What is it?
Why has China decided to implement this policy, and what does it mean? While China uses a communist (turned socialist) system, Hong Kong is undeniably democratic. Democracy encompases the entire political spectrum, whilst Communism is an extreme on the left wing.
During World War 2, Hong Kong was a British Colony. However, in 1984 Margaret Thatcher signed the Sino-British Joint Declaration, agreeing Hong Kong would be handed back over to China in 1997. The declaration included conditions that Hong Kong would retain its capitalist economy and democratic political system for 50 years after the handover. China, a socialist country, would not be able interfere with Hong Kong’s governing except in foreign and defence affairs. The legal system in Hong Kong would continue to be modelled after Britain’s. China may have regained Hong Kong, but it could not change the political system, and thus the term, “One Country, Two Systems” was born.
What was the Umbrella Revolution?
The Umbrella Revolution happened in September 2014, 17 years after the handover. The aim of the protest was to gain “real democracy.” The protests were a reaction to Hong Kong’s proposed electoral reforms. The Chinese government in Beijing wanted more control over Hong Kong affairs, giving them the right to approve any changes in the Hong Kong legislative council. Many people of Hong Kong felt this was undemocratic, they wanted true universal suffrage - free from interference.
Starting as a class boycott by student-led unions, it quickly turned into a city-wide protest. Protesters first occupied Central (the business district in Hong Kong). The occupation of this area was crucial, because the protests resulted in the Hong Kong economy being disrupted. Police actions sparked more protest, prompting citizens to also occupy the streets of Mongkok and Causeway Bay, two busy urban areas. The protesters occupied the streets for 2 months.
What was the aftermath of the Umbrella Revolution?
During the Umbrella Revolution, there were the “Yellows” and the “Blues”; the “Yellows” supported the movement, and the “Blues” did not. Younger students who grew up under British rule are more anti-China, whereas their parents often support integration with mainland China. The political tension was so great that I know some families struggled to cooperate due to different political opinions within the family. Policemen faced stressful long working hours during the protests, and some of their friends and family members would often face discrimination from those who supported the movement.
The protest divided the city. This period of time was clearly one of turmoil and unrest in Hong Kong. It was the first time I had seen the police use violence against peaceful protest. Everything was clearly televised, and citizens were well informed of the situation. How would the central government deal with the civil disobedience?
The central government censored news of the Umbrella Movement in mainland China. Amnesty International reported that dozens of mainland Chinese people had been arrested because they have shown support for the movement. In the media, official Chinese newspapers called to create an atmosphere in China in opposition to the protests in Hong Kong. The Umbrella Movement in their eyes was seen as “anti-democratic.”
The current situation
Normal life in Hong Kong has resumed and the public protests have ended. Some of the leaders of the student movement still face physical assault from people who were supportive of Beijing in the unrest. In June 2015 there were more protests, where thousands, once again, voiced their protest at the government. The Chief Executive, Leung Chun Ying, faces constant scrutiny from citizens, with criticism coming online, and from other politicians. Although the division of society has dissolved, there is still bitterness towards the police, and the government.
The question remains: what will happen to Hong Kong after the 50 years is over?
Original image by Lee Sui Yuen