In case you’re not aware, Hong Kong is going through a rough time right now as protesters are taking to the streets to oppose the proposed Extradition Bill. Although the government has postponed the bill temporarily, people are still demanding that it be permanently suspended and that Chief Executive Carrie Lam resign.
People of Hong Kong are unhappy with the Hong Kong Legislative Council as it’s adamant to pass a new law that would allow residents to be extradited to mainland China.
Their biggest issue with the proposed law is that it is seen as a real threat to the city’s judicial and legal independence from China which is enshrined in the “One Country, Two Systems” model put in place when the British relinquished control of Hong Kong to the Chinese government.
In order to show their disapproval of the new law, Hong Kongers have been participating in numerous protests which started about a month ago on 9 June.
The most recent one took place one 1 July (Monday), the anniversary of the British handover of Hong Kong to China. During this protest, a group of demonstrators walked into the parliament building and defaced the Hong Kong emblem, ruined portraits of political leaders and destroyed furniture. However, there were other groups of protesters that remained peaceful.
In an attempt to provide an insight of the entire event, especially the one that happened on Monday, activist Joshua Wong took to his Twitter on 2 July (Tuesday) to explain it, as well as share his thoughts of the protest.
The beginning of it all
In a series of tweets, Wong started off by saying that around 550,000 Hong Kongers took part in 1 July protest, making it the highest ever in turnout. He also noted that 1 July marked the 22nd anniversary of the 1997 Hong Kong handover to China, which is only “28 years before ‘One Country, Two Systems’ is set to expire due to the ’50-year no change’ policy”.
As the peaceful demonstrations were taking place in the country on Monday, other young protesters decided to enter the Legislative Council complex. In order to understand why they took this decision, Wong said that one needs to first know what happened over the past month.
He said that Hong Kongers’ strong opposition towards the proposed extradition arrangements with China was heard loud and clear around the world. In fact, he explained that solidarity rallies took place in over 30 cities, and the international community spoke up.
“We tried EVERYTHING available to us. On June 9, one million Hong Kongers took to the streets peacefully. But before the night had ended, Chief Executive Carrie Lam released a statement saying she would press ahead with the bill in three days,” said Wong who was recently released from prison after completing a three month sentence for his role in the 2014 democracy protests known as the Umbrella Revolution.
Wong added, “That’s why, in the morning of June 12, when the Legislative Council debate was set to take place, Hong Kongers were bracing for our last fight. We knew there would be no turning back. Beijing had enough votes because only 40 out of 70 seats are directly elected by the people.”
Carrie Lam apologised and paused the reading of the bill
During the 12 June protest, demonstrators managed to blockade the complex completely. This is when Wong said he saw a miracle. He stated that well-documented evidence of police using excessive force on the protesters were published by the international media. Many were injured. In any case, lawmakers could not convene to debate the proposed bill as a result of the protests, said the activist.
He also pointed out that it was only after this escalation that Ms Lam decide to compromise slightly by pausing the reading of the bill.
“Even she acknowledged events on June 12, NOT June 9, that changed her mind. Months of Hong Kongers and the world expressing concern did not matter to her at all until she saw blood. But Lam called protesters ‘rioters’. She would not agree to an independent investigation on police brutality. She stopped short of withdrawing the bill, let alone stepping down. Combined with the first death of a protester, TWO MILLION people marked on June 16,” he wrote.
Wong said that with two million attendees, this means that at least one in four of the entire 7.5 million population protested in a single occasion, adding that he is unaware of “anything comparable to this level of discontent against a government in modern history”.
After reaching to this extent, Wong said that Lam finally apologised two days later, but only for failing to “properly communicate” the content of the bill to the people. He added that she still thinks she is right and the citizens were “too stupid”.
The fight was not over
While people around the world thought the movement was over as Lam apologised and the bill had been supposedly ‘suspended’, Wong said that was far from the truth as none of their demands were met and “Lam refused dialogue with opposition lawmakers and continued to praise the police”.
He also said that as the G-20 summit in Osaka was nearing, they wanted the world to know that the fight was far from over, and this can be seen clearly as they crowdfunded over HK$6.7 million for newspaper ads within 11 hours.
Despite all the attempts, their demands were still ignored as of 29 June and Wong felt like they were “really losing”. To make things worse, two protesters jumped to their deaths as the government was pushing them “to the point of despair and desperation”, Wong expressed.
“In a democracy, this extradition bill would long ago have been terminated. Polls consistently show some 70% Hong Kongers in favour of a full withdrawal. The political career of any other leader would also have been over with this level of resistance over such a long period. Alas, Hong Kong is not a democracy. Lam, a puppet of Beijing is also unlike any leader. The source of her power comes not from Hong Kongers but from the Chinese Communist Party. This brings me back to events yesterday,” he stressed.
July 1 Protest
Explaining the Monday protest, Wong said that they were “NOT rioters”, “NOT violent” and their objective was to never “harm any individuals”.
“Perhaps not all of you will agree with every single action they took yesterday. But what are a few pieces of glass worth in comparison to the deaths of three young men and women? What are a few portraits worth in compassion to the very survival of Hong Kong as a place?” the activist asked.
He also vouched that even after the break-in, the protesters behaved extremely well. They even left cash at the counter before taking drinks from the cafeteria and “sealed the library off to preserve historical documents stored inside”.
However, as someone who has been jailed three times, Wong knows what now lies in front of them. In fact, even they knew the second they stepped into the building, he said. They would most certainly face “prosecution and probably imprisonment over rioting charges, which carry a maximum sentence of 10 years”.
“Some well-intentioned opposition lawmakers tried to persuade protesters out of it. But they replied that since others had already perished, whatever physical and legal consequences they would face immediately paled in comparison. Watching this exchange put tears in my eyes,” penned Wong.
Looking at this, the young activist said that Hong Kong produced “smart, efficient and freedom-loving” individuals and he’s “proud of them”, despite admitting not having the courage to do what they did.
“Sometimes in life we are forced to make split-second decisions that will forever alter us as individuals, and perhaps even alter the course of history. It is of course too soon to tell, but I can only hope that years later when we look back to 2019, we will have no regrets,” he said.
He added, “If there is just one takeaway for the world: Events in Hong Kong are about so much more than the bill, more than Lam, more even than democracy. They all matter of course. But in the end it is the future of Hong Kong beyond 2047, a future that belongs to our generation.”
1. THREAD: Dear world, I want to say a few words about what happened in #HongKong yesterday.
— Joshua Wong 黃之鋒 ? (@joshuawongcf) July 2, 2019