When I agreed to write about the Hong Kong Democratic Movement for Hong Kong Free Press nine weeks ago, I felt full of hope. I thought the democratic movement I so believed in, that had faded in the intermittent years between the Umbrella Movement until now, was about to resurface.
This time, maybe we could have a bigger range of support from more sectors of society, as the anti-extradition bill movement had garnered already. Through numbers we would encourage more of the general public to support the cause.
I thought even if this wave died down quickly, another will come again, each time gaining more momentum. Then maybe, even if we didn’t reach the ultimate goal of full democracy and self-determination, we could keep our rights and continue to operate as a free territory.
The groundswell did happen, many sectors in society did join The Resistance, as the protests are called in Cantonese. The array of civil-disobedience has been wide and varied: massive peaceful protests of two million people, more confrontational ones, smaller segmented protests that were held by lawyers, seniors, housewives, families and more, a widespread general strike and the most recent peaceful sit-in at the airports that have shut it down, this time, turned violent quickly after the police arrived.
Yet, Chief Executive Carrie Lam has repeatedly come out in separate press conferences in recent weeks with her signature arrogant face and toddler pout, and reiterated that the government will not give in on any of the five demands. Which range from her to step down, to full democracy.
Inbetween, the Hong Kong Macau Affairs Office hinted at a harsh clampdown, and complimenting those statements were newly released videos of the PLA in full riot gear quelling protesters. They have even gathered more soldiers in Shenzhen, just across the border.
Despite these being most likely empty threats, the Chinese government had made their position clear. They would rather send in the army than acquiesce. Which made me remember conversations I had with friends of mine who said at the outset that they didn’t believe the protests would achieve anything. They still came out because they felt the need to stand up and be counted, to exercise their rights under the Basic Law.
I thought about the truly heartfelt interview of a civil servant I watched. He cried as he said, “This civil servants’ protest will not have success. I just know we had to come out and support the young people, to support Hong Kong society.”
“If people were scared, there would be no 6/9 and 6/12 protests. We would just be well behaved. We would just be slaves.”
I thought of a writer, recalling his experience with the front-line protesters who are no longer scared of death: “They don’t have guns in their pockets, but many youngsters carry their last will and testaments with them as they finish their preparations [to go protest].”
I recalled a conversation of a young woman on the phone with her mother who was asking her to go home, the daughter wept: “I am not afraid.”
Thinking of those people, and watching what has transpired, I too have begun to fear that The Resistance will fail.
After which we will watch Hong Kong step-by-step turn into just another Chinese city. The people will be under surveillance, accept lawlessness in the courts, not to mention live with a completely unrestrained justice system full or torture, mass incarceration, and systematic organ harvesting of political prisoners.
This has been the trajectory of the last nine weeks. The police have banned protests, infringing on the right to gather. The CCP have used people’s workplaces to censor political belief, as they have with Cathay Pacific, infringing freedom of conscience.
The prosecutor’s office has accused their own Justice Secretary Teresa Cheng of political prosecution, destroying the independence of the legal system. All of which made the news, but Carrie Lam’s government are fully behind this course.
Hong Kong people can foresee the worst-case scenario: one day the curtain will fall and we will be completely blanketed by the authoritarianism of the CCP. The great firewall will cut the internet and people will no longer have access to the world, or the world to us. Anyone telling an inconvenient story will be taken into detention and lost within the system of no recourse.
It seems more and more likely and Hong Kong people are increasingly aware of it. This Resistance is no longer about fighting the extradition bill, or for the Five Demands. What it is now, is an all-encompassing protest movement against simply not just encroachment but becoming fully a part of China. It is making people desperate, it’s pushing people to violence, as in many other moments in history.
There have always been groups of people who eventually lost but stood their ground in the meantime. The Lake of Blood in Ecuador against the Spanish, the Warsaw Uprising against the Nazis, the Battle of Shanghai against the Japanese, the Prague Spring in Czechoslovakia against the Soviets, and recently the Ukrainians against the Russians in Crimea.
Those people despite knowing that they were facing a superior military power, remained steadfast in their beliefs, in their identity and their dignity.
So for now, Hong Kong is still open. We’re still in the front page news. The world can watch.
This may not be our final stand, but it could be our last. So let the record show, may it be written in history books, and for us to tell our children, that in 2019 Hong Kong people made a stand, fought a gallant battle for our own freedoms in the face of unspeakable sacrifice and overwhelming odds.
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