Hong Kong Protests


Studio Incendo, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

If you take a look at the cover of your AP World history textbooks, you’ll see a stunning picture of the skyline of Hong Kong: tall, shiny skyscrapers, summer temperatures all year round, the perfect combination of an urban city with beautiful beaches and mountains, insanely low crime rates and friendly, creative and warm people. But what was once a friendly, safe and seemingly ‘perfect’ city, Hong Kong is now a never ending protest zone and the future of Hong Kongers is uncertain and unstable. I interviewed a handful of WESS students asking them the question “What do you know about the current anti government protests happening in Hong Kong?” and ⅔ said they didn’t know anything. This is completely understandable, seeing as Hong Kong is on the other side of the world and the news is already clogged up with plenty of US politics, but I wanted to shed some light on the situation and inform the WESS community on an important current event that affects countries globally. 


I’ll start with a mini BBK – Building Background Knowledge.


Until the 1997 Handover of Hong Kong back to China, Hong Kong was a British colony. But for 50 years HK wouldn’t really be part of Britain or China: a “Special Administrative Region”. The UK and China signed a treaty stating that until 2047 when HK would be fully part of China, the rights and freedoms of Hong Kongers would be protected. Since then, China has repeatedly breached this agreement and already view Hong Kong as part of China.


Now fast forward to May of this year, when Carrie Lam, the Pro-China Chief Executive of Hong Kong (aka the President) proposed the Extradition Bill. This was a law that would allow China to force anyone in Hong Kong who had allegedly committed a crime to face Extradition/removal to China for trial. This proposed law frightened many in Hong Kong. They feared that political opponents and innocent people could be taken to China and face unfair trials. 


The people of Hong Kong took to the streets to march against the extradition bill that has now sparked months of anti government unrest. Whilst I was enjoying my last few weeks of living in Hong Kong, my family and I began attending the weekly Sunday protests including an astonishing mass protest of 2 million people. Eventually, this extradition bill was scraped, but the Government has largely ignored public opinion and the protests have continued, demanding the universal rights to vote and more democracy that was promised back in 1997.  


A few weeks into these regular protests, things started to go south. The police were using unnecessary violence against the protesters, including tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets. This caused Hong Kongers to fight back, claiming that the police were using excessive force. It all escalated and turned militant. In recent weeks, things have been terrible from both sides. Police have stormed train stations, firing tear gas to disperse non protesters, going from wearing full riot gear to full on military uniforms, arresting hundreds of protesters. Protesters have been throwing petrol bombs at the police, ripping up bricks from the road, setting fire to train stations and even caused 224 cancelled flights because of a protest at the airport.


This movement is largely driven by the youth of Hong Kong because it is their futures that will be impacted the most by China’s increasing force on Hong Kong. High school students have taken action by attending the protests and city wide strikes and doing smaller things like forming a hand holding human chain at their schools as a peaceful means of showing their activism. It is important that the affected generations take action for their futures. This is similar to the youth climate change strikes, which many WESS students attended a few weeks ago. I can say from experience attending the Hong Kong protests and 2 climate change protests that it feels very empowering to be surrounded by like minded people who are all taking action for important causes. In the current situation, it is very difficult to say what the best way forward is for Hong Kong because the more the government ignores the protests, the more violent it is becoming. 


At this point, it is very difficult to envision an end to this movement, least of all a peaceful and successful end. However, I find it inspiring how the Hong Kong people have risen up against unjust laws and demand democratic rights that should have been guaranteed over 20 years ago. People debate whether mass protests are an effective means of activism or just a disruption to cities, but what is happening today on the streets might permanently impact our future lives. The results and effects of protests may not show for many years, but they certainly leave a mark. The future of our lives depend on what we do about it today. 


Hong Kong will always be a part of me and it breaks my heart to see the city that I grew up in and always thought was the safest city in the state that it is in. If you are interested in more of the details, visit “scmp.com” or “hongkongfp.org.hk”.