By Kevin Chiu
On September 26th, 2014, thousands of Hong Kong citizens united to boycott China’s decision to disallow open nominations for the 2017 Chief Executive election. They rallied for freedom, declaring themselves independent of China, as the ‘Hong Kongese’. Chinese police reacted with hostility, using pepper spray and excessive force against the protesters. Because both sides are unwilling to reach a compromise, a “new era of civil disobedience” is emerging, gaining both domestic and foreign supporters.
“There is no doubt that strong and influential supporters will aid the Hong Kong protesters overseas because of the power of media, however Chinese suppression will ultimately prevent any domestic alliances,” states Elizabeth Johnson, an American History teacher.
Hong Kong was acquired by the British through the Opium Wars, but returned to China in 1997. A two-system rule was developed, where the city of Hong Kong could keep its Western style of government without Chinese interference so as long as it declared itself a part of China. The Hong Kong people felt the system was abridged when the unanimous vote by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress forced the contenders for the Hong Kong 2017 elections to be solely nominated by the Chinese who favored pro-Beijing loyalists. In light of the decision, activist groups Occupy Central with Love and Peace, Hong Kong Federation of Students, and Pan-democracy camp declared continuous protests until full democracy was restored.
“I was born in Hong Kong, when it was under British rule. I have followed this
movement closely because it was my home at one time,” says Kai Chan, a Digital System Design teacher. “I believe if this protest doesn’t gain momentum soon, China may enforce a one country, one policy rule, meaning China may take back total control of Hong Kong. No special privileges for HK citizens.”
In agreement with Mr. Chan, Wilson Liu’16 claims that if the protests fail, Hong Kong residents can lose all of their rights.
According to Forbes, the protests have cost the city of Hong Kong $40 million in damages and economic shutdown. Having set up camps over central areas of Hong Kong, peaceful protesters engaged in an “Umbrella Revolution”. Schools were suspended, shops and banks were closed, taxi service was stopped. While headlines in newspapers, magazines, and news broadcasts overwhelmed the world with ongoing updates of the situation, China took heavy action by censoring the internet and restricting the use of Instagram, a popular photo-sharing platform.
“I think it is important for people to have a say in the course of [their] nation.” comments Adham Abdelhameed ’15. “Fighting for democracy brings people together and promotes greater unity.”
“People don’t appreciate the value of freed
om, until it’s gone,” adds Mr. Chan.“I never forgot an incident that happened when I visited China in the 60’s. I saw a man bounded by his hands and feet, wearing a red card-board sign around his neck, being paraded around the streets because this man was found guilty of anti-government.”
In a recent update by The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), three men were arrested in Mong Kok on November 5th, 2014 for “criminal damage” and “obstructing police officers executing their duty.” The WSJ also reported that a two-day leaders’ summit held by Chinese President Xi Jinping will begin on Monday, November 10th, where President Obama is expected to attend.