"Can we ever be as gutsy as those protesters?"
We have always thought of the Chinese in Hong Kong as merchants and culinary exponents of Chinese food that Filipinos relish. But they are more than the stereotype we have of them. The ongoing protests of one-million Chinese in Hong Kong showed us they are more courageous than Filipinos in standing up for their rights.
The core of the Chinese demonstrations was the proposed bill of extradition which would force Hong Kong Chinese suspects accused of a crime to stand trial in mainland China. The Chinese in Hong Kong know that once prosecuted in the mainland, their chances for a fair trial under the onerous extradition bill would be next to nil.
Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam and her mainland masters were surprised by the massive and virulent reaction of the Hong Kong Chinese who staged a violent and noisy demonstration from Day One last Wednesday. Parked cars were torched and the protesters fought police despite being hosed down and fired upon with rubber bullets.
The politburo cabal in Beijing apparently did not factor in the fact that Hong Kong was, for decades, under British colonial rule that allows civil and political rights. I was in Hong Kong in 1997 during the historical turnover of the Crown Colony from British rule to Chinese control. I saw then many a teary-eyed Hong Kong Chinese who must have seen then and there the implications of the sea change in their lives.
Despite Carrie Lam’s retreat when she suspended the proposed extradition bill, the protesters sense they had won a victory and won’t be appeased by a temporary relief. They demanded the total scrapping of the extradition bill and the resignation of Lam.
The massive Hong Kong protest is more than Tiananmen Square student demonstrations which was confined to the famous plaza in Beijing marked last week. The Hong Kong protests outpouring is a citywide show of defiance by students, workers and families will have none of Mainland China’s tyrannical bossism.
The Hong Kong protest has gained international attention in the foreign press. If at all, Filipinos should take a cue from the Hong Kong Chinese that we can oppose China without declaring war. This, in the light of the Chinese ship ramming of a Filipino fishing boat and abandoning its 22 men crew in waters in the West Philippines Sea.
Fortunately for the Filipinos they were rescued by a passing Vietnamese fishing boat. This the basic international maritime law that obliges a ship to help a distressed vessel and its crew. The Chinese ship, on the other hand, fled the scene of the accident—if indeed it was an accident.
The survivors told Philippine authorities they were sure the big ship was Chinese since they had seen it before in the area shooing away Filipino fishermen from fishing in our own waters even as the Chinese were the ones illegally there. This is gunboat diplomacy that only China knows to use with its mightier navy.
Unlike the gutsy Chinese in Hong Kong, Filipino officials like Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo and Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi are the ones weakening the Philippine case with public statements that the boat that rammed and abandoned the Filipino fishermen may probably not even be Chinese.
We certainly cannot wage war against the militarily superior China. But we can protest in front of the Chinese Embassy and let them know that enough is enough and we won’t be bullied anymore.
The US, meanwhile, made it known that an attack on any Philippine civilian or military vessel by a foreign power falls under the US-Philippine Military Defense Agreement. The South China Sea territorial dispute and Chinese widening of its scope to include the West Philippine Sea has become a flashpoint which we hope does not blow up into a wider US-China confrontation. The Philippines, for sure, could suffer collateral damage in the crossfire.