When in Hong Kong

Protests in Hong Kong continue this week, as residents call for the complete withdrawal, not just the suspension, of amendments to an extradition law that would allow suspects to be tried in other places, including mainland China.

When in Hong Kong

On Monday, protesters blocked the entrance to a government building, halting its business as usual, in renewed efforts to drive home their message.

On a larger scale, analysts say this was not just about the bill, per se, but on uncertainty over the kind of democracy that awaits Hong Kong in the long run. Protesters do not trust that fair, transparent investigations and speedy justice are at all possible in the mainland.

The mass action has gained attention and support from many places in the world, especially since Hong Kong police responded violently to the protests.

Comprised largely of young people, demonstrators call for the scrapping of the bill through a mix of traditional and modern ways. For instance, while millions gather on city streets, they also make use of social media and delivering their message through memes.

Through the Internet, the world has been able to see highlights of the protests—for instance, that video of the crowd parting to give way to an ambulance, or streets remaining clean despite the sheer number of people who had come and gone. They are instructive on the virtues of compassion and discipline, instead of chaos and indiscriminate action.

Despite the global attention, and despite the dramatic images, it is not sure whether the protesters could effect real people power in terms of achieving their end. After all, Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China. The government—and one not used to criticism or resistance—will determine its future.

Thirty years ago this month, events at Tiananmen Square showed the world how a government can succeed in silencing its critics. Many things have changed since then, especially the way people air their grievances and disagreement. Three decades later, we have yet to see if these changes are powerful enough to help shape or sway the strong will of those in power.

Topics: Hong Kong , China , Tiananmen Square , Government , Protest
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