Hong Kong Protests
image via flickr

Hong Kong protests, already in 9th week, have seen the territory and its patron, China, in a stalemate with the pro-democracy demonstrators. What began as public disapproval of a proposed extradition bill that would allow suspected individuals to be sent to mainland China to face trial, has outgrown into a mass movement for greater democracy and investigation into police violence towards them.

“Sooner or later, the authoritarian regimes have to bear the brunt of the stifling environment they create around the land they occupy. The subsequent outburst of people, following seething effects of tyranny and the absence of democratic freedom, paves the atmosphere conducive for public rage, protests, violence and for ultimate revolutions. The Hong Kong situation is not dissimilar to that conducive environment.”

China accuses western forces of meddling in the region, and provoking Hong Kong protests. However, where there is smoke there is fire: sooner or later, the authoritarian regimes have to bear the brunt of the stifling environment they create around the land they occupy. The subsequent outburst of people, following seething effects of tyranny and the absence of democratic freedom, paves the atmosphere conducive for public rage, protests, violence and for ultimate revolutions. The Hong Kong situation is not dissimilar to that conducive environment.

The 2019 Hong Kong extradition bill only served as a pretext to show public anger against the government of Hong Kong which is under the chief executive, Carrie Lam, who is backed by Beijing. Despite the fact that the Hong Kong authorities have suspended the proposed extradition law, the protests have not abated. Rather, the intensity of the protest is increasing by each passing week.

For many demonstrators, the main culprit is China, which regained Hong Kong in 1997 from Britain and promised the territory a high degree of autonomy. Hong Kong protests, or movement, depending upon from which perspective one observes this phenomenon, is lingering on undiminished and untiringly, with no peaceful end in sight.

Over the past weeks, the demonstrators have taken to spray-painting walls, bridges, police stations and more with the words: “if we burn, you burn with us.”

The chief executive Carrie Lam has since taken strict measures to tackle the “rioters” by deploying police force in the city. The extravagant use of teargas by police in 13 of Hong Kong’s 18 districts has only served to inflame the public anger. More than 500 arrests have been made so far.

The Beijing intervention is always a last resort option, but for now, seems unlikely. Both Chinese and Hong Kong authorities have denied the possibility of deploying the People Liberation Army, which has a garrison in the territory. Despite denying, China has released a few promotional videos depicting Chinese military and police battling the residents in black, an outright allusion to the protesters.

However, experts believe that any such deployment of PLA would be counter-productive, with far-reaching consequences for both governments. At least for now, it is not the best option for the Chinese President Xi Jinping to choose. As he is caught in a dilemma where he cannot use force. For if he does so, it could come at the cost of Taiwan, with which Xi has wooed to give greater autonomy if it embraces China.

For domestic observers the situation is as complex as it is uncertain, as one demonstrator, Jason Keung, concludes the entire situation in not-so-optimistic words:

“I don’t think about the future because I just want to live in now. Hong Kong is controlled by China, yes. I don’t think we can fight them but we have to try. We don’t have any choice but to fight.”

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