Hong Kong Unmasked

One of the many manifestos scrawled across Hong Kong’s concrete this weekend read, “The heavens will exterminate the C.C.P.”

While long estranged from the Chinese Community Party, tensions in Hong Kong are steadily rising as questions of the island’s autonomy remain unanswered. As the world watches, Hong Kong’s citizens are quite literally fighting in the streets, largely in the name of democracy. Is this an opportunity for super-democracies to support the protestors? Or, would international intervention be yet another example of overstepping?

Hong Kong exists in a constant state of limbo. It started in 1841 when China ceded the bustling island to the United Kingdom as a result of the First Opium War. Hong Kong carried on as an example of modern-day colonization until 1997, when it returned to Chinese jurisdiction. Since then, it struggles to balance communist pressure from Beijing and the pro-democracy sentiments from its citizens.

In April, Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s current Chief Executive, added tension by proposing an extradition bill that sparked pro-democracy protests and then promising to withdraw the same bill months later. The controversial bill would potentially expand Chinese legal control in Hong Kong by exposing criminals in Hong Kong to the Chinese system. Though the bill is no longer moving forward, protestors are no less determined to protect the civil rights and political autonomy which Beijing agreed to honor until at least 2047. The controversial extradition bill represented a potential shift towards more complete Chinese power, a possibility which Hong Kong’s citizens resent very much.

Hong Kong’s streets today are far less secure than they were when the protests began in early June of this year, as riots and protests turn stubbornly violent.  Police went as far as to shoot a teenage protester last Tuesday, and another on Friday. In addition, police have unleashed upwards of 4,500 canisters of tear gas and 1,800 rounds of rubber bullets on protesters in recent weeks. The distinction between mainland China and Hong Kong’s government is fading steadily as Hong Kong increasingly resembles a police state to mitigate political unrest. Beijing has even threatened to forcefully put an end to the protests if things continue to spiral. Mrs. Lam’s recent demand that protestors stop using facemasks (which they wear to protect themselves from tear gas and identification)  has only further infuriated participants.

As unrest sweeps Hong Kong, pro-democracy governments worldwide ought to be asking themselves what the citizens of Hong Kong deserve. Is this an opportunity for the global democratic community to win back a piece of the communist stronghold? Or would international intervention be seriously overstepping? At best, intervention would enable Hong Kong to build itself a democratic government, secure more human rights, and become an ally for fledgling Asian democracies. But, at worst, the involvement of democratic superpowers may very well trigger punishment from Beijing and spark a modern-day Cold War of sorts.

Whether foreign powers join the fray or not, Hong Kong faces several questions of great consequence. As lawmaker Dennis Kwok told reporters, “Today is a battle between totalitarianism and the rule of law. So the government can implement any law they want — is that the way it is now? Or is Hong Kong still a society under the rule of law?” 

Whether it be the work of the heavens, Beijing, or the American “Watchdog of Democracy”, Hong Kong as we know it seems to have an expiration date. The coming months will determine how the scales tip between communism and democracy in the far east.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/06/world/asia/hong-kong-protest-mask.html

[2] https://www.nationalgeographic.com/culture/topics/reference/hong-kong-history-explain-relationship-china/#close[3] https://multimedia.scmp.com/infographics/news/hong-kong/article/3032146/hong-kong-protests/index.html

[3] https://multimedia.scmp.com/infographics/news/hong-kong/article/3032146/hong-kong-protests/index.html

The following two tabs change content below.

Reagan Curtis

REAGAN CURTIS claims Austin, Texas but mainly Highland, Utah as home. As a junior majoring in Political Science and minoring in Design and International Diplomacy, she splits her time between teaching English as a Second Language, interning for the Teach for America, and writing for the BYU David M. Kennedy Center. She is a compulsive concert-goer, semi-obsessive skier, and definitely going to guilt-trip you for not voting.

Latest posts by Reagan Curtis (see all)

Reagan Curtis

REAGAN CURTIS claims Austin, Texas but mainly Highland, Utah as home. As a junior majoring in Political Science and minoring in Design and International Diplomacy, she splits her time between teaching English as a Second Language, interning for the Teach for America, and writing for the BYU David M. Kennedy Center. She is a compulsive concert-goer, semi-obsessive skier, and definitely going to guilt-trip you for not voting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *