Hongkongers Breaking Old Chains and Constructing a New Society

Siu Dim


On the New Year Day of 2020, more than one million Hong Kong people defied violent threats from the authorities and demonstrated in the streets, continuing the mass mobilizations started from last June. The slogans of the resistance have changed from ¡§Hongkongers Add Oil¡¨ to ¡§Hongkongers Fight¡¨, from breaking old chains to constructing a new society.

Hong Kong police has violently repressed the protests, particularly the brutal invasions in the campus of Chinese University of Hong Kong (CU) and Hong Kong Polytechnic University (Poly U) in last November. On the day of confronting CU protesters, the police fired 4,693 ammunitions, including 2,330 tear gas; on the second day of surrounding Poly U, the police fired 7,647 ammunitions, including 3,293 tear gas. From June to November 2019, the police fired a total of 29,863 ammunitions. Up to 15 January 2020, the police arrested 7,019 protesters, of which 40% were students.

Hong Kong protesters, particularly the youths, were very brave in confronting police brutality. Their resistance drew a lot of attention in the international media. According to a survey in the United States, over half of the interviewees sympathized with the protesters. That pressured the US Congress and President Trump to pass the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act. Hong Kong Government and the regime in Beijing then tried more covert repressive measures.

Beijing suddenly replaced the Director of the Liaison Office of the Central Government in Hong Kong, showing their dissatisfaction with him. Yet under the theme of reinforcing overall rule, the policy of repression against the resistance remains unchanged. Even though Beijing intends to improve Hong Kong¡¦s economy and people¡¦s livelihood, it will not be effective due to vested interests. Moreover, the goals of the resistance are not about economic issues, but the political demands of withdrawal of extradition bill, and then of resisting the brutality of the government and the police. The driving force of sustained resistance is humanistic sympathy and support towards the protesters on the frontline.

The mass resistance against repression has resulted in the breaking of old chains: breaking through political indifference and dependency, refusing the existing order, resisting the regime and the elite rule of vested interests.

On the other hand, the violent repression reveals the huge disparity in force between the police and the protesters.  More protesters understand the heavy cost of armed struggle, and worse still, that it will not solve the problem. Thus, it becomes necessary to explore alternatives.

The turning point of the resistance, from marching on the streets to building people¡¦s power in the society, is marked by the overwhelming victory of the pan-Democratic parties and the failure of pro-Beijing parties in the District Council Elections on 24 November 2019, opening the way for organization in the society based on social and livelihood demands.

Meanwhile, a yellow economic circle, or ethical consumer circle, with the aim of reinforcing solidarity, has been in experiment soon after the resistance began. In recent months, there were long queues along the so-called yellow shops. In addition, online yellow shops and collective purchasing are in practice. Some people withdrew money from banks which belongs to mainland capital or exchanged Hong Kong dollars with US dollars. The possibility of community currency is also put on the agenda. All that means people are using the identity of consumer to fight.

Traditionally, working class organize trade unions to fight against capitalists. On 5 August 2019, several hundred thousand students, workers, and merchants went on strike against the regime. The march on New Year Day was for the first time led by trade unions, symbolising efforts on building people¡¦s power via trade unions. Old and new trade unions work together to link political demands with workers¡¦ movements. At the end of 2019, the ¡§Two Million Citizens¡¦ Joint Alliance for Strikes¡¨ has 49 trade unions, with 18 new or being formed, and the total number of members in the new trade unions exceeded 6000. By the end of January 2020, the number of applicants for Hospital Authority Employee Alliance alone has exceeded 15,000.

So far, Hongkongers have forged an identity of unity to fight the regime and are in the long and fluctuating process of trying to organize autonomous forces at the grassroots level, explore pluralism and democratic self-governance, and resist efforts by the regime and elites to divide the movement with propaganda for Hong Kong Independence or emphasis on the State.

It takes long and hard work to construct a new society that is based on conscience and fraternity instead of cut-throat competition, that respects life over profits, shows social justice with rule of law for the interests of the people, and achieves equality, overcoming discriminations based on gender, age, race, religion, culture, education, and others. Due to the lack of a clear vision and path, the resistance has to learn lessons from the experiences of resistances world-wide, in order to fight for a better future.

The Arab Spring of 2011 inspired a new wave of global resistances. In 2019, there were widespread resistances and struggles. While crises of capitalism deepen, more and more people, particularly the young, are rising up to fight against corrupt regimes, economic crises, global warming, among others. The Rojava experience is especially worth studying. Since the outbreak of civil war in Syria in 2011, Rojava has strived to be an autonomous movement. It forges alliance among Kurds, Arabs, and other peoples. While organizing ¡§People¡¦s Defense Force¡¨ and ¡§Women¡¦s Defense Force¡¨ against invasion, Rojava emphasizes the importance of local autonomy, women¡¦s liberation, and ethnical co-existence and harmony, as well as implementing different democratic institutions based on cooperatives.

Looking back at recent years of resistance in Hong Kong, we find that the Umbrella Movement of 2014 was suppressed but it triggered the valiant resistance in the Fish-ball Revolt in 2016. Since 2019, there are large-scale mass movements against the regime, with the unity of the valiants and non-violent protestors. After experiencing the limits of resisting the brutal regime on the streets, the movement has begun exploring alternative ways of building more deep-rooted and long-lasting people¡¦s power in the society, from breaking old chains to constructing a new society. While having ups and downs, it is evolving as an important experiment of grassroots people¡¦s struggles for autonomy.

31 January 2020