If We Burn, You Burn With Us: Hong Kong Protests Escalate
The Arrests of Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow
The China-Hong Kong dynamics have been increasingly unstable since March, following the beginning of the Hong Kong protests against the proposed extradition bill and certain amendments made to it. While both the solidarity and determination of the protesters have been on the rise, Carrie Lam’s China-controlled government is becoming more and more violent in their actions as weeks pass by. Although Lam announced the formal withdrawal of the bill, protesters will not back down until the other four demands are addressed.
On Friday, Hong Kong Police arrested democracy activists Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow, both members of the pro-democracy Demosisto Party with Wong being the secretary-general and Chow a senior member. This followed the arrest of Andy Chan on Thursday, the head of a pro-independence party which since been banned. Wong and Chow were charged with offenses that include allegedly taking part in an illegal assembly, as well as organising and inciting protest.
Wong, who was a student leader of the 2014 Umbrella movements, tweeted after being released on bail: “My arrest shows the government answers our request for a dialogue with batons, tear gas, rubber bullets and mass arrest. Our freedom of assembly and other fundamental rights are eroded.” It is clear that these high-profile arrests were done with the aim of pointing fingers and framing certain well-known activists like Wong and Chow as the leaders of the protests, which have actually been leaderless since the beginning.
Following the arrests, an activist named Isaac Cheng has announced that they believe the police and the government are trying to spread “white terror” by conducting such high profile arrests a day before the August 31st protests that were meant to take place. Their aim by the arrests was to deter protesters from coming out by provoking fear of mass arrest. However, this approach by the Hong Kong Police only fired the remaining protesters up for the 31st. In a Twitter thread regarding the protests to take place on the 31st, Wong urged protesters to not back out due to the police threats and called them to action: “Hongkongers, together we stand! We shall never surrender!” Hong Kongers, as the main approach demonstrated, were not going to be told what not to do by the police.
Regardless of all deterrence techniques used by the police, the protests took place on Saturday, a day that marks the fifth anniversary of the Beijing government banning fully democratic elections in Hong Kong. Police brutality was once again felt by citizens, as the police sprayed blue dye and fired tear gas on civilians. The clashes became more violent as police randomly stormed certain MTR stations beating protesters and other passengers up. According to the Hong Kong Free Press, The Hospital Authority has announced that 41 were hospitalised as a result of the violence on Saturday, with five individuals in critical condition.
Although not all protesters have the exact same aim, there are five demands presented by the majority of the protesters which are: the complete withdrawal of the bill, Carrie Lam to step down as chief executive, an inquiry into police brutality as well as the release of those already arrested, and finally, democratic freedom.
Today, the 4th of September, Carrie Lam announced the formal withdrawal of the bill, yet 13 weeks in, the Hong Kong protests have sparked a yearning for autonomy that runs deeper than the simple withdrawal of the bill. With police brutality on the rise, it seems that the protesters will not back down until the other four demands are addressed.
With both the domestic and global pressure authoritarian China is facing, the Beijing government is getting impatient over the lack of results. According to Wong, the high-profile arrests and the fact that the troops and armoured vehicles of the Chinese army have been positioned right outside the Hong Kong border, ready to enter the territory ‘in 10 minutes’, all point towards a more violent and brutal potential future. A border crackdown just might be on the horizon.
While the mass arrests and the police violence are meant to push Hong Kong protesters back into their shells, it is doing the exact opposite. “If we burn, you burn with us” has been one of the main quotes associated with the protests, originating from The Hunger Games: Mockingjay. It signifies how the leaderless protests have created a unified spirit, bringing them all together to fight for the future of their country, free from the totalitarian and controlling hand of Beijing.
In a guest comment piece, Wong declared the protesters’ current calls to action that are needed for stability to be restored. Firstly for global pressure to be put on Beijing to withdraw the army placed outside the Hong Kong border. Secondly, for the international leaders of the UNSC (United Nations Security Council) to call the Chinese government to fully abide by the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration which set the terms prior to the 1997 handover. And finally, for the Hong Kong government to launch an independent investigation into the excessive use of force by the police.
Regardless of the formal withdrawal of the bill, the other four demands remain unaddressed. Although the future remains ambiguous it is certain that protestors will not loosen their grip and give up their demands.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by Impakter.com columnists are their own, not those of Impakter.com – In the cover picture: Protesters set fire Image Credit: KCRG