Political Agitations of Hong Kong

Photo Source: Al Jazeera

By Naveed Qazi | Editor, Globe UpFront

Hong Kong has become a powder keg, and a city on the edge. Anger has been brimming, from all quarters of the society, as over million protestors, about fifteen per cent of the population, mostly young, in black-clad uniforms, belonging from myriad political camps, and social groups, marched the streets, to protest a new law, that would allow people, accused of crimes, from Hong  Kong, to be extradited, to China. The movement started in March 2019 but went big scale in June 2019.

The law says that the convicted people would  be subjected to China’s ‘opaque justice system’. It is also a move that would make Hong Kong, a safe haven, for many Chinese bureaucrats, and leaders.

The protestors also seemed to have paranoias, of political manoeuvring, from the Chinese, that included spying.  They also want the release of previous protestors, held accountable, in the past. Hongkongers also believe that the Chinese government also has several local gangs, at their disposal, and several other several teams, including intelligence.

For several weeks, protestors had blocked all-important roads, leading to the city centre, and huddled near police headquarters, creating a political storm. It is because one of the privileges, Hong Kong has, since the late 1990s, is a semi autonomy system, that consists of an independent judicial branch. In June 2019, police had used pepper spray, rubber bullets, and tear gas. All the mayhem, resulted, from the situation, has led the executive Carrie Lam, a Chinese agent, or a puppet, by every means, to publicly apologise and suspend the law. The protestors want him to resign, despite Lam giving a public apology. In this raging time, a girl, in a deep meditative pose, sitting on the road, has become iconic, in these protests. Called as the ‘Shield Girl’, she was recently showcased, in an artwork, from China’s leading dissident artist, Badicua. But, the opposition fears, that once the protests die down, they might re-implement the law, causing new tensions.

The British newspaper, The Independent, reported that one hundred eighty thousand citizens, attended a vigil, in the city’s Victoria Park. This place symbolises, to many, a place of commemoration, of the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre, where Chinese Communists, once upon a time, commanded to disperse the crowds, in an attempt to nullify the call, for a democratic China.  This place, still, is a popular visiting spot, for locals, and foreign visitors, even after three decades. Historically, during the 2005 World Trade Organisation ministerial meeting, in the city, riots had happened, and the locals received beatings.

As a reaction, the rioting of Hongkongers has also resulted, in some convictions. At least five protestors have been jailed, and they might get heavy prison sentences, based on the country’s law. Unlike 2014 umbrella movement, it is largely perceived, as a leaderless movement, and deployed modern use of technology, such as social media apps, like Telegram, that was eventually taken down, by the government. They also used airdrop, a file sharing application, on Apple devices, to share messages, and memes. Protestors also used cash to buy tickets, rather than travel cards, that would allow them to be tracked, as some protestors also hurled metal barriers, at the police. Their response had been ferocious.

Isaac Cheng, the vice chairperson of pro-democracy group, Demosisto, vouches upon this fact. Five years back, it was Joshua Wong, Demosisto’s co-founder, who started the umbrella movement.

Student’s Union of Higher Institutions had reiterated four demands from Lam, which included withdrawing extradition law, completely, and permanently, dropping all charges laid down against protestors, and establishing an independent probe, into the claims of ‘police brutality’.

The union gave a strong statement lately: ‘Hongkongers do not need crocodile tears from a murderous regime, nor will we accept a mere suspension of the bill'. The agitating scenes, created out a controversy, suggest that China is willing to have more control over the city, on its southern coast. This law is been seen, as a threat, to its autonomy, as Hongkongers, saw in it, the collapse of Hong Kong’s economic prosperity, and betrayal of promises, assured, in the 1980s. Hong Kong, reverted back, to China, in 1997. The autonomy is set to last till fifty years, till 2047. Culturally, there is also a desire for a British way of life, and the return of British era institutions. That’s why Hong Kong, almost looks as an ungovernable city, at the present moment in time.

To Reuters, in an interview, Robert Chung, the director of the Public Opinion Programme at The University of Hong Kong (HKUPOP) commented that the headcounts of protestors carry little importance, and it is more about the the reality of regional politics, that he is concerned about, even though there are techniques, such as Jacob’s method, that can measure the capacity to hold protests, at any place, for analysts. ‘We are still caught between the unnecessary tension between science and democracy,’ he said.

Around five years ago, the Communist Party of China, rejected the chance, of democratic reform, leading to the Umbrella Movement. It was a three-month occupation on the streets, and many young people were politicised by it. The movement was crushed, when many pro-independence lawyers, self-determination seeking, frontline activists, were imprisoned

In The Independent Oped, Joshua Wong, and Alex Chow wrote: ‘Once upon a time, the people of Hong Kong were proud of creating a robust, an export-oriented industrial city, one of the four Asian tiger economies, later turning into a global financial city with booming tourism’.

As turmoil, and anarchy spread, business tycoons, started moving assets, out of the city, and backed away, from major business deals.

Hongkongers believe, that under the current global scenario, the world is seeing their city, as an unlivable place, with a high influx of industrial activities, cowing press behaviour, lack of fairness in social and land policies, and high housing costs, in a concrete jungle. This deterioration also reflects the arrogance, and ineptitude of Hong Kong officials, and Chinese officials. Hongkongers, in this living age, have high ambitions, that include co-existence, vibrancy, equality, and various other value systems.

All these protests, do indicate, Hong Kong’s relentless pursuit, for a sustainable democracy, a system, that is continuously deteriorating, by external political factors. In history, its sovereignty was handed down, from Britain to China, in 1997, under the Sino-British Joint Declaration, in 1984.  It now seems inevitable that Hongkongers want power, to be devolved, to the local people.


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