By Lowri Pitcher
Despite dropping controversial extradition law earlier this month, mass protests show little sign of abating.
In June, millions of Hong Kong citizens began protesting against a controversial extradition law which could have seen individuals extradited to mainland China to face trial. As protests became more fractious, it was announced on September 4 that the law would be withdrawn. Despite this, the protests show little sign of abating.
It is said that these protests now signal more than the extradition law, they are about ensuring free and fair democracy, getting Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam to stand down, conducting independent investigations into police action, releasing those who have been arrested and ensuring that Chinese actions will not threaten the semi-autonomous region’s values.
On September 15, tens of thousands of individuals rallied at the UK consulate, demanding that the UK Government protects protestors and puts pressure on the Chinese authorities to stop imposing on Hong Kong.
Initially, protests were silent and non-aggressive, gradually becoming more fractious. Police have now used water cannons, fired rubber bullets, sprayed protestors with dyed water and used tear gas; as well as having arrested over 1400 people since June. Consequently, one of the key demands of protestors includes conducting an independent inquiry into police action and accusations of selective arrests and prosecutions, an accusation the Chief Executive has denied.
Many are now also protesting for the right of freedom of speech after Ms Lam warned against any civil servants participating in demonstrations. She said that they must serve the government with ‘total loyalty’ or ‘seriously follow up on any violations of regulations by civil servants.’ This is in addition to other warnings against protestors such as the Chinese authorities which have ordered Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong’s flagship airline company, to ban workers who participate in the protests, from traveling to China.
These protests are not only made up of workers and politically motivated individuals. Students also make up a significant portion of those unhappy with the potentially closening ties between mainland China and Hong Kong. Up to 10 of the territory’s 13 universities have seen class boycotts this academic semester. More than 10,000 students reportedly refused to attend classes at the beginning of the term in protest to what they claim is Beijing’s attempt to control the region’s educational system.
One teacher cited the example of textbooks provided by the authorities which are described as censored, with history books, for example, omitting any information about the pro-democracy Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989.
University protesters now claim that the authorities want to ban liberal studies classes and replace them with Chinese history classes which would impose mainland China’s views upon students in the region.
Kung Lui, a university student said that the “protests have revealed lots of social problems and proved that democracy and freedom are the core values of Hong Kong.” She also stated that demonstrations will continue until the demands of the people are met.
As the protests pass their 16th week, they show very little sign of dissipating. In an attempt to quell the political tensions, on September 17, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced that the administration will hold ‘public dialogue sessions’ this week, some of which members of the public can sign up to attend.