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Hong Kong's Anti-Extradition Movement

"My Hope Has Been Reignited" – Hong Kong's Youth Reflect on Protests

2019/06/26 , News
William Yang
Credit: AP/ TPG Images
William Yang
William Yang is a Taiwanese journalist based in Taipei, Taiwan. A graduate of Temple University's Master of Journalism program, his work has appeared in BuzzFeed News, the Guardian, the Independent, South China Morning Post and Deutsche Welle.

Hong Kong has been attracting the world's attention over the last two weeks, as millions of Hong Kong people took to the streets for two consecutive weekends, demanding the government to withdraw a controversial extradition bill that could allow anyone wanted by China to be extradited to the mainland under the proposed amendments.

Fearing such terms could seriously undermine Hong Kong's judicial autonomy and further weaken Hong Kong's civil society, protesters of different generations came out to defend what they call "Hong Kong people's way of life."

"The extradition bill is invading our human rights and our freedom," said Chi Yip Kung, a recent graduate from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. "We have no confidence in the legal system of China, so that's why we go to the protests."

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Credit: William Yang
A protester marches through Wan Chai in Hong Kong, holding a sign that reads "Praise the brave moms. Hong Kong police are all shameless" on June 16.

Kung isn't the only one who holds a suspicious view on the extradition bill and China's legal system, which is considered rigged by many people in Hong Kong. Verna Lau, a 17-year-old high school student, thinks Hong Kong government's reasoning to pass the amendments simply can't convince most Hong Kong people.

"If the bill is passed, I think the freedoms and rights that are guaranteed under the One Country, Two System's model will disappear," Lau said. "I used to be actively criticizing the government on social media, but since the introduction of the controversial amendments, I start to fear for my safety and exercise self-censorship."

A "leaderless" movement

Despite record-breaking turnouts, some have pointed out how the anti-extradition bill protest is a "leaderless" movement when compared with other previous pro-democracy movements in Hong Kong. "The major difference I immediately noticed was the lack of organizing committee and a leader during the anti-extradition bill protest," said Verena Tse, a college student from the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

As an active participant during the 2014 Umbrella Movement, Tse thinks the lack of leaders may have led to a situation where not every participant was fully utilized, whereas during the Umbrella Movement, everyone had a role and the movement also seemed more organized. "However, I'm very proud of Hong Kong people for remaining peaceful and orderly throughout the protest," said Tse.

While violent clashes between police and protesters broke out on June 12, following the protesters' attempt to occupy major roads around the legislative council, other protests and marches have remained peaceful and rational over the last two weeks.

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Credit:William Yang
Protesters pay tribute to a man surnamed Leung who passed away after falling off a high rise in Admiralty while protesting against the bill on June 15. The ad-hoc shrine was near Citic Tower, Admiralty, June 16.
Support from family

Unlike the Umbrella Movement, which caused countless fights between parents and children, both Tse and Kung said most people around them have been supportive about their involvement in the anti-extradition bill protest.

"My family has been supportive towards the protest," said Tse. "They are constantly keeping up with the news and I'm making sure that they don't just get information from one news source. I think a lot of the arguments come up because of the misrepresentation of the protest on news channels."

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To Kung, while he has the support from friends and family to take part in the protest, he was also reminded of the risks of directly confronting the police. "I received many messages from friends asking me to stay safe after news about violent clashes between police and protesters broke out on June 12, and some even asked me to leave," said Kung. "Many of my friends still believe that peaceful and rational protest is the best way to voice their discontent towards the government."

Deep Distrust in the government

Even though the Chief Executive Carrie Lam has publicly apologized through two press conferences, most protesters still find it unacceptable that she didn't sufficiently address the four demands that they have been making during the protests. To the younger generation, such response from the government only deepens their distrust toward them.

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Credit: William Yang
Thousands of protesters marched towards the government district in Hong Kong, chanting "withdraw, withdraw" on June 16.

"There have been instances where the government may originally have called for a temporary suspension of a bill, but once the spotlight is no longer on Hong Kong, the government will swiftly pass the bill," Tse said. "This is what the Hong Kong government does and that's why our generation will no longer trust them anymore."

Kung describes the government's lack of response to protesters' demands as "frustrating and unacceptable." To him, in order to force the government to initiate a discussion with the public, the more effective method may be escalating the protest.

"We used an absolutely rational and peaceful way to voice our opinion, but we can't even start a discussion," said Kung. "I still believe that public protest does have an impact, but it depends on what means you use. I don't think the old way can still work when we are fighting such a dictatorship."

Regardless of the outcome, Kung thinks the recent protests have at least helped him ignite hope once again. "I was hopeless before June 9th, but after these two weeks, I think the hope is ignited," said Kung. "But if the law passes, I cannot imagine what will happen in the future, that's terrible."

Read next: Hong Kong's March for Freedom: Walk the Path of 2 Million in 3D

Editor: Cat Thomas (@tientienkaixin)

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【LIVE UPDATES】Hong Kong Protestors Dispersed After Storming the Legislature

Hong Kong's Anti-Extradition Movement:

At the end of the 2014 Umbrella Movement, Hongkongers promised they will be back. In June 2019, Hong Kong mobilized 1/3 of the population to protest against the government's extradition bill. The News Lens is covering the on-going movement and rallies in collaboration with our Hong Kong-based team.

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