Almost three whole months have passed and there is seemingly no end in sight to the political crisis in Hong Kong. It all started with the proposed Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019. This bill, if passed, would allow Hong Kong to extradite offenders to be tried in courts outside of its boundaries. The motivation for the bill seemed to stem from a murder incident involving two Hong Kong residents. Chan Tong-kai had confessed that he had murdered his girlfriend Poon Hiu-wing in Taiwan during a trip last Valentine’s Day. He came back to Hong Kong after stuffing her body in a suitcase and dumping it in some bushes near a subway station in Taipei.
The Hong Kong government stated that they needed the bill to be passed to allow them to extradite Chan to Taiwan to face murder charges. However, Taiwan authorities commented in May that they would not be seeking Chan’s extradition under the proposed bill. This ambiguity then calls to question the integrity of Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s insistence that the bill was motivated by this murder case.
Cue then the start of a huge wave of protests. On the 9th of June 2019, hundreds of thousands of people marched in protest of the bill. They saw this as a way of opening up Hong Kong residents to mainland Chinese jurisdiction. This went against the promise that China would allow Hong Kong to remain as an autonomous state with its own set of rules and government. Violence broke out and there were allegations of police brutality against protestors. Eventually, Carrie Lam succumbed to pressure and announced the full withdrawal of the bill on the 4th of September.
I do support the Hong Kong residents right to protest peacefully but when the protest comes to a point where public properties are vandalised and it starts affecting the lives of people who are not involved like tourists, then I do think that this has gone too far. When it involves petrol bombs, the vandalism and destruction of public property and the intent to inconvenience thousands of travellers by crippling the airport then I do not deem the protest as peaceful. There can never be a peaceful protest with Molotov cocktails being hurled at public servants or the beating up of individuals who were suspected of being a spy from the mainland police force. Eventually, it was found out that that individual was a journalist.
The Hong Kong Chief Executive is also equally culpable when it comes to the poor handling of the situation. Her apparent lack of understanding of how severe the crisis could escalate only resulted in the frustrations of the protestors boiling over. The apparent refusal to formally withdraw the controversial bill only served to show her political ineptness. A leaked voice recording of her claiming that she would quit if she could, only added to the suspicion that she was acting under the instruction of Beijing.
I do not think that the protestors are merely championing against the bill itself. I do think that this is a result of years of pent up frustration at the rising cost of living and unaffordable housing. The main protestors are students and I do think that Hong Kong has become this place where property prices have far outstripped what a typical working-class adult can afford. This creates huge levels of frustration among the young and I guess the extradition bill was the catalyst and the perfect excuse to express their discontent with the situation. Do I think that a different Chief Executive would make a difference? Perhaps. A less politically inept leader might have averted the crises but the discontent will still be there and to be able to sidestep every single situation for the next two and a half decades just seems impossible.
I do not see this as merely an expression of discontent against a proposed bill. This is the cumulation of discontentment over many issues facing the future of Hong Kong, mainly unaffordable housing. However, the method of civil disobedience chosen by some of the protestors is wrong. Some are masquerading their actions as civil disobedience when it is actually rioting. I do not see this as people power but a small group of individuals inciting violence.
I do hope that Hong Kong recovers from this crisis but in reality, I do not see any resolution to the unrest any time soon. The realisation that Hong Kong is part of China has to come sooner and negotiations must be done with level headed members of the public with the government.
Just don’t get the two Hong Kongers in this video to be at the negotiating table…