Hong Kong: Protests, Resistance, and Uncertainty

Photo courtesy of Joseph Chang via Unsplash

Photo courtesy of Joseph Chang via Unsplash

Will Mahan, Scarlet Staff

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This Sunday, the fight for the fate of Hong Kong continued. As Hong Kong’s democracy hangs by a thread, in the wake of Beijing’s ever-expanding efforts to better control the former colony; thousands of Hong Kong citizens have taken action. In 1997, when China took control of Hong Kong, China had promised Hong Kong that, although it would become a part of mainland China, it would nevertheless reserve the right to have its own free markets and political liberties. This would be separate from China’s own methods of governance and business. Hong Kong Secretary for Security, John Lee, with full backing from the Beijing Government, proposed the Fugitive Amendment Offenders Ordinance Bill. This bill would unconditionally subject Hong Kong residents to mainland China’s jurisdiction, and its proposal caused many Hong Kong civilians to take action to fight for their freedom from mainland China’s dominion.

The protestors laid out five basic demands which primarily revolved around resuming democratic reforms that were squandered during the 2014 Umbrella Revolution, and alleged police misconduct that had been consistently occurring within Hong Kong. Demonstrations against the extradition bill began in March of 2019, and by June of 2019 hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong residents were demanding the immediate withdrawal of the bill. Many of these civilians’ greatest fears were that, as the communist Chinese government was granted more and more authority over Hong Kong, communism would begin to seep its way even more into their everyday lives. The situation quickly escalated into a much worse humanitarian crisis, however, when Hong Kong’s government authorities quickly cracked down on the protests by implementing a face mask ban; using a rarely wielded Emergency Powers Act that had not been used by any Hong Kong Chief Executive for nearly 50 years. For many Hong Kong civilians, this use of authority symbolized the Hong Kong Government overstepping Democratic institutions in order to better protect Beijing’s national interests.

The face masks that the Pro-Democracy Hong Kong protestors had used were primarily for defying identification, and possible future persecution under the growingly authoritative and ever-watchful Hong Kong government, being led by Carrie Lam. Ms. Lam, who has shown herself to be subservient to China’s rulers, has done next to nothing to protect the right of Hong Kong citizens, as Beijing seeks to actively seize more and more political control over the region. By using an emergency ordinance in the hopes of implementing policy meant to minimize the size of Hong Kong protests, Ms. Lam has revealed a willingness to tear down the ideals and values that Hong Kong has maintained for decades, in favor of achieving her own political motives.

After receiving a lot of pressure from the hundreds of thousands of protestors in Hong Kong, Ms. Lam finally agreed to withdraw the extradition law. However, in the process, she also made it clear that she would not be willing to allow for an investigation into policing methods in Hong Kong, nor would she be willing to entirely adhere to Democratic norms agreed to between Hong Kong and mainland China in 1997. Ms. Lam and Beijing leadership have made it abundantly clear that neither of them plan to completely uphold the “one country, two systems” pledge that was promised to the people of Hong Kong, when China officially retained control over the territory in 1997.

The urgency of Hong Kong’s protests and the desire to hold onto freedom from mainland China has resulted in much of the violence and bloodshed that we are seeing within Hong Kong today. As tensions grew on the streets between Hong Kong’s police force and young protestors, open fire quickly ensued, and resulted in the shooting of 18-year-old Tsang Chi-Kin, after Kin had assaulted the officer with a large metal bar. Currently, the Queen Hospital, where Tsang is currently receiving surgery, believes that Tsang Chi-Kin may or may not survive the incident due to extreme lung damage he suffered from the dramatic clash. Tensions between the police force and the protestors in Hong Kong grew even more when Hong Kong Deputy Police Commissioner Tang Ping-Keung defended the officer’s actions publically. “The police officers had given warnings but to no avail. The police officers’ lives were seriously endangered and were forced to use a firearm to stop the violent attacks. The approach was reasonable and lawful.” (Tang-Ping Keung) Protestors, however, had an entirely different account of the events that had occurred. As video footage of the Hong Kong police force beating protestors in the streets made rounds online, many of the Hong Kong protestors spoke publicly regarding their own accounts of the events that had transpired. Many online activists have called for active accountability for Hong Kong police, after it was revealed that many of the police at the protests were disguised as fellow protestors at the rallies. Tsang Chin-King’s cousin, Thomas Chan had reportedly attended many of the rallies and protests alongside Tsang, and had used airtime given to him to defend his cousin and fellow protestor. “[Tsang] is the bravest type.” (Thomas Chan) 

As mentioned earlier, this Sunday, the movement for maintaining Hong Kong’s relative independence continued. This Sunday saw many more violent clashes, with protestors setting fire to the streets, while the police used tear gas to break up protests and made numerous arrests on the spot in the process. Numerous Chinese-owned banks and stores have also been targets of mass vandalism in recent days, as the once peaceful protests have quickly turned violent. “At this point in time, although I’m actually pessimistic, but Hong Kong is not dead yet. Maybe she is very, very sick but she is not dead yet. We still have fundamentals here, we still have the nation behind us. So Hong Kong will have to go through several stages. The first is stamping out the violence, maybe doing other things in time to come which at the moment are not very available. Having gone through this stage, the next stage will be, in accordance with the bible, would be resurrection.” (Carrie Lam) Carrie Lam has made her intentions to end the violence in Hong Kong very clear, however, she has also avoided actively investigating both the policing methods of the Hong Kong Government and Beijing’s infringement upon Hong Kong’s separate system.

The future of Hong Kong and its free markets and political liberties remain in the balance, as do the implications of mainland China’s growing influence and power in the world today.