Thursday, July 25, 2019

Interesting Times in Hong Kong

Recently, there have been a series of on going protests in Hong Kong over a recent law of extradition that would allow the government in Beijing to extradite people from Hong Kong accused of a crime to be tried in Beijing. On the face of it, just acts of civil disobedience by people in protest over a proposed law. Happens in practically any country. This series of protests started March 31, 2019 with protesters on different days numbering anywhere from a few thousand, often in the hundreds of thousands and reportedly as many as one million people according to organizers on June 9 and have been continuing even after the July 9th announcement by Chief Executive Carrier Lam that the bill is dead. It may well be that the energy behind this current round of protests will be eventually spent or that the government in Beijing will take more forceful steps to quell the public disorder. It is to be hoped that some peaceful solution be found but we shall see.

But there is perhaps reason to suggest that something else may be lurking beneath the surface.

Things got interesting or provocative depending on one's point of view. On July 1, 2019, the 22nd anniversary of the British handover of Hong Kong to the People's Republic of China, the protesters broke into the Legislative Council building and [from Wikipedia] "... hundreds of protesters stormed the legislature after breaking through the glass walls and metal doors of the building.[148] Protesters damaged portraits of former pro-Beijing presidents of the Legislative Council, spray-painted slogans such as "It was you who taught me peaceful marches did not work," and "There are no rioters, only tyrannical rule,"[149][150][151] smashed furniture, defaced the Hong Kong emblem, waved the Union Flag and displayed the colonial Hong Kong flag on the podium.[152][153] At the same time, protesters hung up signs and installed barricades, warning others to protect cultural objects and to do no damage to books in the library while protesting.[154] The police started using tear gas to disperse protesters around the LegCo at 12:05 am and reached the building 15 minutes later."

Interesting as there may perhaps be more here than meets the eye. It does appear to me that the defacement of the present PRC Hong Kong flag and the display of the old British Colonial Hong Kong flag may be a sign that some of the protesters may be beginning to develop their own national identity as Hongkongers. I have heard one report that the display of the British Colonial flag was an appeal to the U.K. for support, not a desire to return to British colonial rule. Here maybe I am reading too much into this as being a nascent nationalist sentiment, I could be wrong but a group of protesters engaging in an act of civil disobedience in protest of a law passed at the behest of a far-off government with no input from the local citizenry does have a parallel in U.S. history: the Boston Tea Party.

This isn't the first of such protests as the 2014 Umbrella Movement comes to mind and this present set of demonstrations may well end but I suspect it may not be the last. Again, I may be wrong but there is a possibility of a future Boston Massacre type of situation followed by another shot heard 'round the world. I still could be reading more into this situation than it is and most likely this will not happen but it's still a non-zero probability.

Interesting times in Hong Kong.

Donald Cavaioli

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