The Occupy Central movement has established civil disobedience as a method for dissatisfied citizens to voice grievances against governors who are perceived as not paying attention to their needs and aspirations. No matter how the endgame will develop, the pro-democracy demonstration has already contributed to reshaping the city’s political and social landscape.
Although the citizens’ contemporary struggle is different from the one refugees undertook this year against welfare oppression, common denominators may be found in both parties calling for the re-evaluation of basic assumptions about the purpose of advocacy, the reach of activism and the function of critical dissent. In this respect, the genie is out of the bottle.
Protesting citizens have political and economic aspirations. Refugees yearn for protection and employment. Yet both parties exhibit a fundamental aspiration for dignity and inclusion blindly denied by the establishment. Critically, both struggles unite under the umbrella of resistance of the disenfranchised against extreme capitalism and the self-serving alliance of business and politics that exploits the subjugated masses. Empowered individuals seek an end to their humiliation.
Vision First is rooted in robust advocacy and activism for refugee rights, but our modest success is ascribed exclusively to those refugees who spearheaded change. Like young citizens who choose to be bothered, we should celebrate those refugees who dared to speak out courageously against abuse and immiseration. They rise to shape their destiny against insurmountable odds.
A new era seems to have dawned. Refugee advocacy and activism have become almost mainstream. We notice this through civil society campaigns and particularly through frequent interview request from university students. “Vision has gained high reputation among refugees and those people who are enthusiastic about public welfare undertakings … I feel bad when I see so many refugees suffering in Hong Kong …” wrote to us a student.
Against this background, Vision First has encouraged for years refugees to step out from the shadows and demand the protection they are promised. To strengthen this effort, we withdrew from service provision and reinforced advocacy, because civil society must give voice to the critical conscience that condemns the inadequacy and moral bankruptcy of asylum policies. Given the voluntary nature of our engagement, whereby results are contingent on capacity, we take pride in tireless empowering refugees to become agents of change.
Today, finally, many in the refugee community are awakening to the cold realization that prolonged hardship and unavoidable deportation might not (and certainly should not) be accepted with submissive inaction. They appreciate the urgent need for deep and concerted advocacy and activism against those who wield power and fall short of legally binding obligations.
Vision First vigorously encourage refugees to speak out against abuse, articulate legitimate grievances and demand improvements to the asylum sphere. Ultimately, we go by the conviction that motivated many leaders who made history and are celebrated as heroes in this world – a concept that even refugees have often reported to us with these words: “It is better to die standing than live life on one’s knees!”