The world sits and watches as Occupy Central continues unresolved
On Sept. 28, a group of students decided to boycott school, protesting their outrage against the Chinese government’s refusal to allow open nominations for Hong Kong’s Chief Executive in the 2017 elections. Flash-forward two weeks and protests have taken to the streets with a sit-in in Civic Square, Hong Kong. While the civil disobedience movement has received global recognition, some TRU students may not share the same optimistic attitude as those participating in the movement overseas.
Currently, Hong Kong is ruled under China with a “one country, two systems” model, giving Hong Kong autonomy upon China’s ruling in 1997. According to a white paper released from the Information Office of the State Council, “as a unitary state, China’s central government has comprehensive jurisdiction over all local administrative regions, including the [Hong Kong Special Administrative Region].” This means that as the protest continues, tension between Beijing and Hong Kong grows with fear of political and economic instability.
In an editorial to The Independent, a news organization in the U.K., Noah Sin, an aspiring journalist from Hong Kong, explained why we should be paying attention to the protests.
“If you care about democracy, then you should care about what’s happening right now in Hong Kong,” he wrote.
He continued, saying, “This is Hong Kong’s fight. But we cannot let them fight alone. It might not be Iraq or Syria, but it is a global city, where people who were promised rights have had them stripped away, and then branded as anarchists.”
Looking to social media, tweets posted with the hashtags #OccupyCentral, #UmbrellaRevolution or #HKClassBoycott share images protestors gathered on blankets and in tents, wearing yellow ribbons or holding colorful pieces of paper with messages to the current Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. Underneath the photos, messages of hope and determination are written in Cantonese.
There has been a notable increase in social movements across North America, including Occupy Wall Street, Idle No More, and environmental marches against the various environmental undertakings. Western society has grown accustomed to utilising social media and mass movements to navigate through social and political issues, something that is perhaps still new to Chinese culture and their social order.
In Mainland China, the practice of censorship, strong impositions against freedom of expression and “abuses of power in the name of ‘social stability,’” are systematically condoned, according to a 2012 report by Human Rights Watch, a group focused on removing global injustice of human rights.
However, the variable that makes this protest even possible is Hong Kong’s “Basic Law,” the constitution governing the city that has alternate laws concerning citizen rights. Under Basic Law article 27, “Hong Kong residents shall have, among other things, freedom of speech, of the press and of publication; freedom of association, of assembly, of procession, of demonstration, of communication, of movement, of conscience, of religious belief, and of marriage; and the right and freedom to form and join trade unions, and to strike.”
Because the protests are legally allowed to occur and be publicised by international media organizations, the movement’s support has garnered global attention.
TRU journalism student Bining Chen, however, isn’t sure the movement that the movement will have an effect.
“Voting is important… but I don’t think the Chinese Communist party will give them the right to vote [for] their own leader in Hong Kong. Under the single-party system, liberty is different,” Chen said.
Chen believes that although it is important for students to voice their opinions, the only way the protests have any hope of being successful is if they have a plan ready to negotiate with the government.
“What next if time goes by, can they stay in the streets for two months? What are their schools’ opinions? They should come up with some leaders or plan for future thinking, otherwise it is meaningless for students [to] occupy the streets.”
A similar attitude is shared by Weijia Gu, a TRU international student from Mainland China, who believes their protest may be “too angry,” noting the recent tear gas confrontation between protestors and the Hong Kong police.
Gu also noted that many citizens are worried that the ongoing demonstrations will affect relations with Beijing or the economic health of the region.
“I don’t think it will work… it may have some effect but not very much,” Gu said. “I am neutral, basically. I don’t think any side is wrong as they just try to insist on their opinions and protect their rights.”
As the protests continue, there has been no news of negotiations happening between the protesting groups and the government. In an Oct. 11 interview with Hong Kong’s TVB, a local television network, Chun-ying made it clear that there is “zero chance” negotiations will be happening.