Since June, citizens have filled the streets of Hong Kong. There have been a large number of demonstrations, and they are are escalating in violence. As the number of protesters injured by Hong Kong police has increased, citizens have become more stubborn. Lately, they are against not only their local government, but have also targeted Beijing.
On June 12, there was a huge clash between Hong Kong police and protesters. It resulted in at least 81 people getting injured and 22 police officers were wounded. This incident was a turning point that triggered a mass movement. Two and a half months later, after
demonstrations on August 24 and 25, the police declared that they had arrested 86 people included a 12-year-old. About 215 tear canisters and 74 rubber bullets were fired over two days of demonstrations.
The protests began due to widespread outrage at an extradition bill which would make it easier to send criminals to China, and some feared could be used to against critics in a region that is used to enjoying freedom of speech. Many Hong Kong residents fear that under the extradition law, if someone shows opposition to Beijing or to Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, they could easily be arrested and taken away to the mainland.
The protesters have declared five demands:
1. Full withdrawal of the extradition bill
2. A commission of inquiry into alleged police brutality
3. Retracting the classification of protesters as “rioters”
4. Amnesty for arrested protesters
5. Dual universal suffrage, meaning for both the Legislative Council and the Chief Executive
In their fifth demand, they have advocated for greater democracy. In 1997, the United Kingdom handovered Hong Kong to the Chinese government. The joint declaration signed by Beijing and London set up the “one country, two systems” model for 50 years. “One country, two systems” means that while Hong Kong is a party of China (“one country”), the Chinese government allows Hong Kong to have a democratic system beyond what is practiced in the mainland (“two systems”). However, critics fear that the government is attempting to break this public commitment now and that if this bill receives recognition legally, Hong Kong’s civil rights will be eroded by Beijing’s authoritarianism.
On the other hand, some Chinese citizens have voiced support for the Hong Kong police over the protesters. One Chinese national, 18-year-old Johnson from Shanghai says, “It is conceivable that Hong Kongers simply want full independence.” Moreover, Johnson questions the protester’s methods. “The protesters sometimes disrupt public transportation, and collapse some buildings.” As a result of these incidents, the people from mainland harbor ill feeling to Hong Kong protesters, he says.
19-year old Sherry from Shinjan argues, “If Hong Kong is part of China, it should be subject to the same laws as mainland China.”
However, many Hong Kongers deny these rumors about seeking independence. 18-year-old Louis from Tung Chung argues, “The only thing that we want is the continuation of the great principle of democracy in Hong Kong.” 17-year-old Natalie from Fanling says, “The citizens from the mainland are unaware of what is actually happening and what is history is in Hong Kong.”
Both Hong Kong residents and those from the mainland have their own perspective about the extradition law and the actions of the protesters. As the conflict in Hong Kong continues, the relationship between citizens of the disparate Chinese territories can be expected to sour.
Cover Image: Studio Incendo from Flicker
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