Democracy, racial equality, climate protests: why a violent fight for a better world won't work

·2 min read

In recent years, we have witnessed so many conflicts, some involving violence. We saw the democratic confrontations in Hong Kong and Myanmar, rallies to protest inaction on climate change in many European countries, demonstrations in support of racial equality all over the world, and especially in the United States.

While people have good reason to protest - it is totally fair to fight for a better world - the police also have some good reasons to get involved and stop these rallies.

Most demonstrations start off peaceful, but when the authorities choose to ignore them or to prioritise economic issues, tempers flare and some peaceful protests escalate into violence. Protesters start setting fires, occupying streets and surrounding government offices, doing their best to draw attention to their cause by publicly expressing their anger in an effort to change the state quo.

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Then, in the name of social stability, governments send out the police or even military forces to end these movements. Governments tend to argue that they have no choice but to maintain social order and that it is the police's job to prevent crime.

However, some argue that given that governments are elected by the people and that police forces are funded by taxpayer dollars, governments have no right to deploy public servants to use force to suppress members of the public.

The arguments on both sides have their merits. The relationship between government and governed is tricky; both think they should have the upper hand. Governments exist to serve the public, the two depend on each other.

Governance based only on the wishes of the public is not possible, nor can governments only respond to basic crimes such as robbery and murder. Governments may not always convince people that their actions are always in the best interests of the whole society, nor can they ask people to simply obey and focus on their jobs, families and pension.

As for freedom, democracy, equality and everything worth fighting for, I wish there was a peaceful but more effective way to achieve it. From what we have seen recently, violence hasn't brought positive change. Governments that insist on doing things their way are likely to use a riot as the perfect excuse to strengthen their own power legally.

Chloe Hui, Yuen Long

This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP's Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2021 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

Copyright (c) 2021. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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