HONG Kong’s handover ceremonies occurred at midnight of July 1, 1997. Fast-forwarding, the protests in Hong Kong continuing with no end in sight. Hong Kong is now torn between a police state and mob rule.
A brief backgrounder: Hong Kong island was ceded to the United Kingdom after a war in 1842. In the early 1980s, Britain and China began talks on the future of Hong Kong — with the communist government in China arguing that all of Hong Kong should be returned to Chinese rule. The deal reached in 1984 would see Hong Kong return to China in 1997 under the principle of “one country, two systems.” Under this arrangement, Hong Kong would enjoy “a high degree of autonomy for 50 years.”
Under the agreement, Hong Kong was to have its own judiciary and a separate legal system from mainland China. Freedom of assembly and freedom of speech were explicitly mentioned but bound to expire in 2047.
The first unrest called the “Umbrella Movement” started in 2014 when demonstrations took place over several weeks. But the movement fizzled out with no concessions from Beijing.
Then the extradition bill potion was introduced as early as April. The concoction would have allowed criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China under certain but undetermined circumstances.
Here is a quick outline of events:
April 3: Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam’s government introduces amendments to the extradition laws that would allow criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial.
May 11: Scuffles break out in the legislature between pro-democracy lawmakers and those loyal to Beijing.
June 9: An estimated 1 million people marched to the government headquarters against a proposed bill that would have allowed criminal suspects to be extradited to China.
June 12: Police fired rubber bullets and tear gas during the city’s largest and most violent protests in decades. Government offices are shut.
June 15: Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam made a shock announcement that she would indefinitely delay the extradition bill. Despite the announcement, an estimated 2 million people took to the streets to demand the bill be fully withdrawn and Lam resign.
July 1: Protests took a turn as demonstrators stormed the Legislative Council building and caused extensive damage.
July 9: Lam said again that the extradition bill was “dead,” and pleaded with protesters to halt the demonstrations, but she again stopped short from fully withdrawing the bill.
August 5: Tensions reached new heights when protesters turned to citywide strikes that froze subway lines and major roadways. The same day as the subway protests, Carrie Lam gave her first media address in two weeks, saying Hong Kong was “on the verge of a very dangerous situation.”
August 11: Police fired tear gas at crowds across the city, even in residential neighborhoods and popular leisure areas.
August 12: Protesters caused their biggest disruption yet when they brought Hong Kong International Airport to a standstill.
September 4: Lam announces the formal withdrawal of the extradition bill.
September 26: Protesters trap Lam in a stadium for hours after her first “open dialogue.”
October 1: City rocked by the most widespread unrest since the protests began as China’s Communist Party rulers celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic. Police shoot an 18-year-old protester in the shoulder.
October 4: Lam invokes emergency powers to ban face masks, sparking violent protests. A police officer shoots a 14-year-old boy in the thigh.
October 23: Extradition bill is formally withdrawn.
November 2: Protesters vandalize China’s official Xinhua news agency, smashing doors, setting fires and throwing paint.
November 3: A man with a knife bites off part of a politician’s ear and slashes several people after a shopping mall rally turns into a conflict with police.
November 4: University student Chow Tsz-lok, 22, falls from the third to the second floor of a parking lot as police disperse protesters.
November 6: A knife-wielding man attacks pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho.
November 11: Police fire live rounds at protesters on the eastern side of Hong Kong island, one person wounded.
November 19: Hong Kong Polytechnic University under siege as Hong Kong police battle protesters.
One major problem that we see is that a vast majority of people in Hong Kong don’t see themselves as Chinese. Data shows that 71 percent of people say they are not proud about being Chinese citizens. They prefer to be called “HongKongers” instead.
Self-righteousness coming from both camps is a key danger. That is why I said the point of no return is here. Events are now dangerously predictable. What used to be a weekend folly can now happen any day of the week. Increasing violence due to change of tactics makes both camps farther away from each side of the table. And this brings danger. There are now predictable fatal results in the air and possible escalation of lethal violence.
Add to this the lackluster and immobile thoughts of the rest of the world to intervene. We may wake up one day to the fact that the line “two systems” is just a fantasy and that the reality is really “one country.”
Good work, good deeds and good faith to all.