From peaceful pro-democracy protests to desperate struggle to keep Hong Kong’s values alive, the struggle has come a long way from how it started.
When the 2014 peaceful pro-democracy Umbrella Movement was lauded the world over, Hong Kong’s citizens thought that there respectful and dignified dissent would achieve its cause. There was a wave of optimism and protested that a change was possible. But that movement failed. And the scheme of things has been on a downward spiral ever since.
Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests have spiraled downhill from the
peaceful Umbrella Movement of 2014.
How the dissent has panned out in its present state started in 2016 when protesters and police engaged in violent clashes during the crackdown known as “Mong Kok fish ball riot.” That was followed by arrests, prosecutions and ejected several pro-democracy lawmakers from the legislature.
The Bill that spurred current protests
The current crop of protests started last month due to a new proposed bill that will allow extradition to China. The bill catalysed citizens from across the city and took the lid off angst brewing silently since 2014.
The current crop of protests started last month due to a new proposed bill that will allow extradition to China.
Thousands of citizens took to the streets for weeks, organized marches which led the bill to be withdrawn, albeit temporarily. Smaller number of protesters turned violent and gave rise to significant clashes with the police which resorted to tear gas and rubber bullets.
One such incident to disperse crowds on June 12 with the use of pellets and tear gas resulted in accusations of police brutality. This made the protests more intense and police headquarters was targeted by the extremist protesters.
The trajectory of the protest
But the long-drawn protests have resulted in a division between peaceful pro-democracy protesters and violent groups clashing with police and breaking infrastructure. The division was exemplified by peaceful pro-democracy protesters marching past the legislative HQ while a splinter group attempted to break in.
The angry protesters which are young Hong Kongers in masks, smashed windows, and forced inside the government building and then gave rise to further destruction, including the legislative chamber.
Chaos and Conviction
The peaceful protests turned chaotic and has somewhat lost the impact, although protesters have increased desperation, there is decreased conviction.
Several saddened and disapproving pro-democracy lawmakers who had tried to keep protesters from breaking into the building. But they were left unheard and intimidated by the protesters who blame them for their legislative failure in blocking the extradition bill.
Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam has been in hiding and have refused to meet opposition lawmakers to resolve the issue.
The violence, several opine, is due to the “lack of positive response to the public” even after demonstrations have been in full swing for weeks. Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam has been in hiding and have refused to meet opposition lawmakers.
Suicides linked to the protests
Further fire to the disgruntled protesters was added by the news of three suicides, which have since been linked to the protests. The protesters have made these suicides martyrs. This spurred the protesters at the government headquarters, who were masked young citizens in late teens and early twenties.
There have been slogans flying saying “Hong Kong is not China yet”, “There are no rioters, only a tyranny” and “If we burn, you burn with us”.
There is a fear among Hong Kong citizens that their land is turning into a Chinese city. The protesters feel that time is running out to initiate reforms which ensures autonomy and freedom of Hong Kong before the handover from the 1997 British-China agreement that with make the city a part of mainland China in 2047.
The downhill Chinese sentiment
The young citizens of Hong Kong have been at the helm of protests. They do not share the pride in older generation which identifies with China and sees returning to Chinese rule a logical way forward. However, with the protests and anger, number of people pro-China is at a record low. Most young people identify as Hong Kongers rather than Chinese.
But being a youngster in Hong Kong in this day is not easy, which rising living costs and largely stagnant employment growth. This all has added up to become a generation which is protesting fearlessly and are ready to go down fighting for the cause of Hong Kong.
By: Chitresh Sehgal, Senior Editor, Dkoding Media