Why we protest
What is happening in Hong Kong?
The government of Hong Kong, headed by Carrie Lam, wished to modify a law from the handover era. This modification is known as the China Extradition bill, and as initially drafted, would allow extradition to the one-party state, CCP (Chinese Communist Party) controlled China with minimal oversight.
The people of Hong Kong are alarmed, because China under the CCP routinely conducts show-trials, suppresses political dissidents, and has a record of torture and ignoring human rights (e.g., Liu Xiaobo, Li Wongyang, Tibet, Uyghurs). As a result, citizens marched in protest time and again:
- 10,000 on 31 Mar,
- 130,000 on 28 Apr, and
- 1,030,000 on 9 Jun.
The government remained unmoved. By the evening of the million-strong march --- one-seventh of the population --- it issued a letter stating that "the reasons for tabl[ing] this Bill have been explained in detail on many occasions", and concludes that "the Second Reading debate on the Bill will resume on June 12" . Since popularly-elected, pro-democracy legislators were disqualified from taking their seats , a 'debate' is a farce.
Three days later, on 12 Jun, to stop the legislation from being passed, the citizens --- often portrayed as "young men" but are in fact from all ages, gender, and walks of life --- blockaded the LegCo (Legislative Council) to physically prevent the Bill from being passed. Some protestors attempted to storm the LegCo by rushing forward with umbrellas; the police responded with disproportionate force on all protesters and bystanders. These included:
- firing tear gas on both entries of a street (i.e., a situation with no escape that caused a stampede),
- indiscriminately attacking protesters with batons to the head,
- head-shotting protestors, and
- pepper-spraying the face of an elderly foreigner resting who keeps explaining that he can't walk. 14 times.
These abuses are well documented, investigated, and condemned by internationally recognized NGO such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
The police (in a letter) characterized the event as a riot, which, historically due to the CCP-backed 1967 riots, carries a severe penalty of 10 years' prison terms for those arrested.
On 13 Jun, a 27-y.o. protester publicly committed suicide in order to urge the government to withdraw the bill. He would be the first of six.
On 16 Jun --- a week after a million-strong protest --- two million people came out to the streets once again. Once again, not a single piece of glass was broken; no shops were looted; no cars were burnt. This time the five core demands were crystallized, which are:
- Complete withdrawal of the extradition bill from the legislative process,
- Retraction of the "riot" characterisation,
- Release and exoneration of (politically motivated) arrested protesters,
- Establishment of an independent commission of inquiry into police conduct and use of force during the protests, and
- Implementation of universal suffrage for Legislative Council and Chief Executive elections, as enshrined in the Basic Law.
The detailed reasons for these five demands is explained here.
In response to a 2,000,000 ppl march. the government agreed to 0.5 of the 5 demands: the bill is suspended. (That is, liable to resuming its passage at a moment's notice.) It commented that it never characterized 6.12 as a riot (despite labeling it as such in a letter). It suggested that the existing system for investigating police misconduct is sufficient, despite its extraordinary record of allegations being "of merit" 0.09% of the time over ten years.
The summer since then has been dizzying. Professionals associations (including the medical, legal, educational associations), business associations (including the General Chamber of Commerce), faith-based organizations (including pastors and the Catholic church), general public (mothers, seniors, geographically-based), and esteemed dignitaries (including Andrew Li, a former Chief Justice) have petitioned the government, through actions (rallies, sit-ins, and Lennon Walls) and in writing, to listen to its people. Some citizens went on a 10-day hunger strike followed by a hunger march. A general strike was organized (not very successfully, with participation of "only" an estimated 350,000).
The government refused to respond.
Protesters responded by occupying the roads, and chanting their demands, to compel a response by the government. With respect to property, their violence has escalated to spraying graffiti, as well as throwing eggs, ink balloons, and bricks at symbolic entities (e.g., Chinese emblem, flag, police stations). With respect to people, they now throw bricks at fully-armored officers, roll marbles to trip them, and shine laser pointers to irritate them. On 8.11 a flaming bottle was thrown.
When the government broke its silence, it focuses on condemning the protestors as violent rioters and played with words, for example, stating that "the bill is dead", which has no legal significance, and which is why the bill remains tabled as of today .
The Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF/Force), on the other hand, responded with increasing brutality over the month:
- This included the brutish scene of 7.14 in Shatin, where the Force herded protesters into New Town Plaza, blocked them from leaving via MTR, and started attacking the trapped citizens. This included
- This included the infamous scenes from 7.21 Yuen Long, where protestors returning home was attacked in the MTR cars by over 800 rod-armed thugs with the quiescence of the Force and support of pro-Beijing legislator; siding with thugs happened again in Tsuen Wan and North Point.
- This included the over 800 rounds of tear gas --- some expired years ago --- in a single day in crowded neighbourhoods, and their deployment in subway stations where the gas, designated in the UN as a chemical weapon, cannot be dispersed
- This included pushing protestors down escalators.
- This included shooting protesters at point-blank range with different rounds. On 8.11, a police shot a young woman, a non-violent protester, directly in the eye. The shot broke through her goggles, fractured her skull, and ruptured her eyeball. To date the police denied responsibility despite video evidence that police rounds were lodged in her googles.
The police hides their numbers and badges, and places reflective tape to prevent them from being identified, and thus removes all accountability.
The HKPF also responded with increasing levels of deception, some of which were caught on live broadcasting. These included:
- using agent provocateurs (false flag) to incite the protesters,
- planting weapons on arrested protesters (see https://i.imgur.com/J88HahA.gifv), and
- falsely charging protesters of attacking police.
- The police arrested a student leader for purchase of "laser guns" (laser pointers) .
Thanks to the prevalence of video recording by anyone with a mobile phone, the lies are exposed, which are then covered by obfuscating language, if not outright more lies.
In mid-August, the announcements by the CCP Hong Kong-Macau Liaison Office labelled the protests alternately as "foreign-sponsored plots to foment Hong Kong independence", "color revolution", and on 8.12, "terrorist plots". The People's Liberation Army (PLA) assembled across the border, and threatening videos were released. The Party throws its full weight in supporting the HKPF in stamping out the protests, by all means necessary.
The CCP, in parallel, is also suspected to be conducting a sophisticated digital campaign. In mainland China, only distorted news about Hong Kong remains uncensored in mainstream TV and social media. Online propagandists astroturf on foreign social media forums. Pan-democratic politicians and activists have been warned that their Google accounts were subjected to state-level intrusion attempts.
No one knows how this will end. In Cantonese, we speak of us unarmed Hong Kong citizens as Eggs in front of the High Wall of CCP hegemony. Maybe there is no good endings left, but we know that unless we are willing to stand up, our people's fondness for a just transparent legal system, expectations that the government and police serves its people (not Beijing), and beliefs in the promise of the Basic Law (which gives CCP control only on matters of foreign relationships and defense) will soon be eroded. The bastion of free speech, free press, freedom to worship, and freedom from political terror would be no more.
What can you do?
First, we urge you to learn about the issue and establish your own understanding. This is quite difficult to do, as few sources are in English; People in Hong Kong, savvy against state-sponsored infiltration and monitoring, now communicates exclusively through Telegram (an encrypted messaging app) and the canto-slang laden anonymous forums LIHKG.
103.hk tries to be a gentle introduction for you, but we do not expect you to take our word for it. We suggest the following sources:
- As a primer, Wikipedia is an up-to-date, neutral source: the page about the HK protests are here
- South China Morning Post is owned by the Alibaba group and has a pro-Beijing bias, but is essentially the only English-language paper that has extensive coverage.
- Hong Kong Free Press is an independent organization with more opinion pieces than reporting, but it complements SCMP in understanding the issue.
- With regard to international press, the Guardian covers more Hong Kong news than most publications
- for "insider perspectives", Quartz have a team that reports on Hong Kong events
- a "live" channel is present on Reddit regarding developments
I understood and I want to help
First, please let your friends and family know about the situation in Hong Kong.
Out-of-HK, and through your representatives
Then, if you are living in a democratic country, you can contact your local representative and ask them to speak out in solidarity with the Hong Kong protestors.
Specific actions includes:
- asking them about sanctioning top HK/PRC officials and HKPF chiefs responsible for the extradition law. The people responsible have a ton of money stashed overseas (in the safety of the West) safe from when the extradition law passes. They really care more about money than people. Passing a sanctions bill banning human rights abusers and their money from the safety of the West works.
In the US, the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019 is an example of such sanctions targeting the people at the top responsible for the extradition bill. You can ask your senator or representative to support by "co-sponsoring" the bill number HR-3289: https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/3289/text
- [US only] ask them to ban export of riot control equipment to the HKPF. The UK and EU has already done so.
Suggestions from HKVOAAP on this Reddit thread
Express Your Support at Global Lennon Walls
The struggle is a marathon, a war of attrition. Your kind words and solidarity means a lot to people directly involved.
I want to raise public awareness... but I am shy
Decide on one issue you wish to speak out about, e.g., one aspect of police brutality. Investigate it thoroughly. While you are in a queue, bus, or metro, have a "phone conversation"... with yourself 😃
Loud enough that others can hear what you say and not so loud to be irritating.
Please direct your donations to the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, which assists injured and arrested protestors, providing legal, medical, and psychological/emotional support. Instructions are here.
I want to help you at 103.hk
We are a scrappy small team. If you can translate, code (vueJS), write, design... we need all the help we can get. See here for a more complete listing of what we think we need.