By: Daniel Zagoren (Correspondent)
Anarchy has ravaged the city of Hong Kong as protesters filled the streets this past summer.
The announcement of an extradition bill has sparked outrage amongst the citizens of Hong Kong. The extradition bill, which would allow criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China, caused initial protests in June. Violent interactions between protestors and police officials have become more frequent as the protests continue. Often police must use pepper spray and rubber bullets against the demonstrators. Around 1,400 people have been arrested since the protests erupted, aged from 12 to 16.
59-year-old Hong Kong citizen Rocky Chang says this is the end game for Hong Kong. “It is a matter of life or death. That’s why I come.“This is an evil law,” Chang said.
Carrie Lam, the acting chief executive of Hong Kong, suspended the bill on June 15, 2019. But citizens continued protesting in fear of the extradition bill being revived. Thousands of injuries have arisen from both protesters and police, including eight deaths which were all suicides.
In hopes of bringing order and peace back into the city of Hong Kong, Lam made a public announcement on September 5th stating that the bill will be fully withdrawn. “Our foremost priority now is to end violence, to safeguard the rule of law, and to restore order and safety in our society. We can not agree or accept that violence is a solution to our problems,” Lam said.
Instead of protestors continuing to engage in violent behavior, Lam urged the public that the government would rather solve the conflict through dialogue. She has addressed one of the demands of the protestors, but citizens are still not satisfied.
In an interview with NBC, 34-year-old Hong Kong citizen Jess, who refused to give her last name in fear of persecution, said the protest movement has shifted to “Fighting about our future.”
“After all the unreasonable beatings and massive arrests of protesters and citizens, we need to step up to fight against this government. A government who works against its people,” Jess said.
In the announcement, Lam states that the government will fully withdraw the bill. They will cooperatively work with the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). Also, she and other principal officials will engage in direct dialogue by reaching out to citizens and listening to their views and critiques, lastly, she will encourage community leaders to examine ongoing problems and work to resolve them.
As protesters continue to demand that all people who were imprisoned because of the protests, must be discharged. Protesters want Lam’s removal from office, a full investigation into police misconduct during the protests, and the ability to vote for the elections of Chief Executive and Legislative Council. With these demands, tensions between police and protestors have risen.
Tanya Perkins, a Sharon High School social studies teacher, says the protesters should not be using violence. “But I do think that they should continue their willingness to make their points be known,” said Perkins.
September 17th marks the 100th day of protest. Despite less citizen engagement in the protests, there has been an increase in violence.
“I think it [protesting] is a right and a just cause. When the protestors choose organized, active, nonviolent protests against an oppressive regime, the oppressive regime uses violence, which it often will, against the nonviolent protesters, the moral authority and the global awareness usually will go to the protestors,” said Ms. Perkins.
On Sunday, September 15th, protesters targeted a government office in downtown Hong Kong, using bricks and Molotov cocktails to break down police barriers. Police officials fired rubber bullets and used tear gas, in addition to spraying protesters with blue-dyed water in defense.
The start of the school year in Hong Kong has led to student protests and rallies across the city. Students have boycotted school and taken to the streets holding banners saying, “Boycott for freedom” while shouting, “Reclaim Hong Kong.”
Throughout the duration of the protests, Hong Kong’s economy has been in decline. Hong Kong International Airport saw 5.9 million passengers in August, a decline of 12.4% compared to August last year. Around 77% of hotel employees have been put on unpaid leave due to the absence of tourists.
Gaining freedom from being a British colony in 1997, Hong Kong citizens have more privileges than those living in mainland China, including the right to protest. Hong Kong and China live under a “One country, two systems” rule, where mainland China has a communist government and Hong Kong has a limited democracy.
Hong Kong citizens have now turned to the United States in hopes of passing a legislative bill to halt supplying Hong Kong with crowd control devices. Also, protestors pleaded for the United States to look into trade deals and try to urge the Hong Kong government to make it a fully democratic government.
President Trump responded to the citizens ‘ pleads by suggesting that China should “humanely” settle the problem on their own before the United States intervenes.
A Hong Kong activist says that if this bill is not completely scrapped, they will have no choice but to leave Hong Kong, their homeland. “But this protest is not about people like me. It’s about the safety and freedom of the people in Hong Kong, and by coming out on the street like this they are espousing my concern as well,” the activist said.