Years of dashed hopes fuel Hong Kong protest rage

Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka) - - NEWS -

As Hong Kong is con­vulsed by fresh anti-gov­ern­ment protests, many of those who have taken to the streets say they feel this is their last chance to pro­tect the city’s free­doms af­ter years of slow stran­gu­la­tion by Bei­jing.

Four years ago huge pro-democ­racy “Um­brella Move­ment” protests brought parts of the city to a stand­still for months, but that cam­paign even­tu­ally fiz­zled with­out the gov­ern­ment mak­ing any ma­jor con­ces­sions.

The cur­rent protests are focused on a con­tro­ver­sial pro­posal to in­tro­duce a law al­low­ing ex­tra­di­tions to coun­tries Hong Kong doesn’t al­ready have a treaty with -- in­clud­ing China.

Or­gan­is­ers said over a mil­lion peo­ple took to the streets on Sun­day -- po­lice put the fig­ure at a more mod­est 240,000 -- but pro-bei­jing Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Carrie Lam has re­jected all calls to de­lay or with­draw the bill.

“We have been lis­ten­ing and lis­ten­ing very at­ten­tively,” she said af­ter Sun­day’s protests, but in­sisted her ad­min­is­tra­tion had al­ready made sub­stan­tial con­ces­sions.

While the extraditio­n law may be the rallying point for pro­test­ers, many say dis­sat­is­fac­tion is more deeply rooted.

Here are some of those voices: Kit Ho, 35, a fi­nance worker, had tears stream­ing down her face as she de­scribed why she felt com­pelled to join the protests.

“The gov­ern­ment wasn’t elected by the peo­ple and clearly they don’t pass laws based on the universal val­ues shared by Hong Kongers and the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity.

“There hasn’t been any time for Hong Kong peo­ple to gasp for breath. We have worked so hard to build a civilised so­ci­ety.” Ja­son Ng, a lawyer and ac­tivist who wrote a book about the Um­brella Move­ment said the back­lash against the extraditio­n law had been caused by “out­rage and worry” grow­ing for years.

“Since the Um­brella Move­ment in 2014, Bei­jing has ac­cel­er­ated its political agenda for Hong Kong and tight­ened its grip on civil so­ci­ety.

“It’s much more wary of dis­sent and less likely to give in to protests and other forms of pop­u­lar de­mands, for fear that it might en­cour­age and em­bolden civil so­ci­ety.

“The extraditio­n bill con­tro­versy has back­fired on Bei­jing by gal­vanis­ing civil so­ci­ety once again, af­ter years of ap­a­thy and protest fa­tigue in the after­math of the Um­brella Move­ment.

“The more Bei­jing pushes, the harder Hong Kong peo­ple push back.” Clau­dia Mo, a vet­eran pro-democ­racy law­maker, be­lieves China’s pa­tience with Hong Kong’s rau­cous democ­racy move­ment is wear­ing thin.

“Bei­jing is ob­vi­ously fed up with Hong Kong af­ter the Um­brella Move­ment, that Hong Kongers have simply re­fused to learn to be grate­ful and obe­di­ent to the mother country.

“But we won’t ac­cept de­feat. The one mil­lion strong protest pa­rade was a dis­play of the power of the pow­er­less.” Tom Chan, 28, a fi­nance worker, took the day off work and donned a black mask and dark glasses to join the pro­test­ers be­cause he felt pro­foundly pessimisti­c about the city’s fu­ture.

“Of course I hope this can be re­solved peace­fully, with­out any clashes, but it depends on whether the gov­ern­ment is will­ing to com­mu­ni­cate with the peo­ple. If they con­tin­u­ously ig­nore the opin­ion of the whole so­ci­ety, then it could pro­voke re­sis­tance.

“I think this is even grim­mer than the Um­brella Move­ment. The gov­ern­ment is ig­nor­ing the will of the peo­ple even more af­ter that oc­cu­pa­tion. I feel even more mis­er­able now. “

Or­gan­is­ers said over a mil­lion peo­ple took to the streets on Sun­day -- po­lice put the fig­ure at a more mod­est 240,000 -- but pro-bei­jing Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Carrie Lam has re­jected all calls to de­lay or with­draw the bill

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