Lausan stands with Asians for Abolition at NYC Chinatown Labor Day Teach-In

Read our statement on Asian American activism and shared struggles between Black and Asian communities.

Photo: Annie Tan

Lausan joined member organizations of Asians for Abolition, Fight for Our Lives Coalition and DSA Afro-Socialist Caucus on Labor Day in for a teach-in at New York City Chinatown on Asian American activism and shared struggles between Black and Asian communities on repressive policing, housing justice, and the fight for abolition. Read our statement below.

Hello everyone, my name is Roxy and I’m with the Lausan Collective. We are a group of writers, artists, organizers and translators that work to build transnational left solidarity, grounded through our identities and connections to Hong Kong, Chinese and Taiwanese organizers. 

We are here today to stand in solidarity with Asians for Abolition and the Fight for Our Lives coalition. We are here to stand in solidarity with our Black comrades like Robert Cuffy and the Black Lives Matter movement in their demands to abolish the police and stop new jails in New York City. 

In Hong Kong, we have faced extreme police state violence in this past year, including over 8,900 arrests of protesters between June last year to the present, the use of tear-gas bombs, pepper-spray, and water cannons among other forms of weaponry toward unarmed passersby, civilians, students, the elderly, journalists, and first-aid responders. Meanwhile in the US, there have been over 10,000 arrests from May to June alone during the height of the protests sparked by the death of George Floyd. But as we know, George Floyd is only one of too many Black lives that were taken away by the racist police system. Even though there are some similarities in our struggles, our histories and realities are different. As organizers, we must continue to make these connections between our movements, and build alliances to fight for justice.  

One thing that is clear is that the police states of the West and Hong Kong have collaborated and worked together for a long time. In 1967, the leftist riots in Hong Kong were the training ground for an armed professional riot police. They implemented modern riot policing tactics like kettling formations and “less lethal” weapons like shields, tear gas, and rubber bullets. The Hong Kong police were then seen as a model for the rest of the world, which has informed riot policing in the US. Just as the British colonial government at the time established the Hong Kong police force to protect its interests, the same is true for the origin of police in the US. The police were first established as slave patrols and night watchers to protect the interests of wealthy landowners, and used to police Native Americans and Black people that were enslaved by white colonizers. 

At the end of June, Beijing imposed new national security laws in Hong Kong, claiming to stop terrorism and separatism. This has led to a more severe crackdown on press freedom, arrests of activists, and detainment of people who are fleeing the city, that rendered Hong Kong in a new stage of police terror. The “anti-terrorism” clause in the National Security Law of Hong Kong and China was borrowed directly from the same so-called “counter-terrorism” rhetoric used to oppress Black lives and other communities of color here in the US. It frames legitimate struggles for human rights as terrorism. The US police state was also instrumental in training the Hong Kong police force through the Department of State’s International Law Enforcement Academies. The US state department has sold millions of dollars worth of military equipment including non-automatic firearms, ground vehicles and tear-gas bombs to the Hong Kong government for decades dating back to the 1990s. Tear-gas bombs made in the US were thrown ruthlessly on the streets of Hong Kong last year, including the street where my parents live in To Kwa Wan. 

There is always the need for solidarity between our movements. I remember in 2014, when Hongkongers were protesting for democracy and were met with police tear-gassing, Ferguson protesters were the first to show solidarity to us. Yet aside from progressives and leftists in Hong Kong, many Hongkongers have failed to show basic solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Some people in Hong Kong diaspora communities have even excused police violence here in the US. They think, for example, it is better here because chokeholds have been banned and certain police officers have been indicted. Yet, 99% of police killings are unconvicted in the US, a kind of injustice that the Hong Kong police have been keen to replicate since last year. In a march for Hong Kong that happened by Confucius Plaza last summer, the Hong Kong event organizers worked closely with the NYPD here in Chinatown, and thanked them for keeping us safe. This cannot be further from the true experiences of Chinatown community members that I know through my work as a tenant organizer. 

Just before the pandemic, some tenants that I have been organizing with in Chinatown were threatened by their landlord openly, while they tried to reason with him on the lack of hot water in their building. The landlord called the cops on them. Instead of trying to understand the tenants, the cops took the tenants away and illegally detained them right here in the detention complex behind us. These tenants are first generation Fuzhounese immigrant women who received no explanation on why they were detained and their rights in the situation. I remember running around this courthouse trying to find out what had happened to them and how to get them out. Their families and I were extremely devastated. There was nothing we could do until they appeared before the judge.

This is the story of many people of color who are targeted by the NYPD here in the city. Some of them cannot get bailed out. Some of them don’t survive the system. Yet, the city is still trying to expand its jail system, demolishing this detention center behind us just to build a new one. Yet, New York state still refuses to enact a universal eviction moratorium, which leads to people being evicted, to be policed, and thrown into this same system. 

As a Hongkonger who grew up in Hong Kong and came to New York, I learned about CAAAV’s work in standing with Akai Gurley’s family, and these conditions communities of color have been experiencing. It led me to become a tenant organizer today. I believe our organizing can begin to undo longstanding obstacles to solidarity building in our different movements, connecting Hongkongers and mainland Chinese immigrants, Asian Americans, and our Black comrades. I believe our solidarity is straightforward: we must join the call for police and prison abolition, and directly support efforts to build community safety, such as eviction blockades, cop watch and other practices. Only then will we be safe and will we all be free.