Hong Kong, Occupy Central and the Struggle to Maintain Democracy

In the wake of back to back days of bumper to bumper traffic, Hong Kong slowly tries to readjust to life as it was pre-Occupy Central. Protester numbers fluctuate- still far from zero- rising mainly over the weekends when the dedicated find each other, once again, in the streets.

But for the most part, main arterial roads are again available for motorists to use as they were intended and Hong Kongers might let their minds flitter back to the hours and days spent in the unforgiving heat, fighting for an ideal they believe in. Others will reminisce less romantically about what it all meant for their daily commutes – if indeed they want to remember at all.

Photo from The Straits Times

Photo from The Straits Times

If nothing else, the far reaching headlines might leave a trace of curiosity in the minds of many about the world class city that is Hong Kong. Who is she exactly, this gloriously tall city? Is she China? Is she single? What is she on about and why?

The reality is that when, how and why Hong Kong came to be is often not widely known. Although the same can be said for the history of any city, thanks to our disinterest in the past and perpetual concern for future. The future in a personal capacity of course- not necessarily in a preserve-our-world kind of way.

The truth is that Hong Kong has a narrative. It might not be the longest or the goriest, but it is a rich one that is probably more relevant to now, and the future for that matter, than any other city’s history. Hong Kongers should, for all intents and purposes, suffer from an identity crisis. And a unique one at that.
Once ruled and shaped by the British Empire, who bred ideas of democracy and capitalism, Hong Kong emerged as a world leader, a gateway to the east. A vibrant port city and banking hub. When their work here was done and it was time to retreat, Great Britain and China came to a complicated agreement. Hong Kong would remain a semi-autonomous region for 50 years, during which time the People’s Republic of China and her socialist system would keep their distance. One country two systems.

Photo from International Business Times

Photo from International Business Times

Just less than twenty years into the agreement, an uneasy mass of Hong Kongers assembled in their thousands for days on end to protest against the lack of independence from China and her policies. The democracy introduced and instilled by the British almost centuries ago, a local might argue, is slowly slipping away as China begins to play a bigger role. Puppet master if you will.

There is no better insight into the minds of the masses than through the mouths of their children. In contrast to the Catalan, who inaccurately lead their young to believe that Catalonia is indeed a country, Hong Kong appears divided in its opinion. Or in its dedication to the cause anyway.

A classroom filled with children from top earning families, offers an interesting cross section of opinions. ‘What’s the point? Nothings going to change’ shows what has to be parental apathy. A yellow ribbon sitting over the heart shows support for the cause, most likely not obtained and attached by the 11 year old himself. ‘I’m on the police’s side’ means mom and dad have obviously cheered on their efforts to rein in the protesters and their growing negative effect on the city’s functionality. Which is really quite a short sighted goal.

Photo from EJ Insight

Photo from EJ Insight

These folks owe their riches to the capitalistic economic freedoms that Hong Kong has relished in for decades. Might their children enjoy the same opportunities when China takes full control in 2047? If she can bare to keep her distance that long.

But fair enough, the average parent doesn’t dream of their child becoming a revolutionist – waiting for that phone call saying their baby’s been arrested and jailed. A parent wants the best for their child. And in Hong Kong, more than anywhere on earth, the best is seen as a high paying job in a well renowned company. Climbing that ladder as best as you can. But will that ladder even exist when China comes? Its easy to avoid revolution, but it’ll be hard when oppression arrives. Because lets face it, having something like democracy and then losing it is the epitome of persecution.

Photo from Time Out Hong Kong

Photo from Time Out Hong Kong

Of course China is petrified of her own people catching on to the unrest. Not unless a mainlander pops over for a shopping spree would they ever be aware of the battle against Beijing. Only those who happen to be around during Occupy Central are privy to the details, either staring them in the face on the street or on TV. Its preposterous to think the people of China are in complete agreement with their government’s limiting socialistic policies. China knows it and will naturally keep her people uneducated on the topic.

Unfortunately, never has freedom been won peacefully. Starting out, Occupy Central’s protesters were commended on their behaviour- composed and mostly unagitated. But will their efforts ever come to anything without a fight?  As Occupy Central becomes weeks old, clashes between protesters and police intensify. While numbers have dwindled, passions soar. Parents are starting to receive those dreaded phone calls from their handcuffed babies, with 30 arrests made this weekend. Should Hong Kong buckle up for a bumpy ride? What is it going to take and will anything ever be enough? 27 years to go.

photo from abc.net.au

photo from abc.net.au

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