29 February 2020
Protesters march along a road in Hong Kong on Wednesday, continuing to voice their opposition to proposed changes in the city’s extradition law. Photo: Reuters
Protesters march along a road in Hong Kong on Wednesday, continuing to voice their opposition to proposed changes in the city’s extradition law. Photo: Reuters

As youth take to the streets again, pride and despair

It is one of those moments when you are overcome with feelings of pride as well as helplessness, watching young people take to the streets to stand up in defense of Hong Kong’s core values.

Witnessing the anti-extradition bill fight, there is pain as we know that authorities are unlikely to be moved by the street protests, however large the crowds may be or the intensity of the public anger.

We have seen all this before. One doesn’t need to be reminded of the 2014 Occupy Central campaign, where months-long unprecedented sit-ins, mostly by young boys and girls, failed to stir the government into enacting electoral reforms.

Still, as we notice all the various protest actions on Wednesday, which come three days after a million-strong rally, one can’t but salute the spirit and never-give-up attitude of Hongkongers. 

We may be at our desks in the office, but our hearts and minds are with the thousands of young people who have taken a day off and are swarming the streets near the legislature to decry the proposed law revision that will allow “criminal suspects” to be transferred to mainland China for trial.

For the government, the heat is on, especially after 1.03 million people came onto the streets on June 9 to thumb down the legislation that will undermine Hong Kong’s judicial independence and rule of law.

On Wednesday, as massive crowds blocked key roads, with some having camped from overnight, the Legislative Council was forced to postpone the second reading of the controversial extradition bill.

Authorities have said the fears over the legislation are unwarranted and that the new law will incorporate human rights safeguards. Also, it was pointed out that very few “fugitives” are actually likely to be extradited to China. 

But the assurances failed to convince the public, who feel China will misuse the law to target political opponents with false cases and seek extradition. There is also little confidence in the mainland’s judiciary and court system.

Besides, the issue goes beyond just the extradition law. At the heart of the matter is the protection of Hong Kong’s rule of law, core values and way of life.

It is because of such concerns that we saw almost one-seventh of the city’s residents participate in the rally last Sunday, making it the biggest such protest since the city’s 1997 handover to China.

People are particularly angry because it is Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s own brilliant idea to initiate the extradition law amendment proposal. Lam did something her predecessors chose not to touch because of the all-too-expected public reaction.

To make their voices heard, angry residents have come up with various ideas, some of them quite novel. Taking a day off from work and class and asking for a suspension of the stock market next Monday are just some of the actions aimed at rattling the government.

Amid the heightened passions, some mischief mongers, too, appear to have jumped into the fray. There are reports that senior government officials, including Lam, were receiving death threats.

If that is true, it would mark an unfortunate turn of events, and one that no sensible Hongkonger would endorse.

To put in plainly, it is not the Hong Kong way of doing things.

In other news, there were some unusual, and rather weird, action plans floated by netizens to get back at authorities in Hong Kong and the central government. 

Among those was a suggestion that mainland Chinese banks should be boycotted as a way of sending a message to Beijing.

Another idea was a selloff of Hong Kong dollars to cause instability in the financial markets.

Well, in my view, all these tactics — even if implemented — won’t work, nor can they be sustained in any forceful manner that would bring the government to its knees.

We all know how little the ‘real economy’ was affected during the Occupy Central or Mongkok protests in the past.

The search for a better solution goes on. And until we find that, let’s not get carried away too much.

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EJ Insight writer