Some friends in reading their daily news about clashes in HK are rightfully concerned and are asking what the situation is like “on the ground.”
It is quite a task to objectively give an overview but I’ll give it my best shot.
What can be seen out in the open are various groups of protesters who have occupied central areas of Hong Kong near the financial districts and government headquarters, as well as several other key areas of Hong Kong since the 28th of September. They are mainly comprised of people supporting the so called “Occupy Central” movement, as well as various student unions and those supporting those unions. An overall term has been coined to combine these groups into what is being referred to as the “Umbrella Movement”. They use a yellow ribbon among other logos to display their stand.
The sentiment among the Umbrella Movement varies but some few common denominators include an initial distrust towards the local HK government and the ruling party of China. That distrust has only deepened over the last three weeks. Though the sentiment has been growing for the last decade or more, the impetuous for this movement was a White Paper handed down by Beijing at the end of August relating to the election of the Chief Executive (Hong Kong’s highest ruling official) in 2017.
In the late 80’s and up through 1997 when the UK officially handed over Hong Kong to Beijing under a rather unique agreement referred to as “one country – two systems” the generally agreed upon consent was to make Hong Kong into a fairly autonomous special administrative region and by 2017 people of Hong Kong would be able to vote for their Chief Executive through universal suffrage and enjoying a high degree of democracy.
The White Paper handed down at the end of august 2014 by Beijing however acted as an amendment to Hong Kong’s Basic Law and defined that the selection of the CE (Chief Executive) will be based on candidates that have been pre-screened and pre-selected by Beijing. Out of those Beijing pre-selected officials Hong Kong residents would be able to select the CE through public voting.
The pro-democracy parties and the Umbrella Movement argues that this is a breach of the promise agreed upon by Beijing and the officials from UK as stated back in the 80’s and 90’s. Beijing argues that their White Paper is according to the Basic Law as issued in 1997 and supersedes any prior statements. Pro-democracy protesters see this as Beijing reneged on their promise. Pro-Beijing advocates see it as Beijing putting a stop to 10 years of unresolved procedure as far as the exact protocol of how the CE will be selected by the local HK government. They also argue the Beijing White Paper is in accordance with the Basic Law as agreed upon and signed in 1997.
Mainly the youth of Hong Kong has felt a growing despair of what will become of the region they will grow up in as adults and despite being fairly apolitical in nature up till recently, the events as have unfolded over the last many weeks have also acted to engage many formerly apolitical students and residents which now are taking on a sort of Hong Kong identity previously not very pronounced.
Out of this despair and distrust towards the HK government for not acting of and for the people of Hong Kong, but rather being a puppet orchestrator of Beijing’s commands, as well as the Chinese Communist Party itself, the Umbrella Movement has given up on using any other means to resolve the situation outside of protesting in the streets and showing civil disobedience.
Media and social media in Hong Kong are mainly covering the sentiment of the Umbrella Movement as far as what is being shared and viewed. This has included a high concentration of anti-police and anti-government posts, mobile videos and opinions. Many pro-democratic people see the police as a symbol of the government they reject. Terms such as “very excessive violence by the police” are popular to throw around; despite international analysts pointing out that relatively BOTH the Hong Kong police and the protesters are among the most restrained and peaceful in the world.
Outside of the initial clashes between the police and the protesters where tear gas and pepper spray were used, it has been fairly calm for several weeks with no serious clashes, until last night when the police stormed a recently barricaded public passageway to the backside of the government buildings. Pepper spray was once again used and over the span of 24 hours 45 protesters were arrested.
A mobile video has gone viral showing 7 police men beating up a single protester in a back alley for a 4-minutes period. The police this afternoon announced that the seven officers have been identified in relation to the alleged beating of Civic Party member Ken Tsang. No words yet as to what actions will be taken against these 7 police officers. The Civic Party is considered a pro-democratic party in Hong Kong.
With 45 arrests and the brutal beating of Ken Tsang, much outrage has been expressed in Hong Kong over the last 24 hours, including by people who are not identifying themselves as participants of the Umbrella Movement.
Outside of the pro-democratic protesters and the Umbrella Movement participators, there is a faction of both Hong Kong people and a larger faction, relatively, within the Hong Kong government who are pre-Beijing and pro-China. They have declared the protests as illegal and have repeatedly warned of catastrophic consequences for the financial and welfare conditions of Hong Kong should the Occupy Central movement and the resulting Umbrella Movement escalate. This pretty much echo the statements issued by Beijing.
Though some media have alluded to Hong Kong turning into a Tiananmen Redux many well-regarded political analysts from both sides have stated that the chances of that are very slim. Not only is the world climate as well as the sociological and political climate in Beijing very different in 2014 from the tensions of the end of the Cold War period of 1989, but also the factors surrounding Hong Kong are quite different politically and financially compared to the 1989 uprising in Beijing.
Since August of 2014 more tanks have been seen rolling into the Hong Kong territory from China to be on standby within the PLA’s facilities in Hong Kong. There are roughly some 10,000 or more PLA soldiers and officers in place here.
There is another quite present faction within Hong Kong comprised of rich expats as well as rich Chinese tycoons – both locals and people from the mainland having set foot in Hong Kong. It is a lesser known fact that between 1995 to 1997 despite international media rumors of a Chinese invasion into HK and massive protests breaking out and China turning Hong Kong into just another communist city, the sentiment of the CCP was quite different. Back in the 90’s Hong Kong was the major portal between the east and the west and it had been so for decades, which served both Beijing and the West well. Today that is no longer fully the case as sea ports such as Shanghai and Shenzhen have taken over a lot of the import and trade business, though Hong Kong is still strong as a financial and commerce center.
The CCP was very concerned that the rumors flying around in the media as well as among local Hong Kong residents would make the financial tycoons flee the region along with their money. This would not benefit China at all. So, members of the CCP met privately with many tycoons from Hong Kong and they made certain arrangements and agreements, which made them confident enough to stay.
1997 came and went and the handover was relatively eventless. Despite some local Hong Kong residents having moved abroad, many started to return as the years passed and HK was seemingly still being the system they were used to. Along with returning Hong Kong residents a new influx of mainland Chinese tycoons arrived who now had pretty much unrestricted access to the financial world of Hong Kong, which they didn’t have under British governing.
The tycoons got a stronger hold of the local affairs in Hong Kong in many areas and at a larger capacity than any previous time in Hong Kong’s history. This did contribute to both a higher GDP for Hong Kong as well as a higher influx of money back to China. However, other factors developed such as a growing GINI index and sky rocketing real estate and property prices, causing severe hardship for local store keepers and the lower income bracket families.
Since the current Chairman of the CCP, Xi Jinping, came into office in 2013 he has engaged in several new programs in China. The more well-known anti-corruption program is mainly targeting direct political rivals. Another program includes an economical reform to lessen the GINI index in China, and that includes the GINI index of Hong Kong which is one of the highest in the world. Of course economical reform intended to decrease the wealth gap between the super rich and the poor will never be looked at well by the tycoons. Unfortunately the dilly dallying with the Hong Kong tycoons Beijing was involved with in 95 – 97 evolved beyond their control and now Beijing is to a degree at effect of the system they put in place.
Most of the tycoons in Hong Kong are well aware of Beijing’s true sentiment of how they view Hong Kong. Though Beijing is concerned about anti-mainland Chinese sentiment in HK and lack of a Chinese “patriotic” mindset in HK, which has been the subject of some controversial proposals creating much outrage in Hong Kong, Beijing is and has been benefitting from Hong Kong being a one country – two systems. No drastic communistic agendas have been planned for Hong Kong in the near foreseeable future and the tycoons are well aware of this.
Therefore their sentiment is either in the middle or outright Pro-Beijing. For example, one of Hong Kong’s most famous tycoons, Li Ka-shing, issued a statement today proclaiming:
“We can understand students’ passion but their pursuit needs to be guided by wisdom. All people must abide by laws and Hong Kong police have been defending the city’s law and order. It would be Hong Kong’s biggest sorrow if the rule of law is undermined.
My young friends: your parents, family members, all Hong Kong people and the central government are concerned about your well-being. You have successfully conveyed your messages and everyone has heard you.
I urge all of you not to let today’s fervour turn into tomorrow’s regret. I sincerely call on you to return to the side of your families.”
This sentiment is present in the faction of Hong Kong residents sometimes referred to as the “silent majority.” Many of the Umbrella Movement participants view the Silent Majority as fully or partially pro-Beijing. A common mindset which has developed since the initial clashes on the 28th of September is a “you’re either with us or against us”. This black and white classification has resulted in many families being divided or even separated and friends, colleagues and co-workers being divided.
No current poll or survey of public opinion exists but from my own observation the Silent Majority does indeed seem like a majority sentiment. The two other major sentiments are that of the Umbrella Movement and the opposite side of the pro-Beijing hardcores.
The media tend to cover the opinion and content of either the Umbrella Movement or pro-Beijing so the voice of the Silent Majority is not as dominant in relation to its numbers in Hong Kong per my opinion.
If one were to follow the opinions stated in mainland Chinese media, the Umbrella Movement and the precursors Occupy Central as well as the pre-democratic Student Unions are the direct creations and effects of US-backed initiatives intended to destabilize China. There are some definite links exposed (can be easily googled) between several major financial tycoons as well as pro-democratic politicians and the NED and NDI of the US with multiple several million dollar transactions. So maybe this is one behind-the-scenes factor, but on the surface I don’t believe it is the driving force behind the current Umbrella Movement, which is rather due to the sentiment they have themselves developed over the last decade.
So where do we go from here and what will happen? That is a good question. One thing I am pretty certain of is that Hong Kong will never be the same again, whatever the outcome.
Many young people of Hong Kong have lost any trust in their government and in Beijing. The Hong Kong government has lost trust in many of its people and China has lost trust in Hong Kong. A mutual situation of distrust is always a receipt for disaster.
There is no inclination at the current moment that this trust factor will improve from either side, but if it doesn’t, how can Hong Kong ever come out the winner, or better as far as a region?
Some within the Umbrella Movement see the Hong Kong government and the CCP of Beijing as unyielding and nonnegotiable. There are many events which could lead one to this conclusion. However Beijing issued in a statement on the 1st of October which included the following message:
“In Hong Kong, there is freedom of speech, so if anyone disagrees with the Chinese central government’s decision, they can use legal channels to communicate and appeal, instead of using extreme measures like Occupy Central,” the editorial said. ”Occupy Central isn’t about communication; it’s about confrontation. Now a few insist on confronting the law, inciting incidents. They’ll end up paying for their actions.”
Many saw this as a direct threat. Fewer took note of their mention of “…legal channels to communicate and appeal…” Maybe because of the already high degree of distrust present in Hong Kong, this statement is instantly disregarded.
Whatever the case, it seems apparent to me that Beijing not only needs Hong Kong stable and harmonious but would only benefit in resolving the manner. Of course in good old Chinese tradition the CCP has to save face and has to be very tactical in how they would respond to an appeal as the CCP will not just revise a prior order without losing face. But there are plenty of tacticians around who could probably solve this “dilemma”. My opinion still stands that they can only benefit from Hong Kong remaining the system it was intended to be as decided on back in 1997.
Using western technology such as PR and surveys, etc., are not commonly used tools for the CCP to implement their plans. Therefore actions and new laws to “handle” the increased anti-mainland sentiment was pretty much forced down Hong Kong’s throat and it took years of work and public protests to finally put a stop to it, for now. Unfortunately, Beijing seems to be unaware of the fact that the anti-mainland sentiment was only increasing after their attempts to make the Hong Kong region more patriotic to China.
In a way, I don’t consider their intention here invalid – Hong Kong is after all part of the country China, but their means of doing so could definitely stand some serious PR brush-up. They are masters at propaganda. Maybe it’s time to master PR just as well?
But, these actions are not necessarily equating to Hong Kong becoming 1 country – 1 system. Some extremes are both advocating this and predicting this. But the majority of those directly familiar with the CCP don’t see this as being the case.
Just the same, some extremes of the pro-democratic side are voicing words eerily resembling that of revolution, though people are very careful to publicly use the word “revolution”.
Either extreme will neither resolve the situation nor making Hong Kong a better place.
What needs to be done at this stage is to urgently improve the trust factor between all parties – the people (and their various factions), the Hong Kong government and Beijing/China. History has told us that escalating violence and revolutions have often not resulted in any long-term betterment for the country itself, even though some managed to topple their existing regimes.
But do we really need to go there in Hong Kong? Are we even ready to take on China as an opponent through force and confrontation alone? I personally don’t think so.
Standing up for what you believe in is a very good thing. Not participating in the system which is not for and of the people is a good thing. Making yourself known to the powers that be that you’ve had enough is a human right.
I think the Umbrella Protest movement has clearly been noticed and heard and they have made an impact. The question is now, does it continue in its relentless protests on streets of Hong Kong creating further and further clashes with its own residents due to purely logistical reasons of the Silent Majority trying to get on with their life?
Will at this point continual disobedience result in a resolution or will it deepen the already huge distrust and have the opposite effect? Will the collateral damage to local store keepers, workers, transport unions and logistics unions who are directly affected by the blocked off areas and roads be worth the aims of the Umbrella Movement?
My personal view is that this is at this point no longer the case. I am however also of the view that we should never bow our heads to something or someone we don’t agree with, and neither should you.
I recommend turning to some greater examples of people who managed to bring about resolution while staying fairly calm and logical without being overtaken by emotions and being able to look at all factors and so analyze their opponents objectively. Only through reason without categorizing things and people into either black or white can a resolution for Hong Kong be achieved. Please take this to heart and let’s work together to solve this!
I’ll leave you with some of their words:
“One day we must come to see that peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but that it is a means by which we arrive at that goal. We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means.” – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding.” – Albert Einstein
“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” – Mother Teresa
“An eye for eye only ends up making the whole world blind.” – Mahatma Gandhi
“A calm warrior will always overcome an opponent fighting on pure emotion. A warrior spellbound with emotion only feels the battle, leaving himself unable to think and strategize while the red haze of fury clouds his mind.” – Artemas Khan
“He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot, will be victorious.” – Sun Tzu
“There is no instance of a nation benefitting from prolonged warfare.” – Sun Tzu
“It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.” – Sun Tzu