It has been months since the Hong Kong protesters, whose number sometimes reaches two million, occupy the streets of their city bubbling. Violence was committed: a government building was vandalized in July and, more recently, Molotov cocktails were thrown at a "smart" lamp post that some thought was a surveillance tool. The police sometimes responded brutally, with rubber bullets, water cannons and tear gas. An officer was also placed under surveillance last weekend for using real cartridges as sweeps.
What are the specific reasons for these events, and why do they last? The answer is not evident.
They really gained momentum in early June, following an extradition bill sharply criticized by the Hong Kong people, who saw it as a way to allow China to exercise more control over their city. Chinese territory, Hong Kong is administered according to a legal system known as "one country, two systems", since its return to Beijing by the British in 1997. Opponents of the bill have argued that it would allow China to punish political dissidents more easily and threaten Hong Kong's autonomy and judicial system.
As more and more people join the movement – outraged by the ever more aggressive response from the police but also by the initial failure of Carrie Lam, head of the executive, to reject this project, then her refusal to do so. to give up altogether – there are always more reasons to protest.
Since then, the protesters have made five specific complaints to the government: the permanent withdrawal of the bill, the abandonment of the term "rioters" to designate the protesters, the release of all the protesters arrested, the abandonment of all the prosecutions concerning them , and the launch of an independent investigation into the actions of the police.
The protesters are also demanding the implementation of universal suffrage, a promise never held by Beijing. Only half of those sitting on the Hong Kong Legislative Council are directly elected, while the city's most important political position – chief executive officer – is chosen by a "nominating committee" sorted on the shutter by China.
The 5 claims of #HKers:
- The total cancellation of the extradition bill
- The abandonment of the prosecution of arrested protesters
- The abandonment of the term "riots" to designate manifestations
- The creation of an independent investigation into police violence
- The establishment of a universal suffrage #BeWater #BeHumble
However, as David Schlesinger, expert on Chinese issues, pointed out in an interview broadcast by Monocle 24 radio on Monday, the reality is even more complex.
If it was the extradition bill that spawned the protests, "it was just the tip of the iceberg. Now that the abscess is flat, all the anger and dissatisfaction with high housing prices, the mainland China arriving in Hong Kong and gleaning the best opportunities, the general feeling of hopelessness, or the lack of jobs are pushing millions of people to go to the streets, each with personal reasons to be angry, "he says.
"One of the things that makes this difficult to unravel and solve is that there are probably as many reasons to protest as there are Hong Kongers."
Ten protesters spoke with the HuffPost to discuss the reasons for joining the movement. Here is the way they describe the situation:
(The names were changed to protect the interviewees from possible retaliation, and the answers were slightly edited for clarity.)
Chloe, age 26, employed in luxury ready-to-wear
I am fed up with the political situation in my home town since I came back from Australia, and I have always been skeptical of China. The extradition bill reinforced my fears. I told myself that I had to do something. I have the impression that we can no longer contain China's influence on Hong Kong, and that this difficult struggle is essential. I believe that we are acting in the general interest, for a democratic movement that affects the whole world.
Nick, 38, employee of a city university
Hong Kong is here. Since Beijing and its puppets are trying to destroy us – whether the people or their culture – or exile us, we will defend ourselves by all means. We are simply fighting for what we have been promised in the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law.
See what maneuvers the Chinese regime is reduced to! We have been lying for too long and we do not want to tolerate this situation anymore. Young people should not be the only ones fighting for our city.
Tim, 23, teacher
I manifest because I think that a non-democratic country that shows that a large part of its population wants democracy deserves and must obtain it. The establishment of universal suffrage is one of our five demands. I think that would really help build a better future for Hong Kong.
When millions of people come out on the streets, that means something. Especially when it comes to events involving one or two million people and the city has 7.5 million inhabitants. Almost a quarter of the population is mobilized to defend these claims.
Moreover, the evolution of the situation reminds me of the courses on authoritarian states when I was in high school: the demonstrators who face the police almost daily, the police who break the national and international directives, China is threatening with its maneuvers in Shenzhen … Whether it is felt that this battle can be won or not, what I have learned from history is that the actions of a generation affect the the actions of a group of people in a given region affect other parts of the world.
Mike, 49, educator, American expat for 11 years
In my opinion, it started because of the extradition bill, but the arrogance and intransigence of Carrie Lam really angered the Hong Kong people. They were annoyed by his contemptuous attitude and his refusal to do anything. Hong Kong is a place where people enjoy a high level of education and they do not like being treated with condescension.
My partner is from here and, as a gay couple, we have more to lose than most of the inhabitants if this "assimilation to the continent" is not contained. I also manifest because I regret what happens to my students and how their future is compromised.
Neil, in his twenties, demonstrating
It is the responsibility of citizens.
Sasa, 28, works in marketing
There are many reasons for our demonstrations, but I think mainly of the fact that we have witnessed the erosion of the freedoms we enjoy in Hong Kong. If we do not express ourselves, we may never be able to do it again.
The perseverance of the Hong Kong people makes me want to continue this fight. The way the police allowed triads to attack unarmed citizens, without making any distinction, has amplified our anger. We have learned from this that everyone must come down and demonstrate to ensure the safety of others.
Axel, 25, factory manager
I participate in the movement via social networks to alert Internet users to the misconceptions surrounding this movement, especially with regard to pseudo-Western interference. This is really a local action to compel China to fulfill its obligations, as set out in the Sino-British Joint Declaration.
I take part mainly in the street demonstrations to give an account of what is happening on the ground. I sometimes hesitate to go there, since I am neither Chinese nor white. It can be very frowned upon.
Charlie, thirties, artist
Without democracy, Hong Kong can not move forward. In recent years, the situation has deteriorated. The rule of law continues to deteriorate. If we think back to the umbrella revolution of 2014, we see that the government was rather mild. Now, he does not care about someone being seriously injured or even disabled for life.
Shawn, 30, works in marketing
I protest because the people of Hong Kong defend their freedom and dignity so as not to be arbitrarily extradited to a totalitarian dictatorship with a conviction rate of 99.99% and where freedom of expression does not exist .
We also rise up against state violence that has deprived us of our political rights. This regime has never wanted to solve the political problems we face. In fact, he has nothing else to propose than police violence and fake news. We therefore demonstrate for the victims of this violence and against this regime as a whole.
We are also taking to the streets to oppose the impunity enjoyed by the police. We have witnessed police violence, triad attacks, selective intervention, arbitrary arrests and media at the orders of the government. If we keep quiet now, this will become the norm and will hurt our community more than anything. We refuse to let ourselves be driven by boat.
Dan, 21, student
At first I was demonstrating for a very simple reason: calling for the withdrawal of the extradition bill. I oppose it because I do not trust the judicial system or the Chinese government. It is clear that Chinese citizens are not very free, and I am afraid that once the bill passed the Chinese government will stop people who oppose its authority.
Since then things have gotten complicated. Already, the government has not responded to our requests. Then, despite many events involving millions of participants, Carrie Lam, head of the executive, always rejected our demands stubbornly. She continues to play on the words and says that the bill is 'repulsed,' 'dead,' instead of using the legal term: 'canceled'.
I am also very angry at the actions of the Hong Kong police. They do not abide by the law and are staggeringly violent. Today, it is not only the bill that I oppose but also the whole of the Hong Kong government, and especially the police.
I do not want to stop now, after all the injuries, the pain, the arrests and the sacrifices of the Hong Kong people.
To stop now would be to reduce to dust all our efforts.
This article, published on American HuffPost, has been translated by Laura Pertuy for Fast ForWord.
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