Article by: Joseph Hadaway
On September 26th 2014, the Hong Kong Federation of Students mobilised students to boycott classes, organizing them to protest outside of the Central Government Offices. This protest was sparked by a decision made by the Chinese Government to allow citizens of Hong Kong to vote for a new chief executive in the year 2017, but only out of a pool of candidates selected by Beijing. Since Hong Kong reverted to Chinese control in the year 1997, it was ruled under a policy of “one country, two systems”, where Hong Kong was allowed a high degree of autonomy, allowing it to maintain the capitalistic system installed by the British under colonial rule, but still be considered part of China. This policy has in the past yielded great returns for China, turning Hong Kong into a “capitalist paradise” and the “gateway between China and the West” according to Forbes Magazine, leading to the Hong Kong Dollar becoming the eighth most traded currency in the world.
These protests have been characterized by their politeness, tidiness and commitment towards non-violence. However, despite this, more controversy has arisen from the use of violence by police in dealing with the protestors, motivating more people to join in on the protests.
The effects of these protests can be felt both globally and at an ISM-level, due to the fact that Filipinos account for nearly 2% of the population of Hong Kong, greater than any other minority group. Furthermore, as ISM is a global community, many students and teachers come from China or Hong Kong, who appear all over the spectrum on these protests. One of these Chinese students at ISM, who did not want to be named, said that the Hong Kong protests were “definitely a step towards a democracy” citing that “Hong Kong has a very different political system and culture than the mainland, and although the government might see it as a threat to their control, I think that Hong Kong is definitely going to stay part of China, regardless of what happens”.
These protests will play a significant part in the outcome of Hong Kong’s future – whether it is assimilated into China, gains independence or remains as part of this “one country, two systems” policy, it is clear that for the first time in its history, Hong Kong truly has a say in its future.