The world has been watching as more than one million citizens in Hong Kong took to the streets to protest for their freedom in 2019. So much has happened in 2020 already that 2019 hardly feels like just one year ago. The new year has brought with it the end of Hong Kong’s 24 year streak (1995-2019) of being rated the number one freest economy in the world by The Heritage Foundation. The coronavirus has completely changed global political affairs and the future is more uncertain than ever before.
"Don't Tread on Hong Kong" - FFE Blog 07/30/2019
What is certain is that no virus or crisis can stomp away the desire for liberty among Hong Kong's citizens. They enjoy a life unbeknownst to much of Asia, often described as the place where "East meets West". The American flag waving protesters refuse to allow fear, regardless of the source, subdue their passion for freedom. As Hong Kong has been wildly successful in taming the coronavirus, the citizens are being given something else to fear; The police & China.
In 2003, another novel coronavirus originated in China and spread throughout Asia. This was known as the SARS virus and was less contagious yet more deadly that than what we refer to as COVID-19. SARS left a lasting impact on Hong Kong after 299 citizens died from only 1,755 cases. The memory of SARS pushed Hong Kong to take immediate action upon the COVID-19 outbreak.
As of May 3rd, while much of the world is seeing 6-7 figures cases of COVID-19, Hong Kong has only had 1,040 cases and 4 deaths. The "Fragrant Harbour" nation has been extremely successful in taming this virus while maintaining much of daily life. Their success is accredited to very early action in regards to mask use, social distancing and general viral consciousness from SARS.
Hong Kong COVID-19 stats 05/04/20 - Source: Worldometer
With their curve flat or essentially non-existent, the public sentiment quickly turned back to the pro-democracy movement. However on April 18th, 2020, 15 activist leaders were arrested for their role in the "months long anti-government movement" in 2019. The arrests targeted veterans of the movement including the 81 year old founder of the pro-Democracy Party, Martin Lee (known as the city's "father of democracy").
The arrests are widely said to have taken place to deter protests from re-emerging in 2020. However, it seems that witnessing their leaders of liberty detained has filled the protesters with even more resentment than before. Who could have saw that coming? The arrests were quickly condemned from nations around the world resulting in many of the detained to be allowed out on bail.
On May Day, a couple weeks after the arrests, protesters gathered once again to demonstrate against the Chinese government. This defied social gathering orders and police were brought in by the busload. Noted, the major majority of protesters and by-standards were wearing masks. At a mall in Sha Tin, police in full riot gear made an appearance to disrupt what was dozens of citizens gathered for a "singalong" protest. Authorities used pepper spray and intimidation to disperse the crowd while arresting those whom they deemed fit.
May 1st, 2020 - Source: Japan Times
July 1st is steady approaching and on that day the world will be watching Hong Kong. After ruling the colony for over 150 years, Great Britain granted the region to China on July 1st, 1997. Margaret Thatcher helped to negotiate the One Country, Two System agreement which is still in place (but heavily threatened) today. It is this "system" which enabled Hong Kong to maintain much of it's civil rights, personal liberties and economic freedoms which have lifted the area into prosperity and wellness.
Ever since 1997 there has been some form of pro-Democracy gathering on the first of July, some smaller than others. These gatherings have shifted from being simply pro-democracy to anti-China as Beijing continues to interfere with life in Hong Kong. The general sentiment is that China's ultimate desire is annexation and an end to One Country, Two Systems.
The massive demonstrations in 2019 actually achieved the protesters' goal of stopping a Chinese extradition bill (as covered in "Don't Tread on Hong Kong"). This was a huge win for the citizens but may only be the beginning of Communist China's ambitions. The truth is that the Two System agreement is set to come to an end in 2047. We are nearly 3 decades away and there is already a massive movement to keep Hong Kong free. With Hong Kong feeling the spirit of 1776, while China is flexing and expanding its communist muscles, the question remains of what is to come.
We live in a complicated world where millions of individuals simply want the luxury of being able to live their life as they please. At the same time there is always a group of authoritarian know-it-alls who want to rip away the luxury of liberty for what they, the almighty government, deem is best for the greater good. These authoritarians are always based in some form of Marxist ideology. However the power and desire for freedom lead the original 13 colonies of America to defeat the gigantic and powerful British Empire as David did to Goliath. We hope to see freedom for Hong Kong well past the year 2047 and believe that Communist China may one day abandon their idolization of of Chairman Mao and put the hammer and sickle down for good.
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