Protests in Hong Kong: The Interests and Goals of the Movement
Inside, university students are engaged in intense debate. A moonfaced young man, his thick hair pulled up in a bun, rises from his seat at a long white table to attack the formula known as “one country, two systems,” which was deployed in the early eighties, by the Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, as he negotiated with Britain for the handover of Hong Kong. It seemed to guarantee that after the handover, which took place in 1997, Hong Kong would continue to enjoy distinct political and socioeconomic freedoms for at least fifty years. The young man, however, declares that the formula is nothing but a “rhetorical coverup” for an erosion of liberties. Given the city’s compromised autonomy, hasn’t the central government, in Beijing, broken its promise to the people of Hong Kong?
The organization Reporters without Borders found that in 2014, Hong Kong’s press freedom had declined relative to earlier years. China has also been reaching beyond its borders in an attempt to control its image — for example, denying visas to reporters who were asking too many questions about high-level corruption. The country was even linked to apparent attacks on the New York Times website.
This also explains why young people have psychological resistance to return to China because their lives have not improved much after the handover. It is also why some young people waved the British flag during demonstrations which are clearly a sign of remembering the “good old days” for university students under the British rule. Obviously, the lack of opportunity for Hong Kong young people to have upward mobility is a serious threat to individual well-being and societal quality of life. Nevertheless, young people are commonly not aware of the fact that the lack of social mobility also exists in many developed countries in the world and there was also much inequality under the British rule. In other words, young people with poor well-being are emotionally charged time bombs waiting to be detonated. Finally, students with special educational needs may be a factor that should not be overlooked. When we examine the slogans of the protesters, it is not uncommon to see that there are many incorrectly written Chinese characters. There are two possible explanations – either the protesters are poorly educated or they are dyslexic who are commonly having difficulties in writing Chinese characters. It is noteworthy that students with special education needs (e.g., those with autistic features or dyslexic) are stubborn in their views.
Through those interactions, China will define what kind of great power it will become. North Korea, the East and South China Seas, and Taiwan are the most obvious of these specific encounters. But Hong Kong is as well. If the struggle there for a more democratic system ends well, it will tell us something positive about China’s future trajectory. If it ends badly, it will say something very different.
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Yau, C. (2020). HK$65 million bill for repairs on public facilities vandalised by antigovernment Protesters.
Zimbardo, P. G. (1969). The human choice: Individuation, reason, and order versus deindividuation, impulse, and chaos. Nebraska Symposium on Motivation, 17, 237–307.