Breaking down the political unrest in Hong Kong
History of Hong Kong
Until 1997, Hong Kong was a British colony. Under the “one country, two systems” policy, Hong Kong became part of China. It’s called a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China. It operates as if it is its own country in certain ways. Hong Kong has a separate legal and economic system.
Hong Kong would be allowed to “keep many liberties denied to citizens on the mainland, including free speech, unrestricted internet access and the right to free assembly”. This was guaranteed under Hong Kong’s Basic Law. This system was to remain until 2047.
People in Hong Kong describe themselves as “Hong Kongers” instead of “Chinese.” They do not want to involve themselves with the Communist Party.
What started the protest?
According to Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute, about 80 percent of the public is dissatisfied with the government’s performance. In recent years, anger has increased. They believe their freedoms have been attacked by China’s increasing influence on Hong Kong. Protestors feel politically powerless. Under the government committee of 1,200 residents dominated by Beijing allies select the leader for Hong Kong. Protests began in June 2019 over the extradition law, which has been removed.
Protestors put forth “Five Demands, not one less.”
- Withdraw the extradition law (Already Met)
- Protest not to be characterized as a “riot”
- Independent investigation into police brutality
- Amnesty for arrested protesters
- Implementation of universal suffrage
What is the effect of the protests?
Protests began with peaceful marches. Since July 21, when a mob attacked protesters in a subway station and about 45 people were injured, protests have escalated. Protestors have set off fires in subway stations, smashed business windows and vandalized those who oppose them. At lunchtime, bankers and lawyers gathered outside their offices to yell at the police.
“If there is still any wishful thinking that by escalating violence the government will yield to pressure I am making this clear and loud here.” Carrie Lam, Chief Executive of Hong Kong said. “That will not happen.”
School campuses have become battlefields. Police have sprayed tear gas. Students have attacked the police with flaming arrows and bricks. On-campus lectures have been canceled in numerous universities, including PolyU, Chinese University, Hong Kong Baptist University and the University of Hong Kong.
Protestors have been in battle with the police since the beginning of the protests. Brutality on both sides has escalated. About 3,300 people have been arrested, and this number continues to increase.
China’s General Secretary Xi Jinping supports city police. Jinping states they are “stopping violence and controlling chaos while restoring order.”
Hong Kong’s subway transport system MTR has been closed down, and stations have been damaged by protestors, causing the cancellation of many buses and trains. Protesters have blocked roads and Key tunnels linking Hong Kong Island with Kowloon peninsula.
Hong Kong’s economy has pushed into recession. Tourists, business travelers and foreign exchange students are afraid. Many businesses and shops have been shut down.
How will this affect Beijing(Mainland of China)?
Hong Kong is a gateway to China and Beijing to the world. This will continue to affect multinational companies. China uses Hong Kong as a financial stop to trade with other countries. For China, Hong Kong is a symbolic representation of the Communist Party working with free-market societies.
Local and mainlanders’ tensions have increased tremendously. Protestors have burned Chinese flags and written phrases like “Chinazi” and “Hong Kong is not China!” in public places. Due to this, mainland Chinese fear has increased. The population of Hong Kong has refused to talk to Mandarin speakers. To avoid any violence in Cantonese-speaking cities, parents have told their children to stop speaking Mandarin in public.
Alma Guardado is a second-year social studies major waiting patiently for democracy to prevail. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.