Celebrated Les Misérables director Ladj Ly has expressed his support for the ongoing anti-communist China demonstrations in Hong Kong, arguing that “sometimes violence can help you to obtain things.”
The French film director made the comments on the sidelines of the Busan International Film Festival in South Korea.
“If the government is not doing its job then it is more than normal that the population will go out in the streets to demonstrate, so I can only support them,” said Ly on the sidelines of the Busan International Film Festival. “In Hong Kong, the protests have been going on for several months and I think you cannot be satisfied if the government is not doing what it has to do.”
Ly’s Les Miserables received widespread critical acclaim following its debut at Cannes in May and was recently nominated as France’s submission for next year’s Oscars. The film takes its title from Victor Hugo’s classic novel about popular rebellion and follows three policemen overrun by an angry mob during the 2005 Paris riots.
The riots, which took place in the city’s poorer suburbs, were led by youths of mainly African heritage in protest of high unemployment and a perceived culture of police harassment.
“The background of my story is a very violent situation,” Ly explained. “I really emphasize that I don’t accept or support violence, but sometimes it cannot be helped.”
“I’m not pro-violence, but sometimes violence can help you to obtain things. You can see that in history, for example, with the French Revolution,” he continued. “It was the violence that made the French Revolution succeed. Also, in 2005 you had the revolt in the Paris suburbs.”
Hong Kong has been subject to widespread political and civil unrest since early June, when pro-democracy activists began taking to the streets to oppose an extradition bill that would have permitted criminal suspects to be sent to China for trial.
The bill has since been scrapped by Hong Kong CEO Carrie Lam, although the protests have since merged into wider demonstrations against police brutality, with participants demanding the release of over 1,000 detainees.
The movement is also part of a wider pushback against Beijing’s increasing interference in the region’s internal affairs, undermining the principle of “one country, two systems” that was signed following the handover from the British Empire in 1997.
“I think we have seen in history how you begin with talk and if the talk doesn’t work it moves to violence,” concluded Ly. “You saw in France in 2005 that there were talks at the start but when the talks went nowhere the people became violent. It was only at that time that the government became interested.”