As the world watches on, the small but bustling city of Hong Kong lies in unrest and literally, flames. Since March 31st, the people of Hong Kong initially protested against the Hong Kong’s security bureau’s proposal to amend extradition laws, allowing criminal suspects to be sent to Mainland China for trial. Evolving from dissatisfaction to anger, the protesters claimed that Mainland China was not upholding its ‘One Country, Two Systems’ policy that was set to last until 2047. During this time, the protestors and police clashed at several locations: Hong Kong’s parliament, China’s representative office, and Hong Kong’s international airport. Five months after the announcement of amendment to the extradition laws, Carrie Lam announces the formal withdrawal of the bill. However, as with many protests over the course of history, this merely ignited a range of democratic demands that had been long suppressed.
After more than half a year of protests which involved escalating use of violence and accusations of police brutality, the November district council elections were surprisingly peaceful. In this moment, the atmosphere seemed bright with hope for a renewed democratic Hong Kong. Ming Lee, 26, voiced her thoughts: “I hope this vote can counter the voice of the pro-establishment, so as to bring in more voices from the democrats,” she said. “The social problems encouraged people to vote and to focus on political issues.” The government intransigence has wreaked havoc upon the city, and the election has been labelled as a ‘de facto referendum for the protests’.
As for now, there is still uncertainty on how much longer will the protests continue to take place. Anti-government protestors have previously mentioned that the demonstrations would not yield unless the five demands were met: withdrawal of the bill, an independent investigation against the use of force by police; amnesty for arrested protesters; removing the labelling of the protests as riots; and the implementation of universal suffrage.
While the U.S. is known as the face of democracy, its president Donald Trump has threatened to veto the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which was passed unanimously by the U.S. Senate. As for Xi Jin Ping, the current president of China, his first public comment regarding the situation in Hong Kong was made earlier this month at a BRICS summit. He asserted the rights of the state in safeguarding state interests in national sovereignty, security and development. Despite the severe injuries and deaths of individuals involved in the protests, neither side seems to be on the verge of ceasefire. As the city is divided between those who are anti-government and pro-Beijing, Hong Kong seems to trace the emergence of the third wave of democratic recession.
Article Written by: Esther Yap