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How to unhate

HOW MUCH I WANT my heart to unhate the perpetrators of atrocities. But hate has an independent existence in the depths of our hearts, beyond the control of our heads. Rage is flashy. It comes and goes. Hate persists. Rage is triggered by wrongful action, or inaction, and can be diffused by stopping the action that triggers it. Hatred cannot be diffused, because hatred is caused not by what you did but by who you are, such as hate crimes in the West by white supremacists against Asians. An Asian cannot change his / her Asian look, and therefore is unable to do anything to mitigate the risk of hate-based violence.


Hate crime is a novelty in Hong Kong bred by political radicalism. Never before in our living memory have we ever experienced hate crimes here. But now Hong Kong is edging towards the dark abyss of hatred-inspired violence.

The cold-blooded stabbing of a police officer by a suicide attacker bore all the symbolism of hate crime, coming as it did on the anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China, and with the attacker and the attacked total stranger to each other.

A man stabbed a young police officer and then killed himself in Causeway Bay in July 2021; picture is montage


What triggered the pre-meditated stabbing and the suicide? And why? The simple answer is “who”. In the US, the “who” that triggers hate crime can be “Asian”, in Hong Kong, it could be “policemen”.

This mental venom of hatred grows on the accumulation of anger over time. Hatred is far more contagious than anger as it can spread easily to inflame the masses. The widespread hate-inducing fake news both on-line and off-line is the root cause of this alarming growth of hatred.

But our government chose to turn a blind eye to it, letting it grow quietly like cancer.


Of all human emotions, hate is the most powerful. Love could last at most for a lifetime, but hate can pass down from generation to generation. The heart-wrenching discovery of the remains of hundreds of indigenous children around church-run schools in Canada shows that race-based hatred is cross- generational.

What could have possibly brought a generation of adults to inflict such cruelty to a much younger generation of little children? Again it was because of the hatred of “who”: they are indigenous children.

Hate is the most powerful emotion; Picture by Andre Hunter/ Unsplash


Why do hatemongers harm innocent victims? Psychologists nail it down to four main types of motive.

  • First, offenders are driven by an inner urge for thrills and by pent-up frustration, such as the group of black-clad youths who brutally bashed a defenseless lone woman volunteer who was clearing garbage placed by protestors on the road during the social unrest in Hong Kong.
  • Second, attackers see themselves as defending their way of living, just as those who hate mainland parallel traders in Sheung Shui and Yuen Long. As their hate grows, it spilled over to people from the Mainland in general.
  • Third, these hate crimes are revenge.  To stab a policeman is revenge against what the attacker perceived as “brutality” by the police in general.
  • Fourth, hate-fuelled violence is caused by a sense of mission, a sense corrupted by the dark side of human nature. The brutal killing of indigenous children in church schools in Canada partly came under this category, driven by a twisted sense of mission to abuse and exterminate innocent children. Of course the complexity of human nature defies a neat theory of explanation, and all these factors can come together on the dark side of a hater’s mind.


The discovery of the atrocities against children around Canadian churches promoted revenge attacks, with multiple churches burnt down by righteous rioters in a fit of rage.

I believe in reconciliation. But when I watched video clips of the churches in flame, I felt a twisted pleasure, the sweet taste of revenge.

‘All of a sudden I realise my call for reconciliation rings so hollow. I was scared by my own hatred’

I knew that the burned churches might not have not been involved in the atrocities, and that these places of worship are run by respectable clergy uninvolved in the crime.

Yet I rejoiced at the torching of these churches. All of a sudden I realise my call for reconciliation rings so hollow. I was scared by my own hatred. How easy it is to hate.

We are all prone to hate; picture by Milada Vigerova/ Unsplash


Following the policeman’s stabbing, parents were seen taking their kids with flowers to mourn the attacker. They were publicly denounced. I condemned them too.

But now I realise that at the molecular level of human biochemistry and hormonal surges that dictate our emotion, the mourning of the death of the police stabber is no different from my twisted rejoicing at the flaming churches. All parties need to think hard about how to stop the vicious cycle of hatred.


This is why community reconciliation for people on both sides of the political divide to unhate each other should be high on the government’s agenda now that law and order has been restored.

The most effective step towards reconciliation is to wipe out the seeds of hate, rather than to root out hate after it has taken root in our collective psyche.

There’s too much deliberate stirring of hatred; picture by Charles Deluvio/ Unsplash


Numerous studies have found that the proliferation of hate speech and hate-inducing fake news on social media is a key driver of hate crimes.

This is why many European countries such as Germany have introduced legislation against hate speech, and Britain has started to enact relevant law as well.

Why is our government pussy-footing?

C. K. Yeung is vice president of a Hong Kong think tank, and was formerly a professor of practice at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Link: Terrorism in Hong Kong must be eradicated: Herman Hu

Image at the top by Harli Marten/ Unsplash


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