Earlier today, several thousands of young Hongkongers like me were sitting very peacefully at the government house, asking the government for a real democrac…
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Hong Kong’s unprecedented protests & police crackdown, explained
September 29, 2014
Protest marches and vigils are fairly common in Hong Kong, but what began on Friday and escalated dramatically on Sunday is unprecedented. Mass acts of civil disobedience were met by a shocking and swift police response, which has led to clashes in the streets and popular outrage so great that analysts can only guess at what will happen next.
What’s going on in Hong Kong right now is a very big deal, and for reasons that go way beyond just this weekend’s protests. Hong Kong’s citizens are protesting to keep their promised democratic rights, which they worry — with good reason — could be taken away by the central Chinese government in Beijing. This moment is a sort of standoff between Hong Kong and China over the city’s future, a confrontation that they have been building toward for almost 20 years.
On Wednesday, student groups led peaceful marches to protest China’s new plan for Hong Kong’s 2017 election, which looked like China reneging on its promise to grant the autonomous region full democracy (see the next section for what that plan was such a big deal). Protest marches are pretty common in Hong Kong so it didn’t seem so unusual at first.
Things started escalating on Friday. Members of a protest group called Occupy Central (Central is the name of Hong Kong’s downtown district) had planned to launch a “civil disobedience” campaign on October 1, a national holiday celebrating communist China’s founding. But as the already-ongoing protesters escalated they decided to go for it now. On Friday, protesters peacefully occupied the forecourt (a courtyard-style open area in front of an office building) of Hong Kong’s city government headquarters along with other downtown areas.
The really important thing is what happened next: Hong Kong’s police cracked down with surprising force, fighting in the streets with protesters and eventually emerging with guns that, while likely filled with rubber bullets, look awfully militaristic. In response, outraged Hong Kong residents flooded into the streets to join the protesters, and on Sunday police blanketed Central with tear gas, which has been seen as a shocking and outrageous escalation. The Chinese central government issued a statement endorsing the police actions, as did Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing chief executive, a tacit signal that Beijing wishes for the protests to be cleared.
You have to remember that this is Hong Kong: an affluent and orderly place that prides itself on its civility and its freedom. Hong Kongers have a bit of a superiority complex when it comes to China, and see themselves as beyond the mainland’s authoritarianism and disorder. But there is also deep, deep anxiety that this could change, that Hong Kong could lose its special status, and this week’s events have hit on those anxieties to their core.
This began in 1997, when the United Kingdom handed over Hong Kong, one of its last imperial possessions, to the Chinese government. Hong Kong had spent over 150 years under British rule; it had become a fabulously wealthy center of commerce and had enjoyed, while not full democracy, far more freedom and democracy than the rest of China. So, as part of the handover, the Chinese government in Beijing promised to let Hong Kong keep its special rights and its autonomy — a deal known as “one country, two systems.”
A big part of that deal was China’s promise that, in 2017, Hong Kong’s citizens would be allowed to democratically elect their top leader for the first time ever. That leader, known as the Hong Kong chief executive, is currently appointed by a pro-Beijing committee. In 2007, the Chinese government reaffirmed its promise to give Hong Kong this right in 2017, which in Hong Kong is referred to as universal suffrage — a sign of how much value people assign to it.
But there have been disturbing signs throughout this year that the central Chinese government might renege on its promise. In July, the Chinese government issued a “white paper” stating that it has “comprehensive jurisdiction” over Hong Kong and that “the high degree of autonomy of [Hong Kong] is not an inherent power, but one that comes solely from the authorization by the central leadership.” It sounded to many like a warning from Beijing that it could dilute or outright revoke Hong Kong’s freedoms, and tens of thousands of Hong Kong’s citizens marched in protest.
Then, in August, Beijing announced its plan for Hong Kong’s 2017 elections. While citizens would be allowed to vote for the chief executive, the candidates for the election would have to be approved by a special committee just like the pro-Beijing committee that currently appoints the chief executive. This lets Beijing hand-pick candidates for the job, which is anti-democratic in itself, but also feels to many in Hong Kong like a first step toward eroding their promised democratic rights.
I feel like very few, or at least not many of the people of tumblr are aware of what is going on in my home country Hong Kong right now.
You guys gave alot of coverage and support when Scotland was voting for its independance, so I’m hoping you’ll all support the people of Hong Kong as well.
Right now, many of us are in a mass demonstration of pro-democracy against China. But wait a sec, isn’t Hong Kong China? This is a big misconception amongst foreigners, but please, we are far from being similar to China at all.
A little history class: Hong Kong used to be colonized by the British, and before you white-knights begin going all “them damn white racist ppl taking over another asian country” please don’t. We are thankful Britain took us under its wing and instilled in us values that I feel made us what we are today; that is, a democratic people with respect for free speech, amongst many things.
On the other hand, China is communist, with government controlled media and news. Google, instagram, facebook and many tv shows are blocked in China. It really is just a few steps from North Korea imo.
So what’s the problem here? Britain unfortunately had to hand back Hong Kong to China, but one of the requirements is that Hong Kong be allowed to operate as ‘one country two systems’, meaning Hong Kong should be able to have its own democratic government. But China has broken its promise. A while back, China tried to put a mandatory ‘national education’ curriculum in all our primary schools. We all know what that is; a communist brainwashing regime. And now, they have announced that in 2017 Hong Kong will be able to vote for its president; BUT only from 3 candidates hand picked by its PRO-BEIJING legislation.
As you can see, China is trying to takeover completely and turn us into another communist state.
Of course, we have taken to the streets. In a mirror if the Tiananmen protests, students have also stepped up to fight for our rights and our future, albeit in a peaceful protest of course. But the police force who have always been a friend of the people, are now responding with force, something that had never been done before in Hong Kong.
First it was pepperspray, then teargas. Then, armed forces came in qith rubber bullets. They warn they will come out with live ammunition soon if we do not get off the streets but the people continue to sit tight, disrupting businesses China so strive to takeover and make use of. It’s been 2 days now, but the people plan to continue at least till 1st October or even beyond. The significance is that October 1st is China’s National day, not ours, Hong Kong has not been granted it’s own National day.
Please spread the news. This is a country we’re talking about. These are my people.
You can join this event to wear yellow in support of my people on October 1st.