Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Wing Wing: One of Three Weapons of Sophistry: Freedom of Speech

One of Three Weapons of Sophistry: "Freedom of Speech"
Translated by Karen L., Edited by Vivian L., Written by 翼雙飛 (Wing Wing)
Original: http://www.passiontimes.hk/article/07-21-2014/17967 



"I'm entitled to the freedom of speech. Why the heck should I suffer from criticism?" It is not news for freedom of speech to be used as a lame comeback over criticisms both on-line and off. It has even gone wildly the overwhelming usage of response defending oneself or whoever the speaker is. But the genuine freedom of speech stands not for protecting anyone against criticisms, but for everyone's right to express their opinions. Quite simply, criticism is a form of freedom of speech.

Take for example: A student complains to a classmate that their teacher Mr. Chan isn't up to his job description. He thinks their teacher is unable to deliver a class of reasonable clarity and coherence.

Such feelings, involving no slander nor personal attack, is qualified to be expressed legally under the principles of free speech. If Mr. Chan, in this case, overheard his students' discussion, he surely could have defended himself saying that it might just be the students' own inadequacy. Both the teacher and the student are entitled to the right to express their views as long as they don't overstep other people's boundaries. Likewise, the student may not accuse his teacher of infringing on his freedom of speech just because his teacher retorted. It would take the teacher to say something like, "One more word against me and I'll have you expelled. You have my word!" for the teacher's comment to qualify as an actual threat to the student's freedom of speech.

I have always considered the nature of free speech is as clear as day. Somehow, a noticeable amount of people have confused and distorted its nature. What struck me the most after I cleared my mind is that it has already been quoted as excuses by numerous officials and professionals from the legal sector.

Former Secretary for Justice and current Deputy Director of the Basic Law Committee Elsie Leung is an expert twister and turner of free speech when it comes to suiting herself. The Hong Kong Bar Association and the Law Society of Hong Kong confuted Leung's intervention in the law when the then head of Department of Justice publicly berated a Judge's decision on a case. In defense, Leung said that she was entitled to her freedom of speech.

It makes people cannot help but think what position she was in saying these words. And there was a time, when some citizens placed an advertisement on local newspapers demanding CY Leung to step down, Executive Council member Cheung Chi-kong claimed that they have crossed the line. But then Cheung retreated to the same excuse when he publicly criticised certain officials. 

Not even Carrie Lam, the Chief Secretary for Administration, could get herself out of the blame. She also defended Cheung's "freedom of speech" when his article which aimed specifically at Scholarism was wildly rebuked. It is weird enough when ordinary people would be abusing freedom of speech for expressing legitimate views; whereas Cheung, with his prestigious title, could enjoy unlimited freedom to express extremism without the slightest consequence.

If the context shifts itself from Hong Kong to any foreign country, these same high-power officials would have been kicked out of office, naturally. But natural does not come so naturally here in Hong Kong. In Hong Kong, a lot of people could not care less when those in power have their "freedom of speech" left unchecked.

What the situation now may suggest that many Hongkongers choose to ignore officials' abuse of power or that they truly have no idea, not even a single trace of what freedom of speech exactly is, which lead them all fall into some interested parties' trap, equipping themselves this pseudo-freedom-of-speech shield.  

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