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The Democratic Battle of Hong Kong

Updated: Jul 4, 2021

Nick Webb investigates the tide of change in Hong Kong and the key factors surrounding this Battle of Democracy

Photo by Pixabay


The increasing antagonism towards the democratic world by the Chinese government continues to dominate headlines. Economically, the Chinese are increasing their grip on the South China Sea, and are engaged in a trade war with the USA.


Closer to home, they are increasing control of their borders around India. The story that is most prevalent in the in the world press today, however, is the ongoing struggle for democracy in the principality of Hong Kong.


Hong Kong, located to the south of China with a population of 7.5 million, currently enjoys a certain amount of autonomy from mainland China. Since it was handed back to the Chinese in 1997 after being a British Colony since 1842, it was agreed to be ruled under a “one country, two systems” model, allowing the region to retain a large amount of the Western influence it accessed under British rule.


The Chinese government, however, has slowly been implementing ever-more aggressive strategies in order to bring Hong Kong more in line with the mainland’s pseudo-communist and anti-liberal ideology, which has sparked a series of protests lasting on and off since the middle of the last decade.



China Taking Back Control


Chinese President, Xi Jinping has been strengthening his control over China as a whole, and attempting to absorb Hong Kong more into these plans. This includes plans to enable him to extradite criminal suspects from Hong Kong into mainland China, where the laws are a lot stricter and the punishments more severe, which many see as a direct affront to their freedoms, and against the “one country, two parties” policy.


This Extradition Bill and the protests against it is one of a series of popular protests within Hong Kong, including the largely peaceful Umbrella protests against proposed electoral reforms in 2014. In May 2020, the Chinese government in Beijing moved to further reform the “one country, two parties” framework, as well as Hong Kong’s Constitution – the Basic Law – a development which is seen as undermining the freedoms that Hong Kong enjoys.


The People in Protest


The urgency with which Hong Kong’s people oppose Chinese intervention has been expressed through widespread protests, largely driven by the youth. Peaceful protestors have been tirelessly campaigning for their five democratic demands to be met, one being the scrapping of the Extradition Bill which they were successful in achieving.


Protestors have been met with shocking violence from the police despite their largely pacifistic approach, as tear gas, water cannons, rubber bullets and occasional live ammunition have been used in an effort to stem protests. One man was even set on fire by police during a protest.


However, despite these efforts, Beijing has just succeeded in passing new national security laws which give the Chinese government more powers to interpret and control the goings-on in Hong Kong as they see fit. This would also include banning secession (i.e. the principality would not have the ability to withdraw from the People’s Republic of China), foreign interference, terrorism, and all seditious activities aimed at toppling the government. Along with these new censorship laws, the legislation effectively forbids peaceful protests and freedom of speech.



Autonomy to Autocracy


This erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomous state, it is feared, may do serious damage to the city’s reputation as a global financial centre. Dennis Kwok, a Democratic lawmaker in Hong Kong said: “If this move takes place, ‘one country, two systems’ will be officially erased. It will be the end of Hong Kong.”


With all this said, it is understandable that the people of Hong Kong are increasingly worried about how their rights are being worn down by the central Chinese government, and this erosion appears to be continuing despite the popular opinion of a large proportion of the principality’s population. Xi Jinping’s proposals represent a deeply concerning trend towards Chinese isolationism and a more restrictive Communist government evocative of the disastrous conservatism of Mao Zedong’s China which could be detrimental to millions of lives.


 

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