Hong Kong: The fight for democracy

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Hong Kong: The fight for democracy

Anthony Russo | The New York Times

Anthony Russo | The New York Times

Anthony Russo | The New York Times

Caitlynn Cook, Copy Editor

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Democracy — a word that traces back to the Greek words “demos,” meaning “people,” and “kratia,” meaning “power.” Simply enough, it means giving people the power, as Merriam-Webster defines democracy as “government by the people.” The United States is not a direct democracy, but a republic and a representative democracy. Democracy in the U.S. protects the rights of citizens, maintains order and limits the power of government.

In the U.S., democracy means that all citizens are equal. So what does democracy mean to the rest of the world, and specifically, what does it mean to people of Hong Kong?

What began as a targeted protest against a controversial extradition bill on June 9, 2019, has turned into a battle for the future of Hong Kong. In February 2019, Hong Kong’s government, with the support of Beijing, proposed an extradition bill titled, “Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation,” that would have permitted the deportation of people from Hong Kong — both residents and foreigners — to authorities around the world that the territory has no formal agreements with — including China.

This bill proposal sparked a string of pro-democracy protests. After suspending the bill in June, amid immense pressure, Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, announced the bill’s withdrawal, meeting one of the protesters’ five demands. The other four demands include: for the protests not to be characterized as a “riot,” amnesty for arrested protesters, an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality and implementation of complete universal suffrage. According to BBC, some protesters have adopted the motto, “Five demands, not one less!”

“The government will formally withdraw the bill in order to fully allay public concerns,” Lam said in an announcement, via a translation. “Our foremost priority now is to end violence, to safeguard the rule of law and to restore order and safety in society. As such, the government has to strictly enforce the law against all violent and illegal acts.”

Carl Court | Getty Images

Throughout all the Hong Kong protests this year, the protesters have worn black, which is the unofficial uniform of their demonstrations, while wearing masks over their face (despite a fask-mask ban), to hide their identities. They have also made it well-known as to why they’re fighting for democracy, as they have carried signs and decorated walls and floors with messages. According to The Guardian, many protesters recently swarmed Hong Kong’s international airport chanting, “An eye for an eye!” Several of those protesters wore bandages over their eyes, dripping with red ink, representing the injury to a female volunteer medic after police allegedly shot her with a beanbag round during a protest in August.

 

The Hong Kong protesters, in order to protect themselves from live rounds of rubber bullets being shot by police, have turned to umbrellas, using them as protective and privacy shields.

“I don’t understand why, but always, those [rubber] bullets, they slip off along the umbrella edge. So they just — they don’t get through the umbrella,” Katherine, a Hong Kong pro-democracy protester said to Ira Glass, host of This American Life podcast, in episode 686, titled, “Umbrellas Up.”

With the amount of violence surrounding the clashing of protesters and police, a popular question has risen. Will these pro-democracy protests be successful?

According to The Guardian in an article titled, “A battle for the soul of the city: why violence has spiralled in the Hong Kong protests,” police brutality against protesters in Hong Kong has become very violent since the beginning of the protests this year. There have been many serious casualties, as more than 1,100 people have been treated for injuries from the protests. At the start of the protests in June, police unleashed 150 canisters of tear gas on protesters. However, on Oct. 1, 2019, as China celebrated 70 years of communist rule, police unleashed 10 times that original amount of canisters. On top of police clashing with protesters, triad gangs of Hong Kong have also been attacking and clashing with protesters.

While the Hong Kong protests have become violent, the pro-democracy protesters will keep marching on until their fight is won. Will the protests be successful? That is the ultimate question, here. Only time will tell. It’s time to play the waiting game.