Hong Kong Protests

Richard Rastetter, Staff Writer

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Hong Kong Protests Issues & Resolutions

Currently in Hong Kong, demonstrators are protesting against the Chinese government oppressing their political freedom. To begin, many of you might be wondering what started these protests. Well, it was mainly the proposed legislation of the 2019 Hong Kong extradition bill. This bill was created in order to try criminals in court for crimes done in other countries such as Thailand. However, this bill also extends into China, meaning that the Chinese government is allowed to trial Hong Kong citizens for crimes in China. The bill itself isn’t that bad as it allows criminals to be convicted of crimes in other countries, but many people from Hong Kong don’t like how it extends power to the Chinese, since they do not trust the Chinese government with this extent of power. 

This mistrust is due to the fact of events like the Causeway Bay Book disappearance, in which five authors from Hong Kong wrote books about the private lives of the Communist Party figures. The books were banned in China, however many tourists from China bought the books from Hong Kong, bringing them to China. They were later found to be in the custody of the Chinese authorities. One of the authors, Lam Wing-kee explains the torture inflicted upon them by the Chinese police, forcing him to give up any rights he previously had. In China, his rights were stripped right from under him. Many other citizens from Hong Kong fear a similar scenario could happen to them. 

Additionally, many of these Hong Kong citizens are against the Chinese for lack of political and social freedom, but the Chinese have been pushing for Hong Kong to join them together under the same legislation. Hong Kong is part of China, however it has different political rights and has freedom of speech, press, and publication which China does not. You can only imagine how the United States would respond if we fell under a similar situation. 

Both sides seem unwilling to give in, making a full resolution of all issues is unlikely. The protestors’ demands are for Carrie Lam, Hong Kong leader, to stop labeling these protests as “riots”, a full withdrawal from the bill, release of protesters from prisons, a further investigation into police brutality, and overall political freedom. Despite this, Carrie Lam continues to fight back at protestors by banning the use of face masks from protesters, because face masks protect protesters from being identified by the police, although it was originally used for protection from pollution. To ban the use of face masks seems a bit absurd, as there are practical uses for it rather to protect their identity. Despite this ban, protestors have not stopped wearing these masks as they proudly wear them while holding hands in the street. 

Many protests are seen as peaceful, however there have been few examples of violent protests, such as an occurrence where they were attacking police, resulting in one protester being shot. These protests are some of the largest protests in Hong Kong in history with nearly 2 million people in some records, even breaking half a million in the same year. Many of these people in these protests are teenagers or young adults. It’s incredible to think that in such a large protest, a vast majority of the people participating have so much of their life ahead of them. 

The Role of the United States

The United States has been known for its many political protests, so it’s no surprise that many people are in favor of these protests. Daryl Morey, the general manager of the Houston Rockets of NBA, recently spoke out and tweeted in favor of the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. This lead to China shutting out much of its market, by suspending the stream of NBA games in China. As well as leading many sponsors to pull out of their deals with the Rockets. His tweet was met with a lot of backlash from players, and some attempting to fix relations with China. The NBA attempts to fix things, however they state that they do not regret what he tweeted. 

A lot of these companies tend to stay out of politics to avoid loss of revenue, but when they do speak out and show support of either side it results in backlash against the company, as well as people who don’t support their opinion. Carrie Lam even stated that she didn’t want other nations’ intervention with the protestors. I believe it is important to be able to voice your opinion no matter what the topic. No matter what position you are in, you have an obligation to say what you believe if you choose to do so. Carrie Lam to discouraging other nations for showing support of these protests reveals a lot about her fear that these protests won’t stop. She wants to maintain her power over Hong Kong, yet she is doing so in a way that hurts many of her people. I believe United States citizens have a right to voice their support for Hong Kong protesters.

Outcomes Of These Protests

These protests will most likely continue for as long as they possibly can. Luckily for protesters, the Extradition Bill has been scrapped, but according to Carrie Lam their demands are beyond what is capable of achieving. The initial starting point of the protests has now been taken care of, however these protests will likely not stop until most if not all other demands are met. 

Unfortunately, many of these protesters are split between their methods of protest. Many take a more violent approach like start fires and trashing public areas, others hold hands wearing masks showing their protest to the mask ban. Another issue is that many of these groups don’t agree with each other, as they want a similar thing but can’t come to terms with each other. This is a problem because if these groups are unable to unite as one, they can be taken over by police and arrested. 

Yet, this is a special moment for Hong Kong showing that if they stick together, it is possible to achieve their demands. Even if these protests end up being unsuccessful, it seems that the influence of these protests could cause more people to view China differently. The sheer power in numbers is idolized by the events taken place in Hong Kong. Being able to change a bill from being passed that would have changed ordinary life for Hong Kong is a tremendous accomplishment for them. This could possibly lead to the Chinese citizens wanting these same political freedoms or at least open the door to a lot of discussion on issues happening around China. It may not completely lead to protests in China, but it may lead to more people being open minded towards democracy.

Sources

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/06/17/complete-lawlessness-booksellers-dramatic-tale-spooks-hong-kong-underlines-concern-for-swede/

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-50150853

 

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