Hong Kong Protests Rage On
Even if you haven’t been watching the news recently, you have most likely heard about the protests in the city of Hong Kong. For the past few months, the region has been filled with protests from an incredibly large amount of the population. But why has this region of China suddenly exploded into what some would call revolution, and what does the future hold?
In 1842, following the conclusion of the 1st Opium War, the Qing Dynasty was forced to cede Hong Kong Island to the British Empire. This territory was extended to the Kowloon Peninsula in 1860 after the 2nd Opium War. 38 years later, however, Imperial China was forced to lease even more territory to the British for 99 years, which would be up in1997. During World War II, the Japanese were quick to conquer the territory from Britain, which led to hundreds of thousands of people fleeing the city.
“Food shortages impel many residents to flee to mainland China. The population drops from 1.6m in 1941 to 650,000 by the end of the Second World War.”
Once the war ended, most of the refugees returned to Hong Kong, later followed by many Chinese citizens who sought to escape the civil war between the Nationalists and Communists. As the years went by, Hong Kong enjoyed great economic prosperity from its textile industry, which led to it becoming one of the Asian Tigers (Asian nations with powerful economies) along with Japan, Singapore, and Taiwan. However, labor conflicts arose in the 60s, as the poorly-paid workers increased in numbers, which were resolved over time. In 1982, Britain and China began to discuss the future of the city, which led to the creation of the “One Country, Two Systems” idea, in which Hong Kong would technically become part of China, but would retain its capitalist system as a semi-autonomous territory for approximately 50 years. Throwing a wrench into this pla, the Tiananmen Square Massacre of ‘89 led to Hong Kong citizens demanding democracy, in recognition of the protests in mainland China. This ultimately resulted in Chris Patten, Hong Kong’s last British governor, attempting to pass democratic reforms of the territory’s voting system. Unfortunately, the Communist government did not take this well, to put things lightly.
“China is outraged that it has not been consulted and threatens to tear up business contracts and overturn the reforms after it has taken control.”
In the end, Hong Kong’s legislature passed an incredibly stripped-down version of Patten’s reforms. 3 years later, the city was returned to China. But as the years went on, the people began to fear that the Communist Party of China was interfering in the legislative elections. In fact, 20 years after Tiananmen Square, the people held a protest in remembrance, something that no other Chinese citizens dared to do. Eventually in 2019, the Hong Kong Legislature -- which still feared the influence of mainland China -- successfully defeated a bill that would force Hong Kong citizens to be put on trial in mainland China, rather than the city itself. This moment would be the harbinger of today’s protests.
The people of Hong Kong have resorted to a wide range of methods in order to achieve their goal of independence. Originally, the protests were known for being simple and peaceful, including marches and public chants. Unfortunately, the protests have recently become more violent and chaotic. This is partly in response to mainland China using their own violent methods, such as tear gas, rubber bullets, and even Molotov cocktails.
“This violence is now a normalised part of the life of the city and the threshold for the use of such force has become ever lower.”
“Hong Kong's university campuses have become virtual warzones.”
Furthermore, the protests in Hong Kong have become known for a lack of organization. It has been described as a mostly leaderless movement, and that the people are simply united by their goal of independence. Despite the chaotic tone of the protests, there are still many factors that are keeping things relatively together. A more peaceful methods is singing in large buildings, such as stores, malls, and stadiums. One of the more popular songs among the protestors is “Glory to Hong Kong,” which many people now view as the city’s unofficial anthem.
At the end of the day however, where is Hong Kong most likely going? Currently, it is hard to tell. While some people believe that this will simply be a repeat of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, others think that the Chinese government would never go that far, since Hong Kong is still a vital economic source for the nation. Also, if China were to resort to drastic measures, then the government might be condemned on a global scale. However, if China were to lose the city, then their economy would be negatively affected.
But what will be the fate of the citizens of Hong Kong? If China were to send in more military forces, then the city might be fully annexed into the People’s Republic. However, if Hong Kong were to succeed in its goal of independence, they will achieve their greatest dreams. Not only would the nations of the world still want to continue economic relations with the city, but they might be supported greatly by other democratic nations. And since the U.S. Legislative Branch is currently working on sending aid to the protestors, it is safe to say that they are receiving help from the outside world.