Summer in an Asian City — 2019 Hong Kong Protests

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Last summer, I came back to Shenzhen. I enjoyed two peaceful months there. But right across the narrow river, there were protests for democracy accompanied by outbreaks of violence. As insignificant as it may sound, my life and the lives of those around me were somewhat affected. Because of the sit-in at Hong Kong International Airport, a friend of mine was forced to get off of the plane, and others rescheduled their flights to fly from elsewhere. The violence in metro stations prevented me from visiting my relatives who lived in Hong Kong. And due to restricted airport access, my family and I had to depart before I even left Shenzhen. 

The cause of these protests and demonstrations was a murder case. On February 8, 2018, Chan Tong Kai, a Hong Konger, murdered his girlfriend, Poon Hiu-Wing, when they were traveling in Taiwan. As the murder was committed in Taiwan, the Hong Kong government couldn’t arrest Chan after he returned. In response, an extradition bill was proposed so that Hong Kong can transfer suspects and criminals to Taiwan, and by extension to mainland China. But many believed that this bill would give mainland China much more control over Hong Kong, including limits of freedom of speech and press. Similar cases regarding the loss of freedom of speech have already occurred as booksellers were arrested because of what they wrote about the government. Some also believed that the Chinese government is using the extradition bill to expedite the end of  “one country, two systems”

Protesters with posters saying “No riots, only tyranny” and “No withdrawal, no dismissal” (Photo via Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters)

The first major rally of protesters occurred on June 9, 2019. According to the organizers, more than one million people were marching, while the statistics given by the police is 240,000 people. The demand of protesters was ignored by the chief executive, Carrie Lam. The government didn’t give a direct response to the protest but insisted that the second debate on the bill would resume on 12 June. Though the extradition bill was suspended on 16 June, violence began to erupt as protests became more and more heated. Weapons such as small-scaled bomb bags and Molotov cocktails were used by some protesters, while police brutality included the use of tear gas and water cannon. These actions of violence resulted in numerous physical injuries, destruction of roads and stores, and dysfunction of certain subways. Different media tend to focus on different sides of the situation, leaving the truth somewhere in between.

The demonstrations following the one on 16 June focused on five main demands, instead of simply abolishing the extradition bill. The demands are respectively:

  1. A complete withdrawal of the extradition bill
  2. A full investigation into police brutality
  3. Retracting the classification of protesters as “rioters”
  4. Amnesty for arrested protesters
  5. Universal suffrage for the Legislative Council and Chief Executive

International attention reached a highest point during the three-day sit-in from 12 August to 14 August at Hong Kong International Airport. Initially, protesters handed out flyers to visitors in a polite manner. But on 13 August, two men who were accused of being undercover police were heavily beaten by the protesters. One of them, Fu Guohao, was a Chinese reporter for the Global Times. All flights were canceled due to the upheavals on those two days.

Later on the 4th of September, Carrie Lam announced the formal withdrawal of the bill in October. But as the other demands haven’t been reached, the demonstrations still exist in various forms to this very day. Similarities can be drawn between the 2019 Hong Kong protests and the Tiananmen Square protests that happened 30 years ago in Beijing. Both of these protests involve student-oriented discontent towards the government because of certain issues of the political and economic systems. Although in the present day, the Tiananmen Square protests are somewhat concealed, the protests in Hong Kong have gained much international awareness as contemporary media coverage is all over the world. 

Featured Image via Getty Images

About the author

Sunny Li is a fifteen-year-old IV former at St.Mark’s School. She comes from Shenzhen, a southern city in China. She is a big fan of small things in life such as milk tea on a Saturday night, taking selfies on her Mac, and cup noodles before study halls. Sunny is the co-head of debate club and boardgame club. She is also a tour guide and peer tutor at St.Mark’s School. She has great interest in historical events and social sciences. Despite her quiet personality, Sunny enjoys expressing her opinions. She looks forward to sharing her perspectives through her contribution to the Parkman Post.

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