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Hong Kong Paralyzed

Umbrella Man (Hong Kong, Source_ USA Today)

Hong Kong and the Republic of China have long been in dispute over the autonomy of Hong Kong. China and the single-partied regime in Beijing are set to acquire the democratic Hong Kong in 50 years, but premature steps are causing unrest in the region.

For the first time since the student-led protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989, citizens in Chinese territory have gone to the streets in the name of democracy.

What’s different this time around, however, is complicated. In a bid to combat local autonomy in Hong Kong, the Chinese government in Beijing has allowed for the people to vote for their leader, but only if the candidate is approved by the Chinese Communist Party.

On September 26, a student-led congregation took to the streets to protest this decision. Tensions rose when the police used tear gas and anti-riot tactics on the protesters, leading for more popular support for the protesters.

After reaching over 197,000 signatures, a petition on whitehouse.gov garnered this response from the Obama Administration: “Around the world, the United States supports internationally recognized fundamental freedoms, such as freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression. We urge the Hong Kong authorities to exercise restraint, and for protesters to express their views peacefully.”

Since this is the first major protest that has garnered international attention since 1989, parallels to Tiananmen Square have already been made, such as the now-famous “Umbrella Man”, which has both been compared to the “Tank Man” of 1989, and given the name for these protests, the “Umbrella Revolution”.

When asked about the riots, economics teacher Mr. Ostick says that “… when people aren’t happy with their condition, people will tend to rise up to change… I think [what’s going on] shows there is change going on in the economic system of China and Hong Kong”.

He was also asked about what would happen if the Chinese government reacted like they did in Tiananmen Square. Mr. Ostick noted that China is “in a global situation” and is not being run like the Maoism of long ago. If China was to turn violent, however, it would “hurt people around the world”, but he was also quick to say that this situation was still morally grey. “We’ve got to really look at the motives of the protesters… they’re reaching out saying ‘we need some change’. That begins to talk, and hopefully, there’s talk”.

Mr. McGuire, East Asian teacher, also had much to say. “The people of Hong Kong are used to having the freedom to assemble, the freedom to protest, and so forth, and Beijing has taken the stance that they’re not going to change.”

When asked about how Hong Kong’s British democratic history was being ignored, he responded that “Beijing has been somewhat careful in dealing with Hong Kong, but they also know that time moves along, and they want to assert more power and control. What they don’t seem to get is that the generation that is leading this rebellion was born in the late 90s, and they’ve grown up in a Hong Kong that’s different than Shanghai and Beijing. They resent the fact that Beijing, which is 1500 miles away… and [has] a whole different mindset, is suddenly imposing its will [on them].”

Hong Kong’s riots are another recent example of civilian unrest. So far, the Chinese government hasn’t responded to the riots with weapons like they did 25 years ago. This is still a developing conflict, anything can happen.

About Jake Sorensen

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