Of Malaysians and their strange solidarity with China

NOVEMBER 20 — It’s a day like today where I need reminding that not everyone shares my worldview. Yet I cannot help but be disturbed by the comments I’m seeing from Malaysians on the situation in Hong Kong.

“Don’t you think the protests have gotten out of hand?” someone asked me just last week.

I said I was surprised it hadn’t happened sooner.

China’s attempt to put a firmer grip on its territories has not been subtle and both Taiwan and Hong Kong are firmly resisting.

Looking at the bigger picture, it seems there can only be one victor. After all who can withstand the might of China and the nation’s lack of scruples about violence against citizens?

We are not China.

It bothers me to see someone on my Facebook call the Hong Kong police “heroic.” I wonder if he would think so if it was his brother, his son, or his daughter being shot in the chest or blinded by tear gas.

Bad enough I have to hear people saying that they are sceptical about the persecution of Uighurs as there is “no credible source” of the news.

Oh dear me, I never thought I would wake up to the day where Reuters’ expose of barbed wire fenced camps was considered non-credible.

I suppose it would be worth writing about the strangeness of Malaysian Chinese cheering on China’s treatment of the Uighur or siding with Hong Kong police, in the context of Malaysian Chinese identity and history.

It might not be the right subject for me at this point of time, however, but the thing is this strange love for dictators isn’t even confined to China.

We have Malaysians who are fans of Putin and Erdogan, blithely ignoring their running roughshod over human rights and the latter’s troubling penchant for genocide.

Malaysians are perhaps too coddled to the point we praise authoritarian rule in other countries yet balk at it within our own borders.

Remember the days when Malaysian protests were bound to see riot police and tear gas cannons? Now we chafe at the thought of our government censoring Netflix.

We cannot take for granted the current state of affairs. It is worth reminding Malaysians every now and again about the bogeyman that was the ISA, Operasi Lalang, the Reformasi period and the times someone got arrested for hurting our ex-PM’s feelings on Facebook.

We cannot champion our own freedoms while supporting oppression in other countries. Whatever liberties and rights we do have are not gifts or generous largesse.

I’ve always believed that things such as rights are worth fighting for. At the very least Malaysians shouldn’t mock those willing to risk everything because they believe they deserve better.

Hopefully one day our foreign affairs outreach will become more sophisticated than pretending not to see what Russia or China is doing, and calling any negative reportage Western propaganda.

In the meantime, I suggest Malaysians spend less time reading China’s Global Times and maybe collectively grow a conscience that includes nations besides Palestine.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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