What Returning to Hong Kong Taught Me
When my mother booked my flight to Hong Kong, the extradition bill had not even been put forward and there was no reason to believe that I would end up in Hong Kong while some of its biggest protests would take place. By the time I boarded my flight, the controversial bill had been put forward and people had already started protesting against it. Since I have been here, the amount of protests per week has increased and the police and protestors have clashed more and more often. Yesterday, thousands of people chose to strike in the name of the protests and rallies were held around the city. It was weird to see Hong Kong, a city of which people say that a New York minute is like a Hong Kong second, come close to a still stand due to the many roadblocks and rallies. Over night, things escalated and one police station was even set on fire.
I have talked about my opinion on the protests before, but last night's actions have made me reflect on the protests a lot more and I would like to share my thoughts with you guys. In some way, I can understand why protestors are becoming increasingly agitated with the government's response and therefore choose to become more radical. The government's response to obvious opposition to the extradition bill is insufficient. Carrie Lam, Hong Kong's Chief Executive, may have declared the extradition bill to be 'dead', but she has not withdrawn it, thereby failing to legally 'kill' it. The protests are about more than just the extradition bill and the government's response to the protestors' five demands has been as insufficient as its response to the demand that the extradition bill be withdrawn.
But what is the right response to lack of governmental commitment to democratic freedoms? I thought a lot about this question and it makes me wonder whether I would show up for protests like those that happened yesterday if something similar was going on in my home country, Germany. I grew up with a privilege I did not know was a privilege until I moved to Hong Kong - democratic freedoms. I took my parents' ability to vote for granted and never questioned my ability to tweet about my dissatisfaction with government policies. Which actions would I see as justified to fight for these freedoms?
The honest answer is that I am not sure and this answer makes me uncomfortable. It is easy to look at some of the protestors' actions and label them as violent and condemnable. This was my initial reaction to the first photos I saw from what happened last night. But at the same time, many of the protestors take extreme risks to stand up for democracy. I went out last night to grab something to eat and ended up standing next to many protestors wearing black shirts and carrying goggles who were waiting in line for ordering their food. The fact that the police's use of tear gas has become so normal that protestors bring goggles is saddening. But it makes the fact that they show up so much more impressive. And I am grateful to the people who show up for these protests. As someone who has lived in Hong Kong for two years and who has definitely left a part of her heart in this city, I want Hong Kong to maintain its democracy; to protect it and allow it to flourish. These protestors want the same.
Does this mean that I support the violent actions of some protestors last night? No. But I am not 100% against the protestors who committed these acts and that is a weird mental split which I am currently going through. I disagree with the violence and certain acts, but I also agree that the peaceful protests did not achieve enough. The government has shown that it is not willing to respond effectively to peaceful protests - does this mean that protestors should go further? I am not sure. When I wrote my outline for this post, I was hoping that writing my thoughts down would make me form a clearer opinion, but I realised that I cannot do that. I am simply unsure and it makes quite uncomfortable to say that because we are usually expected to have clear opinions. How can you have a good political debate if you are unsure about things?
But while writing this, I realised that being unsure is not necessarily a bad thing. We are so afraid of not having answers that we often just pick a side, even if we do not really agree with it. But there is a lot to explore in the grey zones. Really thinking about what pulls me to agreeing with the protestors and what pulls me to disagreeing with them taught me more about my political thinking than simply saying I am with or against them ever could have. So for now, I am unsure.
If you would like to share your opinion on this post with me, you are more than welcome to message me!
Lots of Love,