EDITORIAL: Listen to the voices of Hong Kong protestors

By Editorial Board

Maddy Asma

It is a core-shaking feeling to know you may wake up one morning to find your rights stripped away. In Hong Kong, protesters primarily aged 15–30 have been protesting to protect their rights since March.

Hong Kong was handed over from British rule to Chinese rule in 1997, where it was to remain under the “one country, two systems” policy—in which it would be socially communist but economically capitalist, with a partially democratic political system—for the next 50 years, or until 2047. With that deadline a few decades away, the protesters see the early onset of the loss of their democratic autonomy coming quickly­­—within their lifetimes, even.

Hong Kong’s democracy was threatened when a proposed extradition law became public knowledge. This law would allow a person arrested in Hong Kong to face trial elsewhere, such as mainland China.

This would hand over an incredible amount of power to Chinese authorities, meaning that anyone who bucks up against the police could ultimately find themselves under the authority of China, a Communist government.

“In recent years, the Hong Kong government has disqualified elected lawmakers, banned activists from running for office, prohibited a political party, jailed pro-democracy leaders, expelled a senior foreign journalist and looked the other way when Beijing kidnapped its adversaries in Hong Kong,” Ben Bland, a Hong Kong expert at the Lowy Institute in Australia, said in a June 11 Vox article.

As with many social uprisings, its proponents have faced backlash for their actions, primarily for how they are going about the protests, which have been dubbed—even by those involved—as “chaotic.” The perceptions that often surround these movements, especially ones led by young people, are those in power feel disrespected by youth, and see their desire to control their own political narrative as unwarranted and extremist.

Point blank, Hong Kong youths are not happy. But can we not afford chaos and disorder when run-of-the-mill actions have little affect?

Those who sympathize with the Hong Kong protestors know there is something honorable in the passion that continues to bring them to the streets for months despite the violent reaction they face. The magnitude and resilience they display is powerful. Just as much as these swelling motivations don’t happen overnight, neither does a solution. With the months of work they have put in and no end in sight, there is a conversation that has taken place regarding how people navigate their own subjugation, and that has been broadcasted internationally.

Americans have shown this same commitment to change over the long haul, as well. The Civil Rights movement, for example, existed in its initial form decades before there was national traction. But protests in this same vein, and the loud voices that accompany them, continue because social justice matters and human rights matter, regardless of the chaos that ensues.

It can be said protests are a young person’s game. With their energy and ability to hold on, they know there is something waiting on the other side— something greater, hopefully. But as much as it is their future they are fighting for, it is also everyone’s future now.

If we abroad can be anything to these injustices, we can be informed witnesses. This is not synonymous with being an observer. Rather, a witness can uphold the realities of those fighting for their rights and hold others accountable.