Hong Kong Protests

Hong Kong Protests

As of Tuesday June 30, 2020, there is a new law in Hong Kong. The law was made in Beijing and is imposed on the people of Hong Kong. The law was made to crush the protest movement for freedom. Some of the fine points of the law are as follows:

  • Offences of subversion, secession and collusion with foreign entities are punishable by a minimum of three years, and a maximum of life.
  • Propagating hatred of China Communist Party and Hong Kong's regional government is not allowed.
  • Those found guilty will not be permitted to serve in public office.
  • Beijing will have a new policing force in Hong Kong, that is not subject to the regional government of Hong Kong.
  • Rulings of the national security commission, cannot be appealed.
  • Foreign news agencies will not work autonomously.

The Chinese government now can officially arrest protesters and, in the worst case scenario, jail them for life. Citizens who feel violated by this law dare not continue protesting or to speak against the Communist Party unless they are prepared to pay a terrible price. The Communist Party of China hopes that these measures will sufficiently intimidate and coerce the people into submission and passivity.
What is the relationship between China and Hong Kong? Hong Kong benefited under stable British governance for over 100 years. However, when Britain’s most recent 99 year lease of Hong Kong expired in 1997, Hong Kong was given over to China. The changeover was not without agreed upon stipulations. It was agreed that Hong Kong would continue to have freedoms such as freedom of speech and a separate judicial system than that of communist China for at least 50 years. Hong Kong was to be semi-autonomous under a “one country, two system” policy. The Sino-British declaration was an official agreement that Hong Kong would enjoy “a high degree of autonomy.”

Protests broke out in 2019 over an extradition bill put forward by the Hong Kong government that would have allowed for certain wanted individuals to be extradited to elsewhere in China to be judged by the Chinese communist system. This was a clear violation of the semi-autonomous conditions and Hong Kong residents began protesting.

The protests begun in 2019 have continued into 2020. These protests have grown to unprecedented levels in Hong Kong and have been reported on throughout the world. How many Hong Kong citizens have participated and shown their support of the protests? There is a great difference in the numbers reported by the protest organizers and the Chinese Communist government. One protest drew a crowd of 800,000, according to protest organizers. According to the police this number was 183,000. It has been estimated that in just one protest, 25% of Hong Kong's population participated.
However high the number of participants, the protests have made quite a statement. They serve as an expression of the people's will. Unfortunately a new law designed to crush the will of the people has come about.

What was the response of the Communist Party initially and during the many days of the protests? Despite a demonstration of hundreds of thousands on June 9, 2019, the government pressed ahead with a second reading of the bill. There was a massive standoff between police and protesters and the government decided to suspend the bill on June 15, and eventually, months later, retracted it on Oct 23.

What happened in the time leading up to the bill's withdrawal and the time afterwards? There were demonstrations, protests and tremendous standoffs between protesters and police. There are many accusations of the police of using excessive force.A law was brought in banning protesters from wearing masks. The masks concealed the identity of protesters from facial recognition technology and it protected them to some degree from the effects of tear gas. The masks were banned but many protesters continued to wear them. In all of the clashes there were a reported 2,600 injuries, 2 deaths, 9000 arrests and 1,200 charges made against protesters.

One particularly violent episode in this conflict occurred on October 1, 2019 which happened to be the 70th anniversary of communist rule over China. Authorities were determined that the Communist Government would be honoured and not dishonoured on that day. They exerted great effort to oppose the protest. Police fired live rounds into the crowd and one 18 year old protester was killed. In all they fired 1,400 tear gas canisters into the crowds and made 269 arrests that day.

One particularly grievous death in the time of this conflict is the death of Chan Yin-lam. This 15 year old girl had become involved in the protests. Her naked corpse was found floating in the sea near Yau Tong on September 22, 2019. It is unclear if she was murdered or if she committed suicide out of grief.
Throughout this conflict protesters showed great courage and expanded their demands to more than just the repeal of the bill. They also demanded that the arrested protesters be released and for the setup of an independent commission to evaluate the level of use of force that was used by the police. They also called for the resignation of Carrie Lam, the chief executive who had supported the bill.
What is China's response? Ultimately it is the response of the June 30, 2020 law. Protesters now face the threat of life imprisonment and are not allowed to speak against the Communist Party government. There will be Chinese police in Hong Kong, there will be prosecutions, rulings cannot be appealed and foreign media will be restricted.

It is time for Canada to respond with serious opposition towards a Chinese Communist Party that does not reflect our values. What will our leaders do? Will they look the other way or has this finally gone too far?

Shawn Stevens