We have a right to express views
but we have an obligation to
respect the rights of others
and a moral duty to find a release that
does not infringe on people’s health and safety.
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In April 2019, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced a plan to implement an Extradition Bill. This was in response to a Hong Kong citizen (Chan) who had committed a murder in Taiwan, but due to the lack of extradition laws governing Hong Kong, Chan could not be tried for murder. He was arrested in Hong Kong on charges of fraud as that crime was committed locally.
The Bill was introduced in hopes to provide a legal policy so that Chan could be tried for his crime. However, part of the clause of the Bill was so that crime offenders from any nationality who are suspected of committing crimes in Taiwan, Macau, and China may be extradited back to those countries regardless of whether or not those countries abide by Human Rights Laws.The government argued that they did not want fugitives “hiding” in Hong Kong. Protesters argued that many of the “fugitives” are not violent criminals but activists who voiced out for Human Rights in countries where that action is condemned.
…crime offenders from any nationality who are suspected of committing crimes in Taiwan, Macau, and China may be extradited back to those countries regardless of whether or not those countries abide by Human Rights Laws.
The controversy began for two reasons: Firstly, C. Lam did not gain the approval of fellow advisors, nor had she been approved before announcing it as a “decision” rather than “suggestion” to the public. Secondly, Hong Kong has traditionally respected Basic Human Rights in courts and in law.
By May 2019, lawmakers were already fighting the Bill from within the government.
The public was angered by this Bill because it would mean future offenders (including tourists, workers, and visitors) could be extradited to neighboring countries that do not abide by Basic Human Rights. The Hong Kong Government’s response to the public was that this Bill is only problematic for “trouble-makers”, and that non-crime offenders should not be concerned. The public countered this by stating that imposing such laws violates Basic Human Rights because being extradited to any country that does NOT have these rights is, in itself, a violation of Human Rights.
…because being extradited to any country that does NOT have these rights is, in itself, a violation of Human Rights.
The public voiced this opinion through a protest in June, with a headcount of 2-2.5 million people from the general public of Hong Kong. There were people of all ages including some babies in strollers.
After days of resistance and political discussion, Lam refused to reconsider, and merely held a second reading to “delay” the Bill in hopes to soothe the public. Lam’s English version of the announcement used the term “postponed indefinitely“, implying that the Bill is cancelled. The Cantonese used “suspended temporarily“, meaning that it will not be dropped. (The latter link is not a newslink but a netizen explaining the difference)
Lam’s English version of the announcement used the term “postponed indefinitely”, implying that the Bill is cancelled. The Cantonese used “suspended temporarily”, meaning that it will not be dropped.
Lam’s response provoked a further reaction from the public, and within two weeks, the People had managed to organize a city-wide protest stretching over multiple districts.
For the first three weeks, the protests had been generally peaceful and were arranged to take place at weekends so as not to disrupt the general workweek of the uninvolved innocent bystanders. Protesters at this stage were angry and frustrated, boiling in the heat while braving their passions, but had not reached a level of violence despite minor aggression in the crowds. Within the following weeks, protesters shifted the movement from an “Anti-Extradition Bill” to a “Human Rights Movement” and for some reason, reported by many articles published in English as the fight for democracy.
The Protesters stormed Legislative Council on July 1st (Handover Memorial Day) and left graffiti on the emblem. They broke glass and ransacked legal documents as well as computers but had strict orders not to steal or destroy historical relics in the building. This was strongly condemned by both the Hong Kong and Beijing Governments.
On July 21 (week seven/eight), a group of thugs dressed in white T-shirts had organized a public beating at the Yuen Long MTR station. They had bamboo sticks and a few had metal rods. A train had stopped service and the driver announced for people to alight so that another train could transport them to safety, all the while, thugs were beating up people in the lobby of the station. Passengers thought it was just a “regular delay announcement” and thus stayed on the trains.
It was not until they heard screaming and shrieking coming up the platform stairs did they look up to discover the commotion – thugs in white shirts beating up people and making their ways towards the train. (footage here, graphic scenes)
They had continued prodding and hitting people with the sticks. A representative from the Yuen Long District Council had heard about the commotion and was on the train that had been stopped. He had tried to reason with the thugs and calm them down in hopes to defend students, children, and mothers who were on the train. He was also beaten. (footage here, graphic scenes)
One student was seen returning glasses to a thug and then shoved mercilessly to the floor. In the lobby, people were being beaten up and bruised, some had started to bleed. At least two reporters who were covering the story were attacked and beaten to the point of bloodshed. Many had tried to escape, but a few fervent young men with hero complexes felt it necessary to retaliate. They located “weapons” nearby – sticks and rods – trying to attack the aggressors. This took the fight to a neighboring Yuen Long village, causing disturbances around the vicinity.
At this point, readers may be asking, “Why did no one call the police?”
Factually, there were hundreds, no thousands, no tens of thousands of calls in the thirty-nine minute span of time it had taken the Police to arrive from the station that was located seven minutes away from the scene of attacks. According to public reports, there were two calls per second during the attacks and this apparently jammed the lines. Nonetheless, ambulance and firefighting services were able to receive calls at this hour.
On the same night on the other end of Hong Kong, Police in Sheung Wan deployed tear gas and rubber bullets to defend government buildings.
The next day, the Public was expecting a report or an announcement from the Police regarding the incidents but somehow enough footage through social media revealed that they had let the gang members go while arresting protesters for rioting. There was no explanation.
The Public continued to protest and this time they increased pressure on the Police to either launch an independent investigation team to look into the attacks and incidents or to tell the Public whether or not they themselves would launch an internal investigation. The Police Force’s No.2, Matthew Cheung, apologized to the Public that week regarding the attack and the next day, the apology was “taken back” by Commissioner of Police, Stephen Lo, who claimed to have been “kept in the dark” regarding the apology.
The protesters had become increasingly angered because they felt ignored by the Government and the Police. They felt abandoned and were on their own, fighting against a paramilitary that was what Amnesty Int’l declared as “police using excessive force against protesters“. CNN and BBC were able to capture multiple images of bloody beatings on both sides, and a local channel filmed one of a foreign lady being shoved to the ground by riot cops on her way home.
They felt abandoned and were on their own, fighting against a paramilitary that was what Amnesty Int’l declared as “police using excessive force against protesters”.
The anger escalated among protesters who became aggravated by the lack of responses from Government and Police, thus started to block trains and roads. They caused massive pileups on trains and there were at least two days when passengers were assigned to alternate buses provided by the MTR Corp. Local Cantonese news reported of drivers getting into disputes on the roads and were dragged out of their cars, tied up, and left in the cars. These actions caused traffic accidents and pileups.
Some rioters had escalated in aggression and had thrown objects onto train tracks, to block the trains from moving due to safety hazards. Some pregnant ladies and old people fainted from the commotion and disturbances. Nurses and teachers were reported to have been delayed getting to work.
This action of inconvenience in order to attract attention had created a divide between some of the younger commuters who were more tolerant of the cause and some of the older ones who were more against the methods used to fight the cause. Feeling as if they had nowhere left to run, some more extreme protesters resorted to violence and started vandalizing parts of Hong Kong. The violence continued to escalate into physical fights and throwing bricks, all the while the Police were rapidly trying to expand manpower and pull back on beatings. They were alleged to have been sending more senior cops to the front line so that they could subdue protesters rather than beat them.
This did not contain the violence and only aggravated some of what Hong Kong calls “rioters”, who were seen setting fire to nearby trash, bamboo shafts, wooden poles and other items. They had learned to put out tear gas with plastic cones and water. Some used rackets and tin plates to hit the tear gas back to the riot cops. They had learned to use lasers to distract riot cops. Police retaliated with bright lights and sirens to disorient protesters.
By the end of July, rioters had started throwing bricks and fireballs into police stations around Hong Kong. They broke windows and covered CCTVs in the neighbourhoods with black paint. Many painted “You taught us that peaceful protests are useless”, “Where is Humanity”, and “Free Hong Kong” (note the latter is a Chinese wordplay because the phrase 光復 means both “recover” and “liberate“).
Thugs continue to roam certain areas once or twice a week, but with ample warning through social media so that families and uninvolved civilians may return home safely. It would appear that the thugs are trying to contain their own violence since the social media backlash of the Yuen Long attacks.
Hong Kong Free Press reports that to date, Hong Kong police have fired 1,000 rounds of tear gas, 160 rounds of rubber bullets, and 150 sponge grenades since the protests started in early June.
The protests are surprisingly organized in that they follow a schedule and aim to get permits before protests. Approved protests tend to have fewer arrests and also ample warning if tear gas is to be fired. Non-approved protests are seen to have group arrests and also less warning time is given when firing tear gas. Riots are known to start after 10 p.m.
At the moment, many locals presume that the violence will subside by the end of summer as they say the rioters are mostly student-aged and will likely return to class by September. Some of the younger locals believe that the fight must continue in other ways.
Most of Hong Kong is “waiting” for a response from Carrie Lam – so far her main response was a speech condemning the defaming of emblem, parliament, and riots. She has identified the problem but has not stated a solution nor implied her plan to implement one.
It is evidenced by multiple reporters that Lam’s use of ominous language in English, contrasted with her more disciplinary syntax in Cantonese, and a submissive reporting tone in Mandarin, is clear political wordplay to sway the audience to assume she has a game plan without actually having or stating one.
The ones on the 11th and 18th in Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong East, and Kwai Tsing respectively are pending approval. If they do not get approval, Police are authorized to arrest on charges of unlawful assembly or rioting (if applicable).
If they do not get approval, Police are authorized to arrest on charges of unlawful assembly or rioting.
Although many Hong Kong locals believe that there are only three more weeks left to the fight, what I also know is that universities in other countries have currently had ProHK-ProChi clashes. So far, the Uni of Queensland in Australia and the Uni of Auckland in NZ had incidents. There were minor incidents at ProHK Lennon Walls in Canada.
My understanding is that many students will return to universities around the world in late Aug—early Oct depending on the country of education. I share this information internationally so that the world can be prepared for possible conflicts that may arise as a result of these Hong Kong incidents. I encourage people to understand that the fight is not “just some Asian kids battling” but that overseas, one side is fighting for the protection of Human Rights in the name of opposing an Extradition Bill, and the other side is fighting for nationalistic pride that is a result of life in an oppressive regime.
Understand that one side is fighting for the protection of Human Rights in the name of opposing an Extradition Bill, and the other side is fighting for nationalistic pride that is a result of life in an oppressive regime
You may be under the impression that Hong Kong is fighting for democracy – many local protesters claim that they are not directly demanding democracy but that the protest is about Five Demands and specifically the Anti-Extradition Bill. The “democratic movement” seems to be a notion that is highly speculated by other democratic countries, naturally so, but having spoken to locals, I must clarify that Hong Kong is NOT directly demanding democracy. They are demanding universal suffrage and seek to improve the few democratic aspects Hong Kong has at the moment. Still, I cannot speak for their demands that are to come as they leave to countries that protect their Human Rights.
I write this as a call to stand in solidarity of Human Rights for all, regardless of your stance on the political climate, and I encourage you to put differences aside and still respect the rights of others while defending your own.
We have the right to express views, but we have an obligation to respect the rights of others and a moral duty to find a release that does not infringe on people’s health and safety.
Thank you for taking the time to read these observations and stay tuned for more updates at the end of the month.
(featured image by Frontier Post)