Emerging from beneath the Beijing umbrella

Opinoins_protesters-hong-kong-walking-web1Protests are necessary for democratic Hong Kong future

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published by The Other Press. September 30, 2014

There is certainly more to the Hong Kong protest situation than what we see and hear on television and the Internet. With a foreign eye though, I can only assume that those protesters are just striving for what we have here in Canada—surely that cannot be wrong, although the method of obtaining it’s not necessarily kosher.

When a chief executive is elected by a 1,200-member committee for a region of over seven-million people, that can hardly be defined as democracy; the same democracy that was promised in 1997 when Hong Kong was handed back to be ruled under the Chinese “one country, two system” structure; the same democracy that citizens of Hong Kong have still yet to experience; and the same democracy that mainland China is now keeping at arm’s length, making protocols ever harder for equality to be achieved. The word democracy is a lie. So began the unrest in Hong Kong that resulted in 80,000 people crowding the streets, using umbrellas to fend off law enforcers armed with tear gas.

“Crowded” is the apt word for life in that metropolitan city. My father spent much of his childhood and teenage years there, and I continue to have family residing in Hong Kong; what they always tell me is that the conditions are cramped. A living area the size of a Yaletown micro-suite, with far less lavishness, will commonly house a family of four, five, six, seven, and more. I should be grateful, they hint.

Although Hong Kong is a main hub for international commerce and is an economic powerhouse, the citizens are not wealthy. The majority are middle-class and they are getting by. In addition to this, 50 per cent of the population is living in government-supported or -subsidized housing. And the future influencers—the current students—are looking pessimistically at what can be and what probably will be: a government with a fist full of dollars and a region at its knees. Hong Kong is not what it once was. Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou have now taken Hong Kong’s dominance as China’s gateway from the west. It can be said that Hong Kong needs China more than China needs Hong Kong.

However, Hong Kong’s culture and the Hong Kong people have long been removed from the mainlander’s ideals and values. A simple point is that the two regions don’t even speak the same language. There is no doubt in my mind that the two places need one another, but with a strong desire to take steps further apart, I accept the fact that those of Hong Kong are identifying more with Western culture as opposed to the traditional Chinese way of handling politics.

People of Hong Kong want money and they want status within the global economy—not just China’s. We know what it would be if it stays. I’m interested to see what the people of Hong Kong can do if they depart further.

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