Hong Kong Fights Authoritarianism Alone

Published June 3rd, 2020 - 08:57 GMT
Students stage an airport sit-in, before new restrictions in Hong Kong /AFP
Students stage an airport sit-in, before new restrictions in Hong Kong /AFP

The defining image of the year could people walking around stores and transport hubs in masks in the hope of protecting themselves from the coronavirus. But it could also be the image of a face standing against the masked face of the state-authorities.

Particularly the police. Sustained protests have now been created in the world’s two largest economies. In Hong Kong protests have re-emerged against the Chinese government which has sought to further dominate the semi-autonomous region. 

 

In Hong Kong, protests were reignited after the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) acted to ban "secession, subversion, foreign interference and terrorism" within Hong Kong, laws which could potentially bypass the authority of Hong Kong’s lawmakers. 

In May it emerged that an internal report warned the CCP that China could face a Tiananmen-scale backlash over Covid-19 which could, potentially, lead to a confrontation with the US. The US president Donald Trump has led the charge against China, blaming them for the spread of the virus and dubbing it “the Chinese virus” in many speeches and social media posts.

However, Professor Steve Tsang from SOAS, University of London, says that there is little reason to believe the report is from a reliable source. “I have no idea who said that and on what basis that was being said. I didn’t believe it then and I don’t believe it now. Even when Covid-19 was really bad, I did not see the risk of millions of people going on the streets to protest against the Communist Party. It was in the middle of a lockdown; how could that happen?”

Even when Covid-19 was really bad, I did not see the risk of millions of people going on the streets to protest against the Communist Party - Professor Steve Tsang, SOAS

On 1 June it was announced that Hong Kong police have formally banned the Tiananmen Square massacre commemoration event. The massacre occurred on 4 June 1989 and saw the killing of an untold number of protestors when police and military opened fire on protestors in Beijing. The commemoration last year in Hong Kong led to months of demonstrations and violent clashed with police over the planned introduction of an extradition bill.

Professor Steve says the banning of the commemoration is regrettable but not completely surpassing. “It’s clearly not about Covid-19. Hong Kong has the virus under control, and you have one of the most responsible populations in the world. If they are going to a demonstration, they will maintain social distancing so far as possible. If the authorities were willing to work with the protestors it means that it might take a little more time to move from location 1 to location 2.” 

The virus, Tsang argues, is an excuse for the banning of the protest. “The government decided to take advantage of the pandemic to stop the commemoration happening.” 

The virus, Tsang argues, is an excuse for the banning of the protest. “The government decided to take advantage of the pandemic to stop the commemoration happening.” 

Other nations have acted in support of the Hong Kong’s population in various ways. Donald Trump has announced that the US relationship with Hong Kong will be dramatically altered. “The US is supporting Hong Kong in terms of what people there want. It is acting in accord with the legal requirements on Hong Kong policy on the Human Rights Act in the US statute books. 

“It is also putting pressure on China in an election year: it is making Trump look good by taking a robust stance on China. The two are not mutually exclusive,” says Professor Tsang. In response to Trump’s 

In the UK, a country whose colonial empire once “owned” Hong Kong island, it has been suggested that 2.9m people in Hong Kong who hold British National (Overseas) passports could be given a path to citizenship if China does not suspend plans for a security law in Hong Kong. Currently, holders of British National (Overseas) passports are not eligible for residency and are considered, according to Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian, “Chinese nationals.”

Currently, holders of British National (Overseas) passports are not eligible for residency and are considered, according to Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian, “Chinese nationals.”

Less than a week ago the Great Hall of the People in Beijing thundered with applause as the National People’s Congress passed draft legislation which paved the way for anti-sedition laws to be enacted in Hong Kong, despite local legislature.

On protest forums calls were made for a “100 day war” to fight against Beijing’s tightening grip on the people of Hong Kong. Considering the banning of the Tiananmen Square commemorations this week, it is possible that forums might be the only place protests can be heard.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Al Bawaba News.


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