Jan 05, 2006|
Matt Pearce recently dressed as Santa Claus and stopped traffic along Connaught Road in a pro-democracy protest. It’s the latest stunt for the 30-year-old tutor and his protest group International Action (www.thebiggerpicture.hk).
HK Magazine: How did your protesting start?
Matt Pearce: I’ve been here for eight years. I originally came as a grad student at HKU. I’ve always been politically aware and always thought I could do a better job than the leaders. Anybody who starts their own group thinks they have better ideas to make Hong Kong a better place. In a funny kind of way, what we’re doing works. It works as much with Chinese as it does with Westerners.
HK: What do you guys do?
MP: We’re called International Action, a non-violent direct action political group. Hong Kong doesn’t really have a history with groups like us. I would compare us to the “Suffragettes” in the UK, a group of women who fought for women’s suffrage, like we're fighting for suffrage here. What we do shakes people up. Sometimes a group NEEDS to shake people up.
HK: What kind of stunts have you done?
MP: The first was on World Aids Day. We wore swimsuits and a condom and staged a protest outside Legco. Psychologically, it was difficult. But once you’ve done it, it gets easier. There’s always an adrenaline rush. We also ran onto the racetrack at Sha Tin in support of democracy. The highest-profile event was jumping on the Queen’s Theater TV screen dressed as Spiderman on the eve of a Tiananmen anniversary, calling for justice. We also ran the Standard Chartered Marathon in wedding dresses to create awareness for gay marriage. That was beautiful. We had a sign: “Treat humans equally. Let gays marry. ”We dressed as clowns just before the CE’s “election.” The Chinese tabloids loved that. There was also the guy who tried to kill himself because of a toothache. We found a dentist for him and that story took off in the press.
HK: Would you call yourself crazy?
MP: I wouldn’t, but some newspapers would. In politics, I’m happy for people to call me whatever they want. A lot of politicians in Hong Kong are the crazy ones. They don’t believe in democracy and helping the poor.
HK: What happened in your most recent incident?
MP : I climbed up a road sign outside the Legco building. I informed the media, then called the police. I was conscious about the safety issue and urged them to shut the road down. Then I stepped out of my overalls and there I was in my Santa outfit. I took out a Hong Kong flag, flowers and a banner saying, “The Hong Kong people want democracy now.” In all the protests we’ve done, we’re taking a risk and you never know how it will be received, but I think this one worked. It was perhaps the most controversial thing we’ve done.
HK: Are you ready for jail?
MP : I knew I’d be sent to prison for the Santa protest. I know I will be there for a couple months. There will always be people who think I’m just a publicity seeker, but you have to give credit to someone who is willing to go to prison for what he believes in. I know we’re having an impact with the NGOs. I’m not afraid of prison.
HK: To give this all up, what would it take?
MP: For Hong Kong to have universal suffrage and for the gap between the rich and the poor to get smaller. The gap here is probably the biggest in the world. The two issues are actually related. The tycoons don’t want democracy.