ART BY HAZUKI TONOMURA
A poster screams: Do you hear the people?
In America, we enjoy many of the civil liberties that countries across the globe are fighting for. These principles of liberty and equality are the intrinsic rights we take for granted, and the very ones that the civilians of Hong Kong are about to lose. Over the past several months, waves of Hong Kong citizens have unified under a single cause: protecting public interest. And currently, Hong Kong’s public is fighting to preserve the country’s autonomy from mainland China.
Unfortunately for many Cantonese individuals, the battle is already lost. To understand the geo-political conflict at hand, the history of China and Hong Kong must be established. Historically, mainland China has always ruled the area of Hong Kong until British imperialism in the 1840s. In the 1980s, Britain agreed to give Hong Kong back to China with the condition that the country would maintain its autonomy. According to the “one country, two systems” agreement between Britain and China, Hong Kong is to remain a democracy until 2047, where it will then be fully immersed into China.
Despite the country’s radically free-market economic policies, Hong Kong’s government is still drastically influenced by Beijing special interest. Regardless, Hong Kong citizens have not stopped fighting: Fighting a nation with drastically different cultural values for sovereignty. Millions of people are protesting, yearning for their voice to be heard by a government that does not truly represent the people it was intended to serve.
Simply, the people are not ready to lose the little rights they have.
However, the triggering point of the Hong Kong citizens may seem surprising, which all stems from a murder.
On February 8, 2018, Chan Tong Kai and Poon Hiu Wang travelled from Hong Kong to Taiwan for a vacation. Nine days later, only one returned. Wang, who was pregnant at the time, was killed by her boyfriend Chan.
However, since the crime occurred in Taiwan, Chan could not be trialed in Hong Kong or receive any form of punishment. Indignation ensued.
Consequently, the Hong Kong government proposed an extradition bill that would allow the transportation of criminals of criminals to Taiwan to be tried. Despite the solutions this proposal brought, there was a detriment: the agreement also gave Hong Kong extradition to China, where there is no fair trial, humane punishment or separation of powers.
But why does this matter? Simply put, with the extradition bill, China will be able to target government critics through “non-political” allegations, which strips Hong Kong from the government that is currently established.
With the whole population of Hong Kong screaming their disapproval, how can the Chinese government not take this seriously?
What’s worse, is that despite the cries against China’s depravity, Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam has not commented on the situation. Pause the bill that would pass the extradition law, yes, but withdraw the bill itself, no. As such, the bill is a looming reminder of the severity and sensitivity of Hong Kong’s political system.
Starting out as opposition against Chinese extradition, the protestors have transformed their voices into something akin to the American revolutionaries of the 18th century. In fact, the actions of the people have become so intense that protestors have donned black masks to ensure that China will not be able to identify their faces. The future is at stake, and many young individuals who have been born under “one country two systems” have too much to lose to sit still.
Currently, the people of Hong Kong are fighting for suffrage. They are fighting to revitalize their government to choose their leaders democratically. Many people, especially the younger generations of Hong Kong, believe that sparking a revolution in their time could revive the nation, and refuse to allow China to stampede on their government.
Because the protest is extremely unorganized, the police are unsure of how to control the protest, and each day, the marching people are growing more reckless, from destroying government buildings to setting property on fire.
At the end of the day, it is difficult to clearly distinguish whether Hong Kong will be able to achieve their goals through the protests. Although the “one country two systems” agreement establishes Hong Kong in relation to China, it is important to consider the different influences the country has been impacted with. Needless to say, it is impossible to ignore that the form of government is drastically different from that of China’s, and it is unjust for Hong Kong to adjust their government now, when many citizens have adjusted to a less communicative control.