CHENNAI, India, 16 June 2019
The massive street marches and peaceful protests by the Hong Kong citizens against the extradition law must have rattled the Chinese government, which has quickly suspended the enactment of the law. But, the citizens of Hong Kong do not seem to believe the Chinese government and have insisted that the law should be totally withdrawn. The protests continue even after the suspension of the law by Chinese government. In the last seventy years, the totalitarian regime of China has never submitted itself to the people’s demand and have suppressed any protest movements violently and without observing any particular rule of law. Now, this has not been possible for Chinese government in Hong Kong.
The Hong Kong protests should not be viewed in isolation and should not be interpreted merely as a protest against the extradition law. The extradition law is only spark that ignited the flame of anger against the Chinese government, clearly conveying the sentiments of Hong Kong citizens who dislike being governed by the dictatorship-oriented governance of China. The resentment against the Chinese government has become obvious now.
When Britain handed over Hong Kong to China under a treaty, the citizens of Hong Kong were never consulted by the British government in any meaningful way. Like handing over a herd of sheep from one owner to another, Hong Kong was handed over to China. Ever since Hong Kong came under the control of China, Chinese government have been slowly trying to tighten the grip over Hong Kong and integrate it with China as early as possible. While physically Hong Kong is now under control of China, there is no emotional integration of Hong Kong citizens with mainland China. These massive protests by millions of Hong Kong citizens clearly prove this.
Earlier, one of the biggest protests against the dictatorial governance of China was at the Tiananmen Square.
The Tiananmen Square protests, commonly known in mainland China as the “June Fourth Incident” were student-led demonstrations held in Tiananmen Square in Beijing during 1989. The popular national protest movement started on 15 April 1989 and was forcibly suppressed on 4 June 1989, when the Chinese government declared martial law and sent the military to occupy central parts of Beijing. In what became known as the Tiananmen Square Massacre. troops with assault rifles and tanks fired at the demonstrators and those trying to block the military’s advance into Tiananmen Square. Estimates of the death toll vary from several hundreds to several thousands, with thousands more people wounded.
While the Chinese government successfully suppressed the Tiananmen Square protests, it could not repeat this sort of suppression in Hong Kong now, since millions of Hong Kong citizens came out on the streets and the protests in Hong Kong have been much more visible to the world community, compared to the Tiananmen Square protest movement.
Though China is now much stronger in trade, economy, and military strength, it has become vulnerable to the international adverse opinion due to its dependence on other countries to sustain its economy and trade.
In tackling the Hong Kong protest compared to the way it tackled Tiananmen Square protest, one must not think that the Chinese government has become less ruthless or more human rights conscious.
There have been widespread reports in the international media about the Chinese government move to suppress Islamic movement in China. For decades, the Hui people have enjoyed relative freedom to practice their Islamic faith. But the government’s heavy-handed crackdown on Islam in Xinjiang — the heartland of the mostly Muslim Uyghur ethnic group — has recently spilled over into Hui strongholds, including Gansu province, which borders Xinjiang, and Ningxia. While the Chinese government has been trying to suppress such protests, it has not entirely succeeded so far. China knows that the world eye is staring at its actions in this case.
Earlier, China entered Tibet aggressively, massacred the protesters, drove out thousands of Tibetans including respected Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama out of Tibet. China is still occupying Tibet with the world closing its eyes to China’s oppression.
However, the present Hong Kong protest appears to be a turning point and in all probability, Chinese government cannot have its way in silencing any freedom movement from oppressed citizens any longer.
China is aspiring to be a super power in the world, and to be successful, it has to mend its ways in handling the human rights issues.
Certainly, Hong Kong citizens have taught a lesson or two to Chinese government. Hopefully, this shock inflicted on China by the Hong Kong citizens will make China rethink and mend its ways.
The biggest blot on China is its continued occupation of Tibet, and Tibetans living in Tibet have one or two lessons to learn from Hong Kong citizens.
About the author
NS Venkataraman is a chemical engineer as well as a social activist in Chennai, India. He is the founder trustee of Nandini Voice for the Deprived, a Chennai-based not-for-profit organisation serving the cause of the deprived and down-trodden, and working for probity in public life.
More articles by NS Venkataraman on Tibet Sun.