Hong Kong: Defiance and the mass movement
Mass protests continue for democratic change, at times up to two million, some quarter of the population has participated in the recent protests.
China sends out propaganda which portrays the movement as a terrorist, but it is far from this.
The movement follows on from the era of protests for democracy that started in 2014 and known as the umbrella movement. Protesters used umbrellas to deflect tear gas and rubber bullets hurled at them by the police.
In 2014 protesters were demanding free elections in Hong Kong. China allows only its chosen candidates for Hong Kong’s leadership, the chief executive.
The protests today in Hong Kong flared up initially as a protest against the Chinese Central government wanting to have people who run foul of the law in Hong Kong extradited to mainland China for trial. The real intent of this law is aimed at pro-democracy activists. It would be a way of removing them from Hong Kong and making solidarity protests at trials very difficult
Hong Kong previously a colony of Britain was handed over to China in 1997 at the end of its 99-year lease over the territory. The deal negotiated between the two powers was that Hong Kong would fall under mainland China in a system of “One Country, Two Systems “which would end in the year 2047.
This system meant that Hong Kong has its own judiciary and currency, freedom of speech was to be protected, whilst China oversaw its foreign affairs and defence policy.
The current Chief executive of Honk Kong is Carrie Lam, who was chosen by a pro-China committee and appointed by the mainland.
The latest round of protest forced Carrie Lam to suspend for the moment executing China’s will to send protesters for trial back on the mainland. Apologies were given in respect of the divisions that the edict has caused in society, however many see this as just a waiting game on her part.
The protest did not die down as a result of her temporary back down and has moved on to questioning many other areas of life that people currently experience.
The parents of a young man who committed suicide as a protest against the government’s policies had the following to say “The government’s indifferent pursuit of wealth has forced young people to serve the rich, to become slaves of their mortgages, and the working class and ordinary folks have no say over the government’s policies.
The handover from Britain to China of the island saw very little benefits to its population. For the Communist party, it was business as usual, no reforms were introduced to help a lot of working people and their poor relatives in society. Wage increases over the past twenty years have been negligible and the social divide in society has widened. Some 1.4 million people there live a life of poverty
The island is important to China as a centre for attracting foreign investment; Hong Kong is the world’s eighth-largest exporter of goods and has the world’s fourth-biggest stock market. It acts as trading and financial sector servicing China.
The Economist magazine described it as a “fragile bridge between a one-party state and the freedoms of global commerce.
Some protestors have raised the flag of Britain as a statement that life was better under that regime. Others have asked that arch racist Trump help liberate the City. This is no way forward for the movement as it allows the Chinese government the upper hand in smearing Hong Kong’s popular protests and enabling the building of hostility between mainland Chinese and Hong Kong citizens.
The history of the rule of Britain in Hong Kong was one of a dictatorship that spanned some 150 years, its rule over the territory coming out of imperialist wars over wealth and power. Britain appointed the Governor, the protest was barred and most citizens lived in poverty.
Appeals and reliance on the US or the EU coming to the assistance of the protestors are no way forward. “Western imperialist powers will be quite willing to use the “anti-extradition” movement as a pawn in superpower politics. The movement may ultimately be sacrificed for under-the-table deals between superpowers”.
For the movement to continue along the path of success, it will need to build bridges across to the mainland Chines working class. The Chinese government maintains strict control over the internet to ensure people do not get exposed to the protest movements occurring around the world against a dictatorial or corrupt government.
Internet users in mainland China have turned to encrypted chats to bypass censorship. They express sympathy with the Hong Kong protestors and are critical of President Xi Jinping and the strict social controls that they experience.
The movement in Hong Kong will need to reach out also to the international working class and social movements across the globe.
Their struggle shows that the only protection that people have is to come out in mass support of each other. For the moment the Chinese government has focussed on undermining the movement by adverse propaganda, the building of divisions and giving confidence to the harsh actions of police against the movement.
We all need to have our eyes on supporting the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong. We should all be mindful of the past history of the Chinese government in dealing with protest. At Tiananmen Square in 1989, they halted the democratic movement in China by massacring hundreds if not some thousands of protestors.