“They’re using live rounds towards protesters”, Wing Yee Fan, a student at the Chinese University of Hong Kong tells me. “An eighteen year old schoolboy was shot in the chest, missing his heart by 3cm”. These are the scenes that swamp the city of Hong Kong as the protests over a controversial extradition bill was passed by the Chinese government in April. “Protesters are being beaten and, in early October, an Indonesian journalist was blinded in one eye after being hit in the face by a rubber bullet”. So far, two people have been killed in the violence that is encapsulating a city engulfed in a political crisis. The protesters yell “five demands, not one less!” They want the protests to not be categorised as a riots; amnesty for arrested protesters; an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality; an implementation of complete universal suffrage, and the withdrawal of the controversial bill. The bill, passed in April, would have allowed criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China under particular circumstances.
The uproar that has since ensued is due to concerns in Hong Kong that the bill would give Beijing greater influence over the city. People took to the streets to protest the decision and, after weeks of tension, Hong Kong leader, Carrie Lam, suspended the bill indefinitely. However, fears still linger that it may be revived and the unrest has only escalated.
Reports are beginning to emerge in the mass media of police brutality and the situation appears to have no end in sight. “On November 11th, an unarmed 21 year old was shot by a transport officer. Protesters are being beaten despite not resisting. Things I never thought could happen in such a developed city are happening. The issue is so complicated because Hong Kong has a special relationship with China and problems are not going to [be] solve[d] over night”.
The violent clashes have resulted in numerous injuries, with security forces using live ammunition, rubber bullets and tear gas, and protesters have responded by throwing rocks at police. The violent clashes reached the Chinese University of Hong Kong, where Wing Yee is a student, two weeks ago. Polytechnic University of Hong Kong campus has been under siege with protesters refusing to leave the building. Police surrounded the area on 17 November and, according to the government, 1,100 people have left the campus since. A recent local election saw 17 of the 18 district councils in Hong Kong won by pro-democracy councillors. Speaking on the result, Carrie Lam promised an “open mind” and that she would “seriously reflect” on the vote that saw an unprecedented turnout of over 71%. Universities around the UK have had rallies in support of protesters, including a small demonstration at UEA.
Wing Yee concluded by saying, “I understand that people from other countries may not know what is happening as Hong Kong as it is so far away. What I do hope is that protesters can stand with the protests and uphold the core values like freedom of speech. I don’t know if this article will raise something in UEA but I hope people who cherish freedom and defend human rights can stand with us”.