Fear Is Fracturing Hong Kong Faster Than Beijing Politics

Fear Is Fracturing Hong Kong Faster Than Beijing Politics
Photo Credit: AP/達志影像
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The violence on the streets of Mong Kok at the start of the Lunar New Year holiday on February 8 was more than a revolt on behalf of unlicensed food stands against police officers. It was fear rising to the surface that had been brewing since the Umbrella Revolution in 2014.

►Related News: 37 Accused Of Insurrection In Hong Kong Fishball Revolution

Mistrust is at the root of this violence. The mistrust was exasperated last year when three Hong Kong booksellers disappeared in October. Even when Guangdong police confirmed they had the three out of five booksellers in custody early this month, the Hong Kong government seem helpless in protecting citizens’ civil liberties. If not their own government, then who can people trust to protect their fundamental rights?

Although the rioters’ action were unjustifiable, the loss of Hong Kong’s identity and growing income inequality are legitimate concerns.

These are real fears felt by many Hong Kong citizens and it shows the government’s inadequate leadership in helping society makes sense of what it means to live under “one country, two systems.” I understand the people’s general fears about a fading Hong Kong identity with the growing Chinese influence.

Photo Credit: Reuters/達志影像

I traveled to Hong Kong in December 2014 during the Umbrella Movement as part of the international press covering the event. I moved around the city unhindered by police presence freely, speaking to outspoken and thoughtful citizens that are mindful this precious freedom doesn’t exist only a short drive away. Even without political autonomy, Hong Kong people can still count on their voices to matter equally regardless of class, status, age and gender, before a free press.

At the time, tensions were centered on economic inequality. I met a white collar professional working in nearby office towers who was sneaking off to the camp on lunch breaks, revealing the toll of housing unaffordability and their stunted dreams of building a family in their cramped quarters.

According to BBC, Hong Kong is the world’s 12th most unequal place to live. It says, “Government figures show that about 960,000 out of Hong Kong’s population of 7.2 million live below the poverty line…”

What Hong Kong needs to resist the influence of Beijing politics is unity within society, not the violence we witnessed in Mong Kok on the eve of the Lunar New Year. Already, the riot has given a senior Beijing official Zheng Xiaoming reasons to brand the acts as “elements of terror,” and denouncing protestors as “radical separatists inclined to terrorism.” The labels, violence, and fighting detract attention from deeper social issues. Ultimately, the fear from within Hong Kong is fracturing society faster than Beijing politics.

Photo Credit: AP/達志影像

Bridging the chasm between the police, government and young people is the work that will save Hong Kong’s unique place in the world. The riots should be recognized as acts of desperation driven by vulnerability in the face of growing inequality and restricted freedoms. To start, the government should repeal its rejection for an independent inquiry into the “Fishball Revolution.” Taking responsibility is now required from all sides.

First Editor: Olivia Yang
Second Editor: Eric Tsai