CU community discusses Hong Kong protests

Photo courtesy of Youtube/Time 

Protests on the island of Hong Kong are continuing past the five-month mark and show little signs of slowing down.

Citizens of Hong Kong took to the streets to protest a proposed extradition law, but now continue on despite the proposal being withdrawn.

The law, which originally sparked the protests, would have allowed those charged with crimes in Hong Kong to be extradited to China.

Now that it’s been withdrawn, protesters are staying firm to their four remaining demands: Formally withdraw the extradition bill; retract the label of the June 12 protest as riot; withdraw criminal charges against all protesters; launch independent inquiry into use of force by police; implement universal suffrage for the chief executive and legislature

Though a law to extradite potential criminals seems relatively harmless, Rich Clark, Castleton’s political science program coordinator, sees it as just the final straw.

“There was gasoline all over the place, but there was the one spark that ignited it. I think the extradition law was just that,” he said.

A western point of view might see these demonstrations sympathetically as protests for freedom. Protesters have even been seen waving the United States flag either as a symbol of democracy or a plea for help from the U.S.

Clark believes help from the U.S. isn’t likely though.

“As long as we have these economic ties, we’ll always have a little bit of leverage,” he said. “But our willingness to exercise that leverage on behalf of liberty has been wanting.

“I don’t think the people of Hong Kong can count on help from the U.S.”

Many Chinese citizens see the protests in a worse light than a sympathetic American. Frank Wan, a Castleton Student from mainland China, sees it as chaotic and disruptive to the other citizens of Hong Kong.

“It is definitely too much. Before the protests, they were claiming that ‘oh yeah, we’re just going to do this in a peaceful way and we’re not going to do anything bad,” he said. “And then they went to subway stations, stopped the metro. They broke everything there.”

Though the protesters’ official stance seems to be non-violent, injuries are reported on both sides of the conflict. Both protesters and Hong Kong police are said to be responsible for incidents of unprovoked violence.

Depictions of the Hong Kong police as violent enforcers makes Wan untrusting of western perceptions, though. He cites issues with “fake news” and urges American to be conscious of what’s true and what isn’t.

“I come from China and I know things that people probably won’t know. It’s all because those media – they’ve never been to China before,” he said. “They’ve never seen it. They’ll never see the depth of it.”

Misinformation isn’t just a western problem though. According to the New York Times, Chinese state-run media groups are working to deceive the mainland population.

One prominent incident told of a young woman who was blinded in one eye by a police bean-bag gun. The state television network was quick to report that the woman was injured by a fellow protester. This was followed by an article claiming the woman was responsible for paying protesters, hinting at another popular assertion that the U.S. is financially backing the demonstrations.

Sociology professor Philip Lamy applauds the protesters’ efforts and hopes to see the protests resolved peacefully.

“A lot of people remember what happened at Tiananmen Square,” he said. “Often times it’s the most marginalized, those with the least power, and perhaps the most to lose that are putting their lives on the line by getting out there and protesting in a dangerous situation. I just say kudos to those young brave Chinese and Hong Kong who are trying to maintain democracy in their resist of authoritarianism.”

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