Sun, Oct 06, 2019 - Page 6 News List

China must address HK concerns

By Joseph Tse-hei Lee 李榭熙

China’s socialist polity has outlasted Soviet communism as a resilient form of authoritarianism, and Oct. 1 was supposed to be a major nationwide celebration of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

Yet no one could have foreseen that the months-long protests in Hong Kong would have prompted people from all walks of life to oppose police cruelty across the territory, gaining international media attention against the backdrop of the carefully staged National Day parade in Beijing.

The escalating protests constitute the most serious crisis facing Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) since he assumed power in 2013. While many Western observers have applauded the spontaneity of the protests by Hong Kongers, little attention has been given to a dramatic change of power relations in the territory’s political landscape.

First of all, the mode of state-society interaction in Hong Kong has shifted from that of being remarkably cooperative to that of being extremely conflictual. Excessive brutality dictates the Hong Kong government’s reaction to peaceful demonstrations.

For months, the riot police have resorted to executive-style violence toward unarmed civilians and have refused to disclose information surrounding the mysterious disappearance and deaths of many arrested activists.

The proliferation of police violence against pro-democracy advocates has eliminated the public’s confidence in government authorities. The most appalling example is of a police officer who deliberately shot a high-school teenager at close range on National Day, the first time live ammunition has been used during the protests. The police prohibited first-aid treatment from being administered to the injured boy and planted evidence on him by replacing the white rubber hose that he carried with an iron bar.

Another notorious case concerns the Hotel Indigo in Wan Chai, which embroiled itself in the crisis and discriminated against people because of their political beliefs. Its management and security team allegedly worked with the riot police and criminal gangs to arrest demonstrators who fled the street violence and sought refuge in the building.

Worse still, Beijing’s determination to maintain top-down autocratic control at the expense of the territory’s self-governing autonomy has made it impossible for all parties to find common ground for negotiation and compromise.

Nonetheless, the months-long resistance reads like a living biblical tale of David and Goliath. Courageous advocates have held flimsy umbrellas to protect themselves from tear gas, police batons and bullets. Their defiance, in the face of deadly threats and attacks, has inspired more people to confront hopeless situations with inner strength and truth.

As a local story in the global struggle for freedom and democracy, the current protests have made history for reasons beyond the public outrage against the morally bankrupt regime of Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥).

Following in the footsteps of the US civil rights struggle and pro-democracy movements in Taiwan, South Korea and the Philippines, the resistance has become an integral part of everyday life, rejecting the authoritarian system that China has put in place to appease Hong Kong’s business elites in the post-colonial era.

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