This post will be a little unusual compared to my usual content, but I felt that since the matter was so close to my heart, it wouldn’t be right to not put a little more thought into what is happening around me.
I was born in a beautiful, bustling city where the streets are always crowded with people moving along at a busy pace, putting out their best efforts in earning their living. I was born in a city that was epitome of the idiom, “time is money” where everyone seems to be needed somewhere urgently. I was born in a city with advertisements on every corner and with streets designed perfectly for balanced market competition – there are streets solely for the purpose of selling and purchasing technology, for cell phones, for shoes, for stationary, and for everything else you could possibly need. I was born in a city that never sleeps for at night, the markets only get livelier and the streets are lit up from end to end. I was born in a city where sun almost always shines and where people are happy with just little things.
But most importantly, I was born in a city that was free.
Yes, I was born in Hong Kong. And yes, I believe in this ever growing “umbrella revolution”.
If you haven’t heard about the recent chain of protests, then I suggest you get yourself educated. I will leave links at the bottom of the post for convenience.
What provoked me into writing this was the amount of criticism I’ve been seeing around on the internet – particularly on Youtube and social media. There are three main points of criticism that I believe are completely invalid and so removed from the core issues that Hong Kongers are fighting for. I am flabbergasted that Western countries are not giving full support and are sometimes even downplaying the situation.
The first point they make is that democracy isn’t as great of a system as commonly believed and therefore Hong Kongers are foolish to fight for something that isn’t even worthwhile. These critics throw America in as an example. Yes, I agree, the USA is in debt and has a multitude of problems that must be resolved, but at least those of us, in democracies, now what’s happening. At least we have a say in who gets power. At least we have the freedom to express how we feel. The core issue Hong Kongers are fighting for is autonomy, not democracy. They want a choice in who has power, they want the freedom to vote for who they want and they don’t, for many reasons, want that power to be in the hands of a pro-Beijing official. Hong Kongers do not want to have their rights taken away from Chinese socialism. If you don’t believe that the Chinese government is restrictive, then I want you to take a look at their censorship policies. People are harshly punished for any kind of criticism against the government and they’re not allowed access to a multitude of information (banned by the same government). Understand that in Hong Kong, there are no such restrictions. And that Hong Kongers are simply fighting to maintain the freedom that we take for granted in democracy.
The second point people often make is that protesting is a useless method of provoking change and that it will simply escalate the situation rather than make it better. The fact that you’re making this comment already makes that invalid. It’s not useless. It’s raising awareness, it’s building public support (the crowds get bigger and bigger with each day), and it’s putting Beijing and the Chinese government in a tight situation. How can you restrict and suppress the rights of Hong Kongers, how can you break a (nearly) twenty year old promise when the whole world is watching?
Lastly, there are those that believe that this isn’t big enough of an issue to be protesting for – that this isn’t important. It is the most important thing to have occurred in Hong Kong in the past two decades. Beijing’s announcement that they would screen candidate members for the 2017 election is a betrayal of the promise made in 1997 when Britain handed over Hong Kong to the Republic of China. They promised “one country, two systems”, they promised the retention of freedom and autonomy in Hong Kong. When you break a promise that affects over eight million people, not only is it important, it is wrong. If we let them get away with seemingly minor settlement, then who’s to stop them in the future? When there are only pro-Beijing representatives in power? Who’s to stop them from assimilating Hong Kong into China? It is better we act now rather than later.
It is better we make our voices heard now. Let us make Hong Kong the center of attention in South East Asia. Let us raise awareness of this broken promise and let the whole world be a voice of justice. Let us be the voice of reason that pushes Beijing to listen to the citizens of Hong Kong. Let us support the youth that have been peacefully protesting in the streets of business districts – let them know they’re not alone.
You don’t have to care, you don’t have to support them. But please, don’t judge, don’t downplay their efforts just because they’re fighting an issue you don’t understand. We are too often too quick in throwing out judgement and that, more than anything, needs to change.
Protesters in Hong Kong begin to carry umbrellas to protect against rain, sun and tear gas. (Image from Associated Press/ABC News).
Read more about the “umbrella revolution”:
Hong Kong People! (nytimes)
5 things to know about the ‘umbrella revolution’ (CBC)
Global Support Pours In for Hong Kong Protests (Time magazine)
Hong Kong’s 1997 Handover (Britannica)
Wikipedia – Transfer of Sovereignty
Hong Kong protests stand ground ahead of Chinese national day (Guardian)
Protesters stay out on Hong Kong streets, defying Beijing (Reuters)
What’s at stake for Hong Kong? (npr)