On Aug 24, 2014, China’s state media Global Times (環球時報) published an essay criticizing Hong Kong dog lovers as “Pupulists” (*Pup + Populist, 狗粹主義者) and warned that the spread of “Pupulism” can cost China dearly. The essay is widely condemned by Hong Kong netizens.
The death of a stray dog, which was accidentally killed by Hong Kong Mass Transit Railway (MTR), stirred up a surprising storm. Around 100,000 Hong Kong netizens signed a petition demanding MTR to give the dog justice. Within these two days, around one hundred Hongkongers protested on the streets. Several hundred Hongkongers went to the scene where the dog was killed to express their condolences. Under pressure, MTR operations director Kam Chak-pui issued an apology statement yesterday. He even laid flowers in front of the stray dog’s picture due to popular demand.
Is this really a sign of Hong Kong’s civilization? It’s difficult to answer the question.
When commentating on this incident, many media outlets cited the quote from Gandhi, “The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” Animal protectionists especially love citing the famous quote. No doubt, how a society treats its animals can reflect the level of its civilization. However, such relationship isn’t absolute. The level of a society’s civilization should be based on how its treats humans, not animals.
Animal protectionism was formed in the West. Therefore, its standard was also set by the West. When it spread to the non-Western world, it gave rise to many problems. Even inside the West, animal protectionism is still a very controversial subject. In reality, it contains many contradictions and even leads to conflicts: What kinds of animals can be consumed? What kinds of animals can’t? How to protect animals? What to do when animals rights conflict with human’s development rights? To make things more complex, there are different viewpoints due to different religions and cultures. As a result, it’s difficult to define animal cruelty.
Hong Kong had long been a British colony. Because of that, many of the Hong Kong beliefs were deeply influenced by the West. It’s understandable that the death of just a stray dog could stir up such a big storm in Hong Kong. However, at the same time, many people in the Hong Kong society also think that dog lovers are “making a big fuss out of nothing”.
In recent years, animal protectionism has been spreading to China. Some people even take animal protectionism to extremes. Groups that are mocked as “dog fans” belong to such people – They are determined to fight for “dog rights”, so much so that they are willing to involve in conflicts. China has had lots of discussions on the phenomenon. However, the public hasn’t reached any conclusions.
One should realize that animal protectionism involves culture, civilization, religion, ethics, human rights, life, animals rights, etc., which humans can’t resolve these complicated problems at the moment. Humans will continue to argue about animal protection as different races and cultural groups have different final answers.
We can imagine that human’s protection for animals will get more meticulous and regulated. However, one thing we should make clear is that animal rights should be based on human rights and human’s development rights. Otherwise, it is hypocritical. We can protect animals properly only when humans live amply in all aspects. For a developed society like Hong Kong, she can tolerate “Pupulism”. However, in China, if “Pupulism” becomes prevalent, it will cost our society dearly
Behind “Pupulism”, there is anger towards the MTR Corporation, whose majority shareholder is the government. In Hong Kong, many people, even the middle class, don’t own any cars. To many Hongkongers, MTR is like their own legs. However, in recent years, the influx of the 50 million Chinese tourists exacerbates the aging process of the already overwhelmed public transport system. The weekly breakdown of the MTR turns the infrastructure that once made Hongkongers feel proud of into the endless nightmare. To make things worse, MTR frequently raises its fare despite making huge profits from the property market.
Human’s Development Rights
In the essay, it emphasizes that animal rights should be placed after human’s development rights. We indeed need to find the perfect balance between development and the nature. However, before such balance is attained, the propaganda machine is already indoctrinating Hongkongers that “development is the absolute principal”. (發展硬道理)
Two days ago, netizens found that the much-criticized TVB short series “Our Sky” (我們的天空) perpetuates the political propaganda that environmentalism stands in the way of Hong Kong development. According to the report of the Passion Times,
The story is about a Hong Kong man Ah Yik and his Singaporean girlfriend Ah Lai. They plan to get married but have no money to buy property. Ah Lai’s parents say that apartments in Singapore are large and cheap. The series tries to illustrate the success of the Singapore model.
In the drama, Ah Lai’s father asks why Hong Kong government don’t build more homes. Hongkonger Ah Yik blames the opposition camp, “In Hong Kong, whenever there’s a discussion of building new homes, the society will formulate lots of strange theories – Land reclamation isn’t allowed. (Historic) buildings can’t be pulled down. Trees can’t be cut. Mountains can’t be cut into. Therefore, there are no lands”.