Former U.S President John F. Kennedy once said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”
All eyes are on Hong Kong. Although the protests are mostly peaceful, the Chinese government’s cyberwarfare, refusal to accept demands, and police brutality in the 2019 Hong Kong protests has escalated beyond the violence during the 2014 Umbrella movement. Many people living in the west have dismissed the protests because it may not affect them or because it doesn’t seem like a huge deal. They should, however, pay the utmost attention to it. This doesn’t just stop at Hong Kong.
What happens in Hong Kong could have lasting ramifications for the rest of the world. If China gets their way with Hong Kong, what’s stopping them from legitimizing their use of concentration camps in Xinjiang, their suppression of Tibetan autonomy, and forcing reunification with Taiwan?
It’s been nearly five months now since the 2019 Hong Kong extradition bill was proposed by the Beijing-backed Hong Kong government under Carrie Lam. The bill proposes that Hong Kong would be allowed to extradite suspects to countries it doesn’t have an extradition treaty with. Originally, this bill was meant to address a political dilemma with Taiwan: in 2018, Chan-Tong Kai, a Hong Kong citizen, killed his pregnant girlfriend there then flew back to Hong Kong. Even though he confessed to the crime, the Hong Kong police could not charge him because he committed the murder in Taiwan. The police also could not extradite him to Taiwan to face charges, since no extradition treaty existed. The Hong Kong government then decided to write the extradition bill and push it into law.
The problem with this bill lies in the fact that it would also enable extraditions to China. The Chinese government is notorious for accusing and charging innocent people of false crimes. If the bill is passed, the Chinese government might start extraditing and charging political enemies in Hong Kong. In response, protesters have rocked the streets of Hong Kong with nearly two million people participating in the June 16 protest.
The protesters have five demands for the Hong Kong government: The withdrawal of the Extradition Bill, the resignation of Chief Executive Carrie Lam, the release of protesters who have been arrested and detained by HKPF, the prosecution of police officers who have brutally abused their power, and stopping the government from labeling the protests as “riots”.
That’s it. There are no outrageous demands, nothing that is impossible for the government to grant its citizens. However, Carrie Lam has downright refused to give in to the protestors, and for what? Her government has lost complete control over the people of Hong Kong, despite what she continues to spout.
The first demand, the Extradition Bill has already been officially withdrawn as of Sept 4 after it was indefinitely suspended on June 15.
The second demand, calling for Carrie Lam’s resignation, is entirely justified. Carrie Lam has caused immeasurable damage to relations between Hong Kong and China, not to mention her rise to power is a farce. She was nowhere near the most popular candidate to lead Hong Kong. She was practically appointed by the Chinese government. The “election” only allows for 1,194 people out of the 3.8 million registered voters available to vote in Hong Kong, and of the 1,194 people able to vote, nearly all of them have direct ties to the Chinese government.
The third demand ties in with the fifth demand. Protestors who are being arrested are being charged with rioting, which carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years. If their charge is changed to protesting instead of rioting, they are released from detainment.
Finally, the fourth demand simply calls for due justice for police officers who have unfairly abused their power.
The situation in Hong Kong continues to deteriorate as each day passes. The Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF) has showcased an extreme amount of police brutality against their citizens, with notable examples being HKPF torturing a 62 year old man restrained in a hospital bed and unknown masked men in white assaulting protesters in Yuen Long allegedly under the orders of the HKPF. Miraculously, there have been no deaths as a direct result of the protests, but given the unprofessional, dangerous, and downright illegal actions of the HKPF, it won’t be long until the HKPF cross a line that could spark an all-out revolution.
Perhaps the most despicable of actions the HKPF has engaged in is firing tear gas from above. Tear gas is almost always fired down low to the ground to avoid hitting anyone in the head. Firing it from above carries a serious risk of fracturing someone’s skull or even killing them, and was heavily condemned by Jim Bueermann, former president of the Police Foundation in Washington, who called it “hugely problematic”.
If the HKPF continue firing tear gas from above, they are begging for another incident of this nature to occur, which could ignite protests far more violent than ever before.
What is happening in Hong Kong doesn’t end in the streets however. Online, China is waging cyberwarfare against the protesters, manipulating both media and social media to misinform and spread propaganda against protestors in Hong Kong, as well as utilizing advanced AI facial recognition software to identify protestors. A blatantly disgusting attempt by the Chinese government to lie to its citizens, who have been fed nothing but propaganda their entire lives. Some of the lies found against the protestors include calling them violent, dangerous, and even comparing them to extremist group ISIS.
As a global financial center, Hong Kong also plays a role for the US as leverage against the Chinese government in the ongoing trade war between the two superpowers. Hong Kong has a GDP of $363 billion dollars which is 0.59% of the world’s economy. While that may not sound terribly impressive, it is a good reference point as to how much money is really hidden in Hong Kong. Due to their low taxation and independent currency from the Chinese Yuan, Hong Kong is used by rich mainlanders to essentially hold their money through trusts and other means. It is estimated that $331 billion dollars is held in Hong Kong from the rich and elite Chinese, which is only $30 billion off from matching Hong Kong’s GDP.
As is, the Hong Kong protests are another Tiananmen Square waiting to happen. Fun fact: this article and maybe this website is likely now banned in China for saying that thanks to China’s Great Firewall. Who knows, the Hong Kong protests in 2019 might be scrubbed from history 40 or 50 years down the line.