Over the past couple of months, Hong Kong has been entrenched in ongoing political protests surrounding democracy. The British colony was returned to China in 1984 with the ideology of ‘one country two systems’. This meant that Hong Kong would operate under a Common Law system but with limited power in foreign relations and military defence. It is important to note that freedom of speech and assembly has long been guaranteed in Hong Kong.
In 2007 universal suffrage was promised, however in August of this year China contradicted this statement by announcing that any candidates for Chief Executive would need to first be approved by a selection committee before going to the public vote.
Following the announcement protesters flocked to the streets of Hong Kong. One group, working under the title of the ‘Umbrella Revolution’ declared they would be operating under a system of non-violent civil disobedience whilst remaining polite and tidy. Students boycotted classes and demonstrators set up tents along the street. Despite this they were met with tear gas, batons, water cannons and a number of arrests. The umbrella symbol comes from the demonstrator’s use of their umbrellas to protect themselves against the harmful gas.
The student protesters of this movement represent the future leaders of this country. They have valid opinions and thoughts and deserve to be heard by their own nation as well as the international community. Founder of student activist group Scholarism, 18-year- old Joshua Wong wrote in The New York Times, “I would like to remind every member of the ruling class in Hong Kong: Today you are depriving us of our future, but the day will come when we decide your future”.
This shows an intelligent and motivated generation of Hong Kong students that are eager for change in a long stagnant political system. They are aware of their position in terms of their relationship with China and the rest of the world and are ready to fight for their rights.
Across the border in China, reactions to the protests were mixed. Chinese people found supporting the demonstrations were quickly silenced or arrested. The People’s Daily, a Communist Party newspaper published that “any person who cares about Hong Kong and the people of Hong Kong should say NO to this hijacking of the general public will for personal objectives”.
As well as the biased view of the protests China has been feeding to its citizens, they have also managed to block a number of social media sites to prevent the spread of this cause. Instagram and a site similar to Twitter have been blocked in mainland China so protestors have had to turn to other means of communication to spread the word.
Despite the well founded complaints of the protesters in Hong Kong, demonstrations were cleared last weekend, signalling a win for Beijing. The Chinese government have made it very clear that they are unwilling to back down, despite international calls for universal suffrage for Hong Kong. The streets of Hong Kong now show little sign of the political battle that has occurred over the last months. However, I speculate this campaign is far from over.