Hong Kong Horror


Horror in Hong Kong continues as protesters and law enforcement clash in an effort for one to subdue the other. What started as a peaceful demonstration put together by the citizens of Hong Kong to protest a bill presented by the local government in February 2019 which would’ve allowed prisoners to be exported to mainland China, where courts are controlled by the CCP (Communist Party of China), turned to violence. A New York Times article written by Daniel Victor and Mike Ives called ‘Why Are People Protesting In Hong Kong?’ stated the bill, had it been passed, would have allowed the city of Beijing to “target dissidents on Hong Kong with phony charges, exposing activists to China’s opaque legal system.” 

Though the bill was scrapped this summer by Chief Executive Carrie Lam, riots continue after the police used tear gas, pepper spray, and batons on a crowd of thousands after a small number of demonstrators threw projectiles at them on June 12th.

However, the root of this problem dates back to 1997, when former British colony Hong Kong was handed back to China. An agreement was made between the two countries, with the city keeping many of its liberties and rights it had under British rule, such as the right to free speech, the right to freely assembly, and unrestricted internet access. China promised the city these rules would remain intact until 2047, but citizens believe the city of Beijing is already beginning to infringe upon their rights as an independent network. Carrie Lam herself is pro-Beijing appointed staff member. 

As the year winds down, there is no end in sight to these protests. Recently, things have begun to take a heated turn, as officers stormed Hong Kong University to arrest students who go there. To stop this from happening, protesters have set blockades on fire and hurled gasoline bombs at riot police attempting to enter. The city itself has grinded to a complete halt as morning traffic has been stopped. In another NYT article by Mike Ives, Ezra Cheung, and Katherine Li titled ‘Hong Kong Protestors Stage Fiery Clash With Police’, Lam is quoted saying that the protestors are “‘extremely selfish’ for wanting to paralyze Hong Kong.” During one such halt, a police officer opened fire at point-blank range on a protester, and another police officer was doused with gasoline and set on fire. The officer in question is currently in critical condition, and authorities are treating it like attempted murder. 

Scott Ames, a history teacher at Ipswich High School, said that when the protests do end it will most likely end on the side of “the police. Chinese military very possibly… China is not going to back off. [They] believe that they control that turf.” When asked if perhaps the protesters should tame their actions he believed, “The protestors don’t appear to be backing down. There is no easy way to compromise in a dictatorship with public protests.” 

Sean Cusack, a senior at Ipswich High School, also agreed somewhat with Ames’ beliefs, stating, “Given China’s history, you would generally see it headed towards the police. But given that [the protests] have gone international now, I can see it leaning more towards the protestors. Especially now that it’s all over world news… China can’t cover that up; it’s not Tiananmen Square anymore.” 

But he agrees the violence needs to stop,  saying, “There needs to be a legitimate agreement… it’s a legitimate compromise between the police and the protestors. It can’t just be efforts to quell rage, it has to be needs that need to be met.”  If one side has gone too far over the other he states that “both [have] gone too far,” but also remarks, “The protestors have just as much a right to protest, especially given the scenario of why they’re protesting. If at any point the police went too far, I don’t necessarily believe [they] went too far in every circumstance. Take for example, shooting someone… like there’s some instances where [they] have gone too far… but not that the protestors are wrong for what they do, but burning down places, like you know. Then again, given China’s history, it makes sense that that’s what they’re using to reach the government.” 

Ames shares similar opinions on the violence currently infecting the streets of Hong Kong, saying “[the police] threatening to shoot live ammo at the protestors, yesterday, or the day before, that was definitely a step too far… Chasing them onto the university campus was way overboard. I mean, having lived through Tiananmen Square as an outsider, this looks a lot like that, and they didn’t chase them back to the university back then… The Chinese government does not deal well with giving into public protests. Had the Hong Kong government listened in the beginning, they probably could’ve negotiated a settlement.” With protestors continuing to burn blockades and hurl gas bombs he says, “I don’t think they’re going to gain anything by continuing to do it. That said, I don’t know what else they would do, given the boat that they’re in… at some point they’re going to lose, so maybe backing off and hanging on to what you got might be the better action.” 

Sean also shares similar beliefs, saying, “I think that’s given more of the context of the nation that they’re protesting within. If that was the United States, absolutely they would have to calm that down. But given that it’s Hong Kong, and China, and especially the circumstances of the protests being a reflection of exactly what China has been guilty of back to Communist China, the government doesn’t seem like they’re in a position to want to listen to their people… Their government won’t take them seriously as people; therefore they need to somehow reform the government in whatever way they can.” 

He does not agree with Carrie Lam’s statement that the protestors are selfish, asserting, “I wouldn’t say necessarily that she would be right in calling them selfish over it, definitely not selfish; I would say that, if anything, she’s not listening to the people. The people want something the Chinese government refuses to meet and for no practical reasons.” Ames also agrees, saying, “no.” When Hong Kong was given back to China the arrangement was “to allow [protests], and she wasn’t listening. Maybe she couldn’t. But it isn’t an act of selfishness on the other side to say ‘you’re not listening to me’ it’s just reality.” 

When asked if those that have been arrested during the protests by the police should be released, Scott Ames held the belief that “they shouldn’t have been arrested to start with unless they were causing injury to others. “To arrest them for protest? They shouldn’t be in there to start with.” Though Sean believes that the answer to that question “is a hard one, because they were fighting for their freedoms, but violence committed is still violence.Morally, yes [they should be released]. Lawfully, they are destroying their town in order to get the government’s attention.”

For the final question of the interviews, when asked if should those who have murdered or critically injured others on both sides of the argument be held accountable for their actions, they both answered with a firm “yes,” with Sean adding “I believe that regardless, no matter what, a crime is still a crime.”

As time continues forward, neither the Chinese government nor the protestors seem to be backing down from the streaks of fatal violence that is plaguing their city. The answer as to whether one side will prove to be superior to another is hard to tell at this time, because it really can go either way. It cannot be denied that the strength of the government and the spirit of the protestors is truly remarkable. Only time will tell how these events will end.