Amid grand celebrations of China’s 70-year anniversary, unrest sparked in parts of Hong Kong island, where mass protests of civilians escalated into violent riots in the district. The ruining of public facilities and heated clashes between hooded rioters and the Hong Kong police form a disturbing picture for those watching around the globe.
The crisis began a few months ago when Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam proposed an extradition bill, which could send crime suspects who fled mainland China back for trial. However, the proposal, which would enhance the district’s legal system and its safety, was met with mass demonstrations. On June 15th, Ms. Lam postponed the legislation of the bill under huge public pressure.
The protesters were not satisfied. Proclaiming themselves to be “fighters for democracy”, they called for Carrie Lam’s resignation, as well as an inquiry into police brutality and direct elections. Their behaviours gradually radicalized, including the use of petrol bombs, lighting up fires, ruining the public transportation system, and assaulting innocent pro-government civilians.
Ordinary lives were affected. The transit system was closed, and stores and supermarkets like 7-11 were closed early. In some parts of the district, it was hard to get around without encountering the protests and skirmishes, civilians said. The prestigious SAT test in Hong Kong earlier this week was postponed for 3 hours, due to the traffic conditions. Moreover, public strikes were taking a toll on the region’s economy, resulting in declined business revenues all around the district.
The government has made attempts to curb the violence. Due to the respect for the “One China Two System” policy, actions from mainland China remained highly limited, though the capabilities of China’s military were evident from the celebration parade. In Hong Kong, the police struggle to maintain the peace of the region through non-violent means, but was met with assaults from rioters as well as accusation from outside forces.
The factors behind the issue is complicated. After WWII, Hong Kong’s economy took a great leap, and the region soon became a major economic centre, following behind renowned cities like London and Paris and earning its own respect across the globe. However, since the 1990s, its economic dominance in the region gradually diminished as China’s economy skyrocketed. Some Hong Kong citizens blamed this for China’s rule, considering it as incompetent. Meanwhile, the increasing gap between rich and poor brought discontent among Hong Kong citizens. The soaring housing prices were unaffordable to many, causing most citizens to settle in small apartments inadequate for living, while housing rents or loans remains a huge burden.
Shadows of outside forces also loom over Hong Kong. Footage showed that the U.S. ambassador to Hong Kong met with leading activists of these protests, implying America’s ambiguous role in the crisis. Western medias portrayed the issue as “Fights for democracy” and accused the actions of Hong Kong police as the abuse of human rights, ignoring the chaos caused by these riots, while some politicians voiced their support on social media.
The Hong Kong crisis today is not merely an appeal for certain rights, but in essence a clash of ideology. It is a scheme packaged with idealistic democracy and freedom, a scheme that ultimately resolve in toppling the communist rule in Hong Kong. But it should be reminded that keeping a clear head is crucial in these times of provocative headlines and half-truths. Above all, act from your own heart, rather than being an unaware pawn on the chessboard.
Written by: Jason Guo