McLEOD GANJ, India, 4 September 2019
Carrie Lam, Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the financial hub of the world, finally gave in to the people’s demand for complete withdrawal of a controversial extradition bill, as a result of their unrelenting protest against it.
She had unexpectedly introduced the bill in February 2019, leading to ongoing unrest in Hong Kong. The bill would have allowed the people of Hong Kong, and even visitors, to be forcibly and arbitrarily taken to Beijing, with no recourse under the Communist party and PRC rule. Such a law cannot be imposed on Hong Kong, as it would undermine the “one country, two systems” guaranteed under the agreement between the United Kingdom and China when Hong Kong was handed over to China in 1997.
This led to mass protests filling the streets of Hong Kong, demanding the bill’s withdrawal. Hong Kong has eight million people, and almost two million people showed up to protest. The result of Carrie Lam ignoring these protests led to other core demands being made, the most important of which is for real universal suffrage.
The bill was adding salt to the wounds already being suffered by HongKongers since 2007. In 2014 the “Umbrella Movement” democracy protests asked for directly-elected representatives and transparent elections. But the way Carrie Lam was “elected” was not democratic, as the people have to vote on candidates appointed by the Central People’s Government in Beijing, making it a phony election.
It’s not rocket science to figure out where this extradition bill came from — obviously from Beijing. How is this bill in the interests of the people of Hong Kong? It is not. Beijing doesn’t want any dissent whatsoever.
Carrie Lam suspended the extradition bill in June, and declared it “dead” in July, but only formally withdrew it today. By then so much damage had been done that created further grievances, witnessed by the whole world.
The Tibetan people, Taiwanese, Uyghurs, and others who are victims of Chinese injustices followed the protests, and stood in solidarity with the people of Hong Kong. The Hong Kong movement has brought them even closer. They jointly organised solidarity events, shared stories and comments on social media, statements from leaders.
Many Tibetans felt that they could learn from the Hong Kong protesters’ ways, and their amazingly overall peaceful methods. The video showing a huge crowd parting to let an emergency vehicle through demonstrated their positive attitude and community spirit.
Although the Central Tibetan Administration has not spoken publicly about the Hong Kong situation, for obvious reasons, the Tibetan people and their representatives have shown their full support for Hong Kong. Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile Pema Jungney expressed support on Tibetan Democracy Day, saying, “The Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile stands in solidarity with the people of Hong Kong.” All the major Tibetan NGOs organised protest marches showing their support and solidarity.
The extradition bill may have been withdrawn, but the other four demands persist, coming about only when Carrie Lam did not answer to the first one. In the course of the months-long protests, there were four deaths, hundreds injured, including 180 police personnel, property damage, and economic losses. In all this Carrie Lam should be held accountable, rather than the protesters, by introducing this unethical bill.
The protesters’ second demand calls for retraction of the “riot” characterisation of the protests. How can you call this a riot, when police started the violence against the protestors? Riot police were firing tear gas (a chemical agent banned in warfare per the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993), beanbag rounds, and rubber bullets at the protesters, and of course it is only human for some of the protesters to retaliate. If you must call it a “riot”, who started it?
The third demand was for the release and exoneration of arrested protesters. That’s fair, and it should be done asap as they are not the perpetrators of the chaos.
The fourth demand addresses establishment of an independent commission of inquiry into police conduct and use of force during the protests. This is also a genuine request, because the police used excessive force, as was evident in all the videos.
Considering all this, the last demand calling for Carrie Lam’s resignation is legitimate, as she should be held accountable.
The other part of the last demand addresses “implementation of universal suffrage for Legislative Council and Chief Executive elections.” Right now the Chief Executive is chosen through elections, but the people have to vote on candidates appointed by the Central People’s Government in Beijing, making it a phony election. So the people are demanding genuine universal suffrage — genuine democracy.
Carrie Lam sounded friendly and receptive to people’s demands in withdrawing the Extradition Bill, but the people are no fools. Until their demand of true universal suffrage is met, the people will not rest. Now that they have started, we know they will see it through.
About the author
Lobsang Wangyal lives in McLeod Ganj, India, and edits the Tibet Sun website.