Protests in Hong Kong Intensify

Sable Liggera '17 Assistant News Editor 

The roots of the current Hong Kong protests, popularly referred to as the Umbrella Movement, actually stems back to a 2007 decision made by the Chinese government. The decision mandated that, beginning in 2017, upcoming elections for Hong Kong’s top official, the chief executive, would not be influenced by Beijing but instead by universal suffrage. Tensions began, however, when the decision was reversed on the Aug. 31 after Beijing decreed that all candidates would have to approved by a pro-China committee instead. When this decision was released, small protests followed and began growing intensity and number.

While the protests were and are largely non-violent, police began responding using tear gas and pepper spray. The origin of the name the Umbrella Revolution actually arose from protesters use of umbrellas to guard themselves against the spray of tear and pepper spray. Another popular nickname for the movement is Occupy Central. This name was conceptualized because, the Friday following the Aug. 31 decision, thousands of pro-democracy protesters organized a massive week-long sit-in at Hong Kong’s central government complex, the place where the protests also originated.

A large number of the participants in the protests are college age men and women, but they do include people from all avenues of life. The Hong Kong Federation of Students and Scholarism, which is currently mobilizing student boycotts and demonstrations, stated their goals are to obtain the withdrawal of the decision, universal suffrage, the resignation of Chief Executive CY Leung and the submission of a new electoral reform plan.

Recently, violent clashes have begun to occur not only between pro-Beijing and pro-Hong Kong protesters but also between residents and protesters. Some protesters have even begun leaving the Mongkok area, where the protests are mainly taking place, because they fear a resurgence of violence similar to that of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, which resulted as an extreme reaction to pro-democratic protestors. Even more protesters, however, are expressing their determination to not leave until Leung steps down and China allows Hong Kong to select its own leader in its 2017 election.

There is long standing tension between Beijing and Hong Kong. After the Opium War between the British and Qing Empires was ended by the Treaty of Nanking in 1842, Great Britain claimed Hong Kong. It was only until 1997 that Hong Kong officially came back under the Chinese government’s control through an agreement made in 1984. Still, the social and political development of Hong Kong was naturally different as a result.

As such, Hong Kong is technically only incorporated into China as an administrative region; a part of China, yet still separate. This is through the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, which proclaims the principle of “one country, two systems,” allowing Hong Kong to retain a large part of its autonomy and its capitalist economy.

As for the central government, Beijing has expressly condemned the protests as illegal and has tightened media coverage of current happenings in Hong Kong. Other than general statements, Beijing seems to be largely staying out of the conflict.

NewsSophian Smith