I am Charlie Townsend, and I am not going to kill myself.
Lines like this are what numerous Hong Kong protesters shout out before they are arrested in the hopes that surrounding protesters, family, and lawyers will hear in case the authorities mask their deaths as suicides. When protesters put on their face masks, change into black clothing, and take to the streets, they run the risk, if arrested, of torture, sexual assault, rape, and “suicide.” How did protests get to this?
Nine months. That’s how long the protests in Hong Kong have been persevering, and they’re only getting stronger with time. They started in March 2019 after the Extradition Bill was proposed by Hong Kong’s government and Chief Executive Carrie Lam. The bill is an amendment to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance, which means the passing of the bill will let local authorities detain fugitives of Hong Kong and, if wanted elsewhere, have them tried in the legal system of China or Taiwan.
However, this makes sense. It sounds like a returning of justice to Hong Kongers fearing arrest in mainland China, but this led many residents to begin protesting as this bill undermines Hong Kong’s autonomy and independence under the One-Country-Two-Systems arrangement.
When Britain handed over its colony of Hong Kong to China in 1997, mass protests erupted, but quieted down. However, time disappears quickly. In 2047, just fifty years after the handover, Hong Kong’s legal, economic, financial, and governmental liberties will be reduced to that of China’s. Imagine living in a city where you know in a little under thirty years your rights will be snatched away by a brutal, single party bureaucracy. With this bill, China’s cheating the agreement they made with Britain in 1997.
Luckily, the Hong Kongers won. Their mass demonstrations have been domestically and internationally recognized, and in September the bill was dissolved after multiple delays. But that was only one demand the Hong Kongers have. There’s five.
They go as followed:
- The withdrawal of the Extradition Bill
- The investigation into police brutality
- The release of detained protesters
- The retraction of the name given to the protests by mainland China as “riots”
- The stepping down of Carrie Lam from Chief Executive of Hong Kong
‘Five Demands, Not One Less’ has become the slogan of the Hong Kongers in their protests. They have fought fiercely for these demands, even committing terrible crimes such as the stabbing of a Beijing lawyer and the setting of a police officer ablaze. To begin with, the protests were peaceful and targeted towards the bill. But after pepper spray, tear gas, rubber bullets and even live ammunition was allowed by the police, and a student was shot in point blank range, and casualties (those blurry and blatant) of the protesters stacked higher and higher, and police misconduct ran rampant along detainees, the protesters retaliated. Spray-painted in the Legislative Council building were the words, “It was the government who taught us that peaceful protest is futile.”
Now the protests are for human rights and democracy.
As student protesters take and hold their universities like castles against the sieges of police, and the Chinese government rears its ugly head, America, of all things, meets its gaze. On this 27th of November, Congress passed the “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act,” which imposes sanctions unto any Hong Kong and Chinese officials who are responsible for any human rights violations, and makes the U.S. Department of State hold an annual review for any possible alterations of trade relations between the U.S. and China because of Hong Kong.
This was a unanimous vote, having the support of Democrats and Republicans alike, which is nearly unprecedented. We don’t agree on anything, but we do here. We can see Hong Kong, and we can see them fight for the very same principles our founders fought for, for the very same democracy and rights our soldiers killed and died for, and we won’t wait idly by while atrocities are committed in the world. We do not run a perfect nation, but we do run a sound one, and as should China. Protesters know they probably won’t win, but, as one protester put it as reported by The Atlantic, “We might as well go down fighting.”