What We're Reading About Hong Kong and the Anti-Extradition Protests

Sunday, June 16, 2019

The Murder Case That Lit the Fuse in Hong Kong | Daniel Victor and Tiffany May for The New York Times
There were two interrelated problems: China does not recognize the government of Taiwan, which it considers part of its territory. And Hong Kong, which returned to Chinese rule in 1997, does not have an extradition agreement with Taiwan.
Hong Kong had never allowed extraditions to mainland China before — a safeguard agreed upon when Britain returned the territory and Beijing promised it a high degree of autonomy. (The measure prohibits extradition to any part of China, which complicates any deal with Taiwan because of Beijing’s claim of sovereignty over the democratic, self-governing island.)
And yet Mrs. Lam sought to sidestep the legislature’s regular committee process and put the proposal on a fast track with an unusually short 20-day public review.
After The Tear Gas | Brian Hioe for Popula
In a serious demonstration it’s the same: Suddenly everyone is helping each other out. When the police fire tear gas, you suddenly have people handing out goggles and masks, and water for washing out one’s eyes and throat. You have people going around with inhalers to make sure nobody is having trouble breathing.
Strangers wordlessly handed me a set of goggles when I was standing alone in a corner typing away on my phone. Another time, someone abruptly came up to me while I was standing alone, again typing a news update, said something in Cantonese I couldn’t understand, handed me a card for legal services if I needed them, and walked away. As I was rooting through a supply bag looking for a new set of goggles after my first ones broke, someone tried to offer me their goggles, though that meant they would have none.
Demonstrators would hand forward helmets, umbrellas, and other supplies to deflect tear gas shells when it looked like the police were about to let loose. They’d leave bottles of water, goggles, and masks scattered around beforehand so that anyone running from tear gas could grab them.
Related: Hong Kong, Taiwan's Other | Brian Hioe for Popula
During the protests leading up to the Taiwanese Sunflower Movement in March 2014, a slogan frequently seen on signs read “Today Hong Kong, Tomorrow Taiwan” (今日香港,明日台灣), implying that Hong Kong’s fate would befall Taiwan under the terms of a proposed trade deal with China, which the protests succeeded in preventing.
I also sometimes saw the sign’s inverse, reading “Today Taiwan, Tomorrow Hong Kong,” (今日台灣,明日香港), particularly after the attempted storming of the Executive Yuan, Taiwan’s executive branch of government, resulted in a wave of police violence against student demonstrators, a group including myself. This sign suggested that open violence would eventually come to Hong Kong because of Chinese pressures, just as it had come to Taiwan.
Chinese Cyberattack Hits Telegram, App Used by Hong Kong Protesters | Paul Mozur and Alexandra Stevenson for The New York Times
Many of the protesters are college-aged and digitally savvy. They took pains to keep from being photographed or digitally tracked. To go to and from the protests, many stood in lines to buy single-ride subway tickets instead of using their digital payment cards, which can be tracked. Some confronting the police covered their faces with hats and masks, giving them anonymity as well as some protection from tear gas.
On Wednesday, several protesters shouted at bystanders taking photos and selfies, asking those who were not wearing press passes to take pictures only of people wearing masks. Later, a scuffle broke out between protesters and bystanders who were taking photos on a bridge over the main protest area.
Masks, cash and apps: How Hong Kong’s protesters find ways to outwit the surveillance state Shibani Mahtani for The Washington Post
“The Chinese government will do a lot of things to try to monitor their own people,” said Bonnie Leung, a leader of the Hong Kong-based Civil Human Rights Front.
Leung cited media coverage of China’s use of artificial intelligence to track individuals and its social-credit-score system.
“We believe that could happen to Hong Kong, too,” she said.
The core of the protests is over the belief that Beijing — which was handed back control of the former British colony more than 20 years ago — is increasingly stripping Hong Kong of its cherished freedoms and autonomy.
The identity-masking efforts by protesters also reflect deep suspicions that lines between China and Hong Kong no longer exist — including close cooperation between Hong Kong police and their mainland counterparts, who have among the most advanced and intrusive surveillance systems.
A Hong Kong Extradition Protester Who Fell to His Death Is Being Hailed as a 'Martyr' | Time Magazine
A 35-year-old man who died after unfurling a banner denouncing Hong Kong’s extradition bill on the side of a shopping mall is being hailed by protesters as a “martyr.”
Local media reports reports that the man plunged to his death after climbing up construction scaffolding on Saturday afternoon local time at the Pacific Place mall in the Admiralty district—scene of massive protests this week against legislation that would have allowed, for the first time, the extradition of fugitives to mainland China.
Police are treating the case as suicide, local media said, giving the man’s surname as Leung.
As Many as Two Million Protesters Hit Hong Kong Streets | By Annie Lee, Fion L , and Shawna Kwan for Bloomberg
The organizer’s estimate was again far larger than the official count. While the Civil Human Rights Front said more than a quarter of the island’s 7.5 million residents responded to its call to march, police said some 338,000 joined the protest’s main routes during the peak. Either way, the gathering was larger than the historic march on June 9, when organizers put the number at just more than 1 million and police said 240,000.
Exclusive: Hong Kong police 'trapped in the middle' by polarizing extradition bill | James Pomfret for Reuters
At the same press conference by Hong Kong’s police chief, a group of more than 20 photo-journalists donned hard hats and gas masks in a symbolic protest against what they considered to be the excessive use of force by police during the unrest.
“Some police were out of control,” said Leung Pang-wai, 28, a photographer for HK01 newspaper who wore a gas mask during the press conference. “They shot at us and they didn’t deal with the situation rationally.”
Senior police officers, however, defended the use of force to deal with much more violent protesters than during the 2014 demonstrations when tens of thousands occupied roads around the legislature and government headquarters for 79 days.
The protesters this time, unified for a very specific goal - to prevent a policy seen as an existential threat to Hong Kong’s unique global position - have pledged not to back down.
Hong Kong's Winding History | NPR (Podcast)
The one country, two systems model was to take effect in 1997. Foreign affairs and national defense would be guided by Beijing. Everything else about Hong Kong would be controlled by Hong Kong.

I'm currently struggling a bit with burnout and can't find the eloquence to say all I want/need to. But I can manage this: the fates of those in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and their diasporas are inextricably linked. We face the same headwinds: authoritarian and unrelenting pressure from the CCP; the threat of a surveillance state; the advancement of facial recognition technology; traumatic family histories that bleed into civic engagement. We must ask: how can we protect each other? How can we show up for each other? How we will resist together? 
To the people of Hong Kong: you are so brave and extraordinary. The whole world honors your resilience.
To their families and loved ones in the United States: how can we share their burdens? How can we extend our compassion and empathy for them to those within our own cities - black and brown communities especially - also resisting police brutality? Also protecting each other? Can we recognize this same fire in those that don't look like us? 

With love always,

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