GP Insights # 89, 29 June 2019
On 26 June 2019, protesters in Hong Kong directed their petitions to the world by demonstrating at foreign governments' consulates demanding that world leaders meeting at the G20 Summit which is to take place this week in Osaka, Japan should address their concerns. This, they believe, could be a means by which they can put pressure on China. Zhang Jun, an assistant foreign minister, responded to this plead from Hong Kong by stating that Beijing opposed discussing Hong Kong at the Summit and that they would under no circumstance allow any country or individual to intervene in Chinese internal politics.
Thousands of protesters turned out for a peaceful demonstration outside City Hall chanting "Free Hong Kong! Democracy Now!". However, later that night the demonstration took a wilder turn as thousands of young protesters walked to the headquarters of the city's police force and surrounded it, few of them went on to pile metal barricades against a closed metal gate outside the complex while the officers watched from inside.
What is the background?
Protesters in Hong Kong have flooded the streets and the grounds of government offices over the past three weeks against an unpopular extradition bill that has caused a political crisis in the country. The bill allowed criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial in courts controlled by the Chinese Communist Party. The protesters have also accused China of constant meddling their democratic reform, interfering in elections, suppressing young activists, as well as being behind the disappearance of five Hong Kong-based booksellers whose works were critical of Chinese leaders.
Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam has kept a low profile since her latest public apology, gave in to public pressure and suspended the bill a day after the violent protests, however, no measure was taken to cancel the bill and she rejected repeated calls to step down.
What does it mean?
Protests in Hong Kong has several implications. Is there gradual withdrawal from the political side that was once also fighting for the cause? Moreover, will this gradual step down hinder the result that the people are also fighting for? What comes next for Hong Kong?
To highlight the first question, Carrie Lam appears to be lying low, maybe she is doing this to avoid embarrassing President Xi Jinping of China ahead of his trip to Japan, or she is trying to get things to settle down back home. However, this behaviour only implies her gradual backing away from this issue. The reason for her to act this way remains unknown, but the implications of this are clear. If the political front backs down, half the cause is lost as there needs to a synergy between the political leaders and them civilians, without which no cause can be fought for effectively.
What next for Hong Kong? Do they wait for help to come from external parties, whose attention they are seeking to gain? Alternatively, do they take matters into their hand like the clash with the police station? Hong Kong may not see much results from the G20 members for no country has responded to this pleading, and the Chinese have made it clear that they will not encourage any discussions regarding Hong Kong. The main issue is the extradition bill, which most countries do not take very seriously as they are many such bills that exist between countries; however, Hong Kong has a larger picture that is to tackle China which many countries may not want to get involved in as it is uncharted territory.
The people of Hong Kong have drastically taken matters into their hand, whether they are going to fight this issue alone remains a question. Although the political side of this issue seems to be taking a back seat, the people of Hong Kong are fighting passionately for their cause.
Abigail Miriam Fernandez is pursuing post-graduation in Stella Maris College, Chennai. She can be reached at email@example.com.