This is not a good weekend. I woke up this morning to discover that while I’d been sleeping, police had begun tear gassing protestors in my home town. Please read this, because it really is breaking my heart.
Quick background: Hong Kong was a British colony for 99 years, and in 1997, it reverted to Chinese sovereignty. It is now a Special Administrative Region of the PRC, with its own Basic Law that guarantees it more rights and freedoms that anywhere else in China. Almost more importantly, it is a city with its own distinctive culture and identity. According to the terms of the handover, Hong Kong was supposed to make a move to universal suffrage in time for the 2017 elections. Up until now, our Chief Executive (highest political office) has been elected by a 1200 member election committee, dominated by the business sector and heavily deferring to Beijing.
In June 2014, Beijing released a “white paper” announcing the procedure for the 2017 elections. In 2017, the general public will be able to vote… for any one of three candidates approved by Beijing. We get to vote, but in a totally meaningless way.
This has provoked a lot of backlash. On Monday, students across the city went on strike, organizing a sit in around the government buildings in protest. On Friday, they stormed Civic Square, the forecourt of government headquarters.
At the end of the week, it was announced that the Occupy Central, a protest movement that plans to shut down the city’s financial center, was starting, building off the momentum of the student protests.
Thousands of people turned out to do just that. The police presence was strong, as is to be expected with a civil disobedience movement. Protestors were pepper sprayed, and arrests began, with at least 78 people arrested over the weekend.
And on Sunday, police fired tear gas into the crowds.
Hong Kongers are angry, and we are scared. These protests are about democracy, but they’re also indicative of a more general fear for our future. Come 2047, we lose our status as an SAR and revert fully to the mainland. Already, police and the judicial systems are becoming politicized. Even the anti-corruption agency was used as a scare tactic earlier this month as they were sent after media boss Jimmy Lai Chee-Ying, a pro-dem supporter. Basic rights like the right to protest are being curbed. And on a more everyday level, Hong Kong culture is being wiped out as the government, toadying to Beijing, continually put the interests of mainland tourists above those of local people.
Hong Kong is my home, and it really is a special place, and it’s a really horrible feeling for me to be studying abroad, sitting in a different country and watching as my friends get tear gassed, as this is happening in my city.
So please, help me tell people what is going on. Wear a yellow ribbon in support of Hong Kong. Stand with us.