Writer: Keitaro H.
Visual: Kiana H.
Editor: Gisele F.
Hong Kong was recently brought to a standstill. An estimated 1.7 million Hong Kong Citizens, roughly a quarter of the territory’s population, took to the streets of Hong Kong and protested as the world watched televised scenes of escalating violence and tension. Though the protests have only been going on for a few months, there seems to be no end in sight as the violent clashes between the protesters and the Hong Kong police continue unabated. What started as a simple disagreement on criminal justice legislation sparked a movement among Hong Kong residents that demand their government fulfill their requests. As the people of Hong Kong fight to preserve their autonomy from China. Only time will tell if the protesters’ demands will be met.
Why People Are Protesting
In February of 2019, small groups of people began speaking against an extradition bill that would allow those with suspected criminal activity to be extradited to mainland China. However, in the eyes of the Hong Kong population, this meant that said bill essentially placed Hong Kong under the legal jurisdiction of China and thus stripped citizens of their rights and autonomy. Fearing this potential outcome, more and more people began lashing out against the government. Today, a large number of students, bankers, and government workers regularly join the demonstrations that take place throughout Hong Kong.
The protestors stipulate five demands to the government. First, they want a complete withdrawal of the extradition bill. They also want the retraction of the word “riot” that the government uses to describe the demonstrations. They demand that the people arrested during earlier protests be released and exonerated and call on the Hong Kong government to conduct an investigation regarding police misconduct and their excessive use of force during the protests. Lastly, they demand that Carrie Lam, the chief executive of Hong Kong, resign from her position immediately.
Some government officials in Hong Kong and Beijing have taken a strong and increasingly opposing stance towards the protests. This critical view was evident on Wednesday when Hong Kong police released a statement condemning the “radical and violent acts by protestors” at the airport. Furthermore, in China, the protestors are labeled as “violent mobs” and “criminals”. Many fear that the escalating tension between the protestors and government officials will lead to greater violence and possible military intervention from China.
What the Protests Look Like
Today the demonstrations have taken several different shapes; but generally, they all follow a common pattern. It begins with large groups of people, wearing black, gathering at strategic areas in Hong Kong to maximize the disruption of normal city life. With this basis, places such as Victoria Park, Tsim Sha Tsui, or the Hong Kong International Airport are targeted daily. Once there, they are then met with police opposition. This, however, doesn’t always result in violent protester-police encounters. Sometimes, it’s a peaceful march. On the other hand, given the increasingly tense situations, aggressiveness is an instinctive police response. One sign of this increasing police aggression is the use of tear gas and rubber bullets in order to deter the crowd. Consequently, more and more injuries began to occur– not only to the 2100 plus protestors but also to over 180 police members.
The ISM community has been especially vocal in response to the Hong Kong protests.
Marco Y., a current junior, felt the effects of the protests firsthand when trying to depart the Hong Kong Airport. His flight was delayed by 36 hours due to the protests in the airport which caused over 200 delays and flight cancelations that day. Furthermore, Xianming L. another junior believes that “the people of Hong Kong can protest on the street, but they should not affect the functioning of the city. There should be a limit.”
No matter which side of the protest movement one takes, it is important to keep up-to-date with the daily events that take place in Hong Kong because many ISM students either travel or are from Hong Kong. But more importantly, these local protest movements will undoubtedly carry heavy implications for the rest of the world and will affect the lives of many.