BY JONATHAN CORTEZ
We in the states are no stranger to protest. From the 1960’s anti-war movement to the Stonewall Riots and modern day LGBTQ pride events, we’ve seen our fair share of political activism. Yet over 7,000 miles away, a certain cities tension is growing as many take to the streets to protest. That city is Hong Kong, China. Since June of this year the densely populated city of Hong Kong has seen protests grow in violence and tension, from minor clashes between civilians to a woman having her eye ruptured from a riot cannon. To us here in Truman this issue might seem out of sight and out of mind, however the politics behind these protests deserve to be heard, discussed and understood, even in our school.
Protests first began in the form of demonstrations during March and April after the extradition bill was proposed. The bill would allow local authorities to detain and extradite people who are wanted in territories that Hong Kong does not have extradition agreements with. Extradite would be, to hand over a person accused of a crime to the foreign state in which the crime was committed in.For example, if a man committed a crime in Italy but fled to Brazil, the Brazilian government taking the criminal out of Brazil to face sentencing in Italy would be to extradite the criminal. Many Hong Kong residents are against this bill due to the “one country two systems” set up within China. The “One country two systems” policy states that distinct regions of China like Hong Kong and Macau could have their own economic and administrative systems. Many Chinese citizens, specifically journalists, political activists and other forms of press have moved to Hong Kong to avoid being detained for speaking against China’s mass censorship laws, if this bill is passed, local authorities could completely ignore the “One country, two systems” policy and arrest those citizens who are speaking against the government.
However, there’s more to these protests than extradition The protests, which began in March and April this year, are increasing in tension and violence since June. The first large protest took place in Victoria Park on June 9th. Protesters claim that over 1.3 million people attended while Hong Kong’s police claim that only 170,000 attended. Protesters marched from Victoria Park to the legislative council complex. Despite efforts made by citizens, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam insisted that the second reading debate on the bill would resume on 12 June. This resulted in a larger number of student groups to hold a sit in outside of the Legislative Council Complex. The sit in escalated to an all out clash between the police force and protesters.
Following the June 9th protest, a general strike was called which over 100 employers participated in. Citizens made an attempt to charge the Legislative building but were met by riot police who are under criticism for their excessive use of tear gas, bean bag rounds, rubber bullets. Along with excessive force, the Hong Kong police force is also being heavily accused of the unlawful use of batons and tear gas, lack of identifying numbers on officers, attacks on journalists, and arresting those who were seeking treatment at hospitals. Following these intense attacks on the protesters, which the police have dubbed riots, protesters began demanding an independent inquiry into police brutality.
On July 4th, the Civil Human Rights Front(CHRF) held their annual march.The march was generally peaceful, until protesters began storming the legislative council complex. Police did little to stop the incident as protesters began breaking furniture and defaced the Hong Kong emblem. Similar protests occurred on June 24th and 25th. Protests began blooming everywhere across Hong Kong, including but not limited to, Tuen mun park, Sheung Shui, Sha Tin, New town plaza and Sai Wan. Many of these protests have resulted in police-civilian clashes, resulting in the police drawing high levels of criticism due to many officers not having permits, warrants or numbers and the mass arrests of protesters. In a recent protest a woman was shot in the eye with a bean bag round, completely ruptering it. Recently after rising demand for police to look into police brutality, protesters held a sit in at the Hong Kong International Airport from August 12th to 14th causing numerous flights to be delayed.
To combat the recent fights, peaceful protests were held on August 18th and 21st. These were held in Victoria Park and Yuen Long MTR Station. Since then, protesters have released five points that they wish for the police and state to look into. They want extradition bill redacted, Carrie Lam to resign, an independent inquiry into the alleged police brutality, free all those arrested during the protests and to give more civil liberties to the people of Hong Kong. It seems as though Hong Kong’s protests while not showing any signs of stopping are definitely getting more peaceful with protesters trying to keep their image in check. Students, teachers and people of all walks of life continue to march through the rain of Hong Kong.
Now I ask you to imagine yourself facing these same injustices. Police firing tear gas at you and your fellow peers. Being shot with riot bean bags and assaulted with batons. Police arresting you for peacefully protesting. And for what? For speaking your mind. For speaking out against mass censorship. For speaking out against the unlawful use of force and aggression. For pointing out that journalist who aren’t pro government are being arrested and having their articles removed. Everyday services, Google, Twitter, Instagram,and thousands of other websites, banned.. Chinese citizens face these injustices daily, and us living in a country that was built on liberty , should learn that tyranny is very real. Not only that, but a good deal of the protesters are students. Students our age. Students who fear for their parents safety simply because they are part of the press. Students who attend these rallies but are beaten and shot at with tear gas. We need to realize that as students we are connected and can relate to one another. Often our voices can go unheard, dismissed as childish. We make up a great deal of the population and by staying connected and supporting one another we help push our causes and makes sure we don’t get thrown aside by higher ups. So don’t let you voice be pushed down and don’t let others voices go unheard.