what they have done has outraged people, because of the extreme violence. I was angry when I saw on TV, dozens of protesters attacking and beating one person into unconsciousness.

For me, it has reached a point, that every time I see them beating people up, blocking roads, or starting fires, I feel outraged. I seldom watch live reports of protests on TV these days, especially on weekends. I just avoid it.

Q: Blocking roads has affected your work as well. Is that one reason for changing your views on protests?

A: In the beginning, they just blocked roads, and did not beat anyone or start fires. So (as a taxi driver), I didn't mind a little loss. When they beat up people and set fires, I started shifting my views and became disgusted.

When I supported them, and they just blocked roads, not doing anything serious, it was fine even if I made less money.

When they started blocking roads at 1 pm, I would wrap up my work at 1 pm. I didn't blame them at that time. But when violence escalated to a point that I could no longer stand, I wouldn't buy any of their behavior, nor would I ever support them.

Q: Did you stop supporting demonstrations in general, or only the violent ones?

A: I'm just put off by those mobs who come out on streets every weekend and make trouble. I don't don't see any political motivation in them any more. I think they are just ruining Hong Kong, regardless of whatever reasons they claim.

Q: Is the change in your stance related to the fact that the extradition bill has been officially and completely withdrawn by the Hong Kong government?

A: Yes. It's a major factor.

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