It's hard to find positive news in Hong Kong these days. Every day, the world watches with growing anxiety as its citizens bravely stand up against what they consider the oppressive hand of China. So much of that anxiety stems from the unknown: if China cracks down on Hong Kong will anyone stand up for the political dissidents? Yet, that same uncertainty is also the source of some incredible inspiration.
Over one-hundred thousand protesters in the semi-autonomous city of Hong Kong formed a human chain that snaked its way through the city and up the famous Lion Rock hill, in protest against the Chinese mainland government's attempt at more centralized rule over the city. The visuals from the spectacle, much like the unyielding struggle for freedom around the globe, are impossible to ignore.
Organizers of the protest were inspired by the "Baltic Way," a similar protest in 1989 in which citizens across Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia formed a human chain of nearly two-million people across 419 miles to pressure the Soviet government in Moscow into giving them autonomy and the right to self-government. It was a significant event at the time and the hope is that following in those footsteps now will keep international attention on the situation in Hong Kong.
Below the Lion Rock, Hong Kong Way edition. One of the most beautiful things about HK is its blend of rural & urban. It was all the more striking tonight to see protests across city streets & mountain trails. (Pic: Lam Chun Tung/Initium Media) #HongKongWay #BalticWay30 pic.twitter.com/xOFZ9K4HB4
— Mary Hui (@maryhui) August 23, 2019
Hong Kong has been under Chinese control since 1997, when the British handed it back to Chinese authorities after 100 years of control. At the time of the handover Beijing promised a policy of "one country, two systems" designed to let Hong Kong keep most of the legal and economic structures that were in place during British rule. But, in the decades since the Communist Party of China, China's ruling political party, has instituted a number of changes that are geared more toward "just one system."
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This is the 12th consecutive weekend of protests in reaction to a new extradition bill introduced by Beijing that would allow the government to prosecute criminal and civil cases in mainland courts. These courts are seen by many as tools used by central communist authorities to stifle dissent and free speech. The protests have at times been peaceful, as in this case, and tumultuous like when protesters stormed the Parliament building and Police cracked down on demonstrators in the streets with tear gas and rubber bullets.
This is a fraught time and brings to mind the Tiananmen Square student protests nearly thirty years ago that seared iconic images of tanks rolling over protestors into the minds of people all over the world. And is made all the more salient by reports of the People's Liberation Army, the main arm of the Chinese military, holding drills outside of the city despite Hong Kong's chief executive Carrie Lam's promises that a vote on the extradition bill is delayed indefinitely.
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