Tensions between Hong Kong and China have always existed, but with a new policy that would allow criminals to be extradited to Taiwan and China from Hong Kong, the city’s citizens have begun major protests against the proposed law.
While the law was the main instigator of the protests, it is not the only thing that is motivating citizens to get out into the streets. Slowly, mainland China is trying to influence the decisions of Hong Kong and to make it more like China. With protesters fighting against a foreign system of government, it has led to passionate and violent conflicts that have continued to escalate for several months.
Once a part of Britain, Hong Kong was given back to China in 1997, but a treaty was signed that would allow the city to keep its system of government, which was drastically different from the government of the rest of China. This allowed Hong Kong to stand out by having a democracy similar to Britain and even the United States: The city allows free speech, freedom of the press and voting for politicians, which separates it from how the government of mainland China is implemented.
Because of these two different systems in the same country, Hong Kong and China have a tense relationship with one another and is the main driving point for the recent protests. The new bill being proposed got people into the streets, but they are also fighting the complete take over of the city by China. The most compelling aspect of this whole issue is how young people, who have grown up with democracy, will have to see that replaced with an oppressive system. They will be the people in power in 2047, when the treaty expires and the city becomes another area of complete Chinese rule.
These protests are demonstrations of the future of Hong Kong and the freedoms that the citizens enjoy. Young people in Hong Kong feel that their way of life is being changed and that what they enjoy now will be wiped away. That is why the protests have become violent. The people want to preserve what they feel is right by publicly demonstrating their passions for the city of Hong Kong. Using what is allowed to them by democracy, they have used their freedom of speech to assemble and send a message about how they do not want China to gain complete control over Hong Kong.
“The kinds of protests that we’re seeing are a necessary form of speech and a necessary way for people to advocate for themselves,” said James Walters, an associate professor of religion at Rochester University. Their freedoms that they now enjoy may change and the city of Hong Kong may become enveloped in the cold grasp of authoritarianism.
As the protests rage on, it is important to understand their intentions and what freedom means to the citizens. Hong Kong stands as its own individual city that, while still having some influence from China, uses a separate system of government to conduct its citizens. The fight for preservation is something that even the whole world can relate to. The cause of protest is very real and personal to the citizens of Hong Kong.
“Not everything is black and white,” said Adina VanLoo, a fifth year theatre major at RU, about the protests. As the protests continue to escalate, only time will tell how ultimately successful they will be. History will definitely remember passions of the protesters as they try to preserve what is right.