I could not not mention what’s going on in Hong Kong.
For months students and a certain group of academics and citizens have been threatening to stage mass protests if the government does not heed the calls for genuine universal suffrage. Universal suffrage was promised to Hong Kong during the handover to China and now the time is come and surprise surprise China isn’t super keen on letting Hong Kong freely choose its leader so it came up with the ridiculous framework which is like when we were in school and had to vote for monitors and the teachers would say here are your two candidates, both awful suck ups. We hated that in school and you can imagine how the idea of adult Hongkongers being asked to do the same went down. Especially since there is a lack of faith in the current appointees and a fear that China is swallowing up Hong Kong.
So last week, students went on strike. They were accused of just wanting to miss class so they roped in teachers who did mass open air classes. And they staged this huge rally. And then they refused to leave the space before the government headquarters, which is supposed to be public space but was hastily cordoned off for fear of this very thing.
Then the Occupy Central peeps, who had been expected to launch their protest, on Saturday night announced the launch of their civil disobedience movement which is essentially to occupy and block major roads in the business district. And voila, Hong Kong has entered a stage of civil disobedience, the demand being that the government reconsider its election framework.
The government instead of waiting it out decided to nip the thing in the bud, and brought in riot police who tear gassed the crowds and then even more people sitting at home were enraged and it’s turned into a massive thing, more massive than the protest organisers had expected. It is also largely peaceful. People are using umbrellas to defend themselves against pepper spray. There are elderly people there and students and construction workers. They are recycling their waste and there has been no looting.
On Monday morning, I got a flood of emails from students who explained why they wouldn’t be coming to class. I was touched by their passion. Maybe they want to skip class, but I don’t think so. Also, Hong Kong kids are not used to sitting out there in the sun, but there they are.
The stakes have been raised and I wonder how it will all end. I am proud of Hong Kongers for risking a lot for what they believe in and for doing so in a largely peaceful manner. For now the Government has backed down. But it’s a tense situation and anything could trigger events that would be harder to control.