Oppose Tyranny and Deepen Mass Mobilization in Hong Kong
October Review Commentator
Since June 2019, Hong Kong has seen demonstrations of ¡§No China Extradition Bill¡¨, fighting for democratic justice, opposing violence of government, police, and triad. It has caught global attention. We fully support the movement of Hong Kong people¡¦s fighting for democratic justice. We oppose the repressive political regime, and we need to deepen mass mobilization, and to link democratic justice to the economy and people¡¦s livelihood, in order to build a society with equality, justice, bottom-up democracy, and self-governance.
There is an old Chinese saying that ¡§it takes more than one cold day for a river to freeze three feet deep.¡¨ The Chinese central government and the Hong Kong government have always suppressed the democratic development in Hong Kong. Since 2003, both governments have planned to pass the No.23 Article of national security by any means; in 2004, China¡¦s National People¡¦s Congress vetoed both the universal suffrages for electing Hong Kong Chief Executive in 2007 and the Legislative Council in 2008; in 2007, the proposal of the two universal suffrage elections in 2012 was rejected; in 2012, the secondary school curriculum of Moral, Civic and National Education was to be enforced; in 2014, the Resolution of China National People¡¦s Congress on 31 August vetoed again the dual universal suffrages, which led to the Occupy Central Movement and then the Umbrella Movement which urged to ¡§Let the People Get Self-rule and Universal Suffrage¡¨; in 2016, some protestors in Mongkok clashes were charged for rioting. One of them was sent to prison for 7 years. It was the longest prison sentence for rioting since the cessation of Hong Kong to the west. In the same year, six legislative council members from pan-democracy group were disqualified. From 2015 to 2018, the student leaders of Umbrella Movement, i.e., Joshua Wong, Alex Chow, and Nathan Law were charged with unlawful assembly and inciting other people to join an unlawful assembly, and they repeatedly appealed; in 2019, the planners of the Occupy Central Movement, i.e., Benny Tai, Chan Kin Man, and Chu Yiu Ming, and six other organizers were charged and sentenced to prison for eight to sixteen months. The social wound is getting deeper. Years of repressed anger will not be held down any more. The future has become uncertain.
Hong Kong people continuously went for street demonstrations to make political appeals. Unfortunately, the Hong Kong government has been totally indifferent and refused to follow popular will. It made the people boil with rage. Protests have erupted unstoppably everywhere. On 9 June, the Civil Human Rights Front held the demonstration of ¡§Defending Hong Kong and Opposing China Extradition Bill¡¨, and claimed that there were one million protestors plus one (the victim¡¦s death due to protesting the bill). Yet, the Hong Kong government intentionally refused to listen to people¡¦s voices, and declared to resume the second reading of the Bill on 12 June and even to advance the third reading. On 12 June, there was a general strike, and many protestors blocked the building of the Legislative Council, in order to prevent the second reading of the Bill. At last, the police suppressed the demonstration. On 15 June, although the Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam declared to ¡§suspend¡¨ the Bill, but she refused to ¡§withdraw¡¨ the Bill. On 16 June, the Civil Human Rights Front held a demonstration to urge the Hong Kong government to fulfil five demands: (1) A complete withdrawal of the extradition bill; (2) not charging protesters and the unconditional release of all arrested protesters; (3) Establishment of an independent inquiry about abuses of violence by the police; (4) Retraction of the characterization of the protest on 12 June 2019 as ¡§riots¡¨; (5) Implementation of Universal Suffrage. The organizer claimed there were 2 million protesters. The Hong Kong government was not moved by two demonstrations with millions of protestors, and still refused to withdraw the Bill. On 1 July, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Establishment Day, many people gathered in Admiralty and Wan Chai and demanded the release of the arrested protestors. At 9 pm, some protestors marched into the building of the Legislative Council and occupied there for about 3 hours. They cried out ¡§there are no rioters, there is only tyranny¡¨. Afterwards, they retreated and brought away the last four protestors who were unwilling to leave. On 21 July, in Yuen Long MTR Station and its vicinity, more than a hundred men, dressed in white, indiscriminately attacked unarmed passengers and passers-by. During the violent attacks, which lasted intermittently for nearly two hours, there was zero police presence. The attack completely created a big shock and inflicted a lasting anger among the general population. Afterwards, the police arrested 12 suspects but only on the charge of illegal assembly. On 27 July, the application for ¡¥Free Yuen Long¡¦ Demonstration was rejected by the police, but thousands of people went to Yuen Long to denounce the government, police, triad, as well as rural groups of complicity in crimes against the people. On 28 July, demonstrations and protests continued. Large-scale clashes between the police and the protestors erupted. The police issued a lot of tear gas, rubber bullets, sponge bullets, and pepper bullets to dispel protestors. At last, the police arrested 49 suspects and among whom 44 were charged with rioting.
The majority of protestors in these demonstrations were young people. The government neglected public opinion, and worse still, it turned deaf and blind to those young people who were adamant for democratic justice. This led to thousands of young people going for street demonstrations to fight for justice, to fight against the police¡¦s abuses of violence, and even the institutional violence exercised by law and police. Protests and resistances have happened in many communities. People are building Lennon Walls at every corner to voice out their ideas and discuss about political change. The ongoing movements are diversified. They adopt horizontal and participatory approaches, positing slogans such as ¡§No Host¡¨ (to be self-initiated and self-organized), ¡§Not to sever relations to your friends with different positions¡¨ (to show solidarity and tolerance), ¡§be water¡¨ (to act like water carrying both the characteristics of tenderness and toughness), making a wave of protests forcing the government under pressure, interrupting the operation of parliamentary system, and targeting the impotent bureaucracy, the abusive police, the brutal triads, and the local rural bullies. In the process of mass movements, in the intertwining of tears and blood, there is nurtured a good faith of ¡§gathering people¡¦s power to change the world¡¨.
On the other hand, during the demonstrations, some people requested Europe and the US to intervene. They waved these flags and even asked for the consulates to help. It showed that they were completely disappointed with the Chinese government and the Hong Kong government, so they desperately turned to Europe and the US, even though they knew that they would not rescue Hong Kong. Ironically, such behaviors showed that they inherited the colonialist mentality. They still had illusions that Europe and the US have liberty, democracy, human rights, and rule of law, and are superior than the so-called backward countries. Thus, they begged the former colonizers for help. However, if we look at international political economy, we can find that Europe and the US, with their hegemonic financial capitalism which enables them to support political puppets and economic dependents, have their utmost purpose to maintain the financial hegemony of Europe and the US in order to control the world. Therefore, we believe that the large-scale democratic movement of Hong Kong people should develop its own strength and reject any infiltration or appropriation by European and US hegemony. Meanwhile, we should be vigilant against the Chinese government in inciting nationalism in order to shift public attention from covering its crimes of being complicit in the oppression by the Hong Kong bureaucracy on democratic development and in the super exploitation by big capitalists on the grassroots people.
This democratic movement directly appeals for political democracy, but what the authoritative regime wants to maintain is Hong Kong¡¦s inherited colonial economic system which over-exploits people and benefits largely transnational capitalists, particularly property-developers and financial groups. Therefore, an appeal for a democratic system with universal suffrage should be linked to a program of economic democratization which fights for fairness and justice and secures people¡¦s livelihoods. That means a political appeal of universal suffrage, or a proposal of implementing political democracy, should be linked to social movements devoted to change Hong Kong¡¦s capitalism with its nature of injustice and over-exploitation. Any social resistance at a particular time and place will succeed only if it is linked to global social movements against differentiation and xenophobia. Hence, Hong Kong social movements must be linked to grassroots and social movements of mainland China and the world, in order to resist together political tyranny and international financial monopoly capitalism, starting from bottom-up battles for political democracy and social justice. 31 July 2019