Let's Talk About Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a city on the Chinese southeastern border with a complicated and contested identity. It is currently late September 2019, and people in Hong Kong have officially been protesting their government for 100 days. According to BBC, within 14 days of the commencement of direct action, Chinese police began using rubber bullets to attack protesters, later firing the first actual bullet in late August. On day 24, two million protesters marched. It was the largest protest in Hong Kong’s history. 

There is plenty of reasoning behind the magnitude of Hong Kong’s civil unrest.  In 1977, Great Britain handed Hong Kong back to China after 150 years of occupation. The relationship between Hong Kong, Great Britain, and China is complicated. The British forcibly established authority in Hong Kong in 1841 during the First Opium War. To sedate post-war tensions, China gave the city to Great Britain in the Treaty of Nanjing. However, the control would not last forever. In the 1898 Convention for the Extension of Hong Kong Territory, it was established that Great Britain would hold Hong Kong for another 99 years. As China became a global superpower in the 20th Century, 1997 loomed for the temporarily-British Hong Kong. 

A decade after the handover in 1977, it was agreed that Hong Kong would remain independent from China in a lightly common law system for 50 years. This system of common law would be separate from Chinese communism, and it was set to end in 2047 upon absolving back into China. 

With 30 years left of semi-autonomy, Hong Kong is already losing civil sovereignty. As pro-democracy legislators are disqualified in legal rulings for little to no reason, there is fear that Beijing has more influence in Hong Kong’s “one country, two systems” than they say.   Furthermore, “most seats not directly elected are occupied by pro-Beijing lawmakers.” The leadership of an “autonomous” Hong Kong has been anything but that. 

The people are responding- they want their city autonomous.  

The responses made by Hong Kong activists have taken direct action into the 21st Century. The movement was forced to remain largely anonymous due to the ever present technological presence of Beijing intelligence through facial recognition cameras. With these towers and the rise of Chinese police brutality, citizens participating in direct action are in massive amounts of danger. From ingeniously shining lasers into the lenses of the facial recognition camera towers to ripping them down with saws, Hong Kong advocates have restructured action and demanded for their right to protest.

China is using Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube to promote false information about the protests. These messaging campaigns were started not only to disenfranchise Hong Kongians but to sway mainland Chinese citizens from protesting. The social media monoliths themselves responded by banning and deleting propaganda, including over 200 existing channels and 3.6 million posts on Twitter. 

Fang Kecheng of the Chinese University of Hong Kong told NPR "Sadly, it seems that only patriotic content is now allowed."

So, what do we do about direct action happening across the globe? 

This isn’t about some far-off place dealing with its own problems, the Hong Kong/Chinese conflict is a manifestation of centuries of suppression. It’s about young people being vocal to a global audience. It’s about listening to citizens living within governments, and supporting those around us in their efforts to be governed as they choose. 

Contextually, this is about the young people in one of the most influential cities in the world demanding justice.