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Image: Flickr / Studio Incend

There is simply no side to take in Hong Kong’s protests

I write anonymously not out of cowardice, but concern towards my own safety. Many of my friends who bravely confronted the matter on social media have received threats of gang rape and murder, some of which even target members of their family. They have had their private photos uncovered, middle school pictures leaked, and profiles invaded by militant supporters – of various causes. What do you stand for, that could justify such heinous moral violations?

The reasons for my anonymity closely parallel my thesis: there is no side to take in the matters of Hong Kong. The protests on 1 July, the lamented anniversary of the 1997 handover of Hong Kong to China, stand as the perfect metaphor for the multifaceted nature of “truth”. Whose side of the story do we believe? The protestors (those who were peaceful, and those who invaded the Legislative Council), the police (those that “do their job”, and those who take it too far with their tear gas and batons and rubber bullets), the media, the Chinese government or the ministries abroad?

Waking up to the news was akin to opening my eyes in a nightmare. Of course an insurgent faction broke off and plunged into violence. Of course the Chinese government – and by extension, that of Hong Kong, because it is essentially under China’s rule as per the Chief Executive pre-selections – could find an excuse to stage a physical intervention that is now increasingly imminent. Every single one of these tragic characters would jump at the chance of retaliation, which is why any effort to get out of this Extradition mess is completely thwarted.

The ostracisation that ensued towards those like myself revived in me a suddenly vivid sense of déjà vu

I am by no means pro-China and its tacit crimes against humanity – their complete lack of freedom of speech, plucking rebellious booksellers and writers out of their strenuously oppressive system, is inhumane and naive. Yet China has a rightful claim to Hong Kong’s “autonomy” as outlined in the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984; their claim is, however, eventual. Their time has yet to come, but their growing impatience by trying to catalyse the process of the inevitable 2047 handover (what with their textbooks and curriculums and intervention into Hong Kong’s enduring “one country, two systems”) is what puts them at fault. The people of Hong Kong are so far from the compliant, unquestioning loyalists that is the majority of China’s population, who are technologically severed from the rest of the world. The people of Hong Kong can see through the poorly orchestrated charades and pin the tail on the Big Brother.

Yet so many of them, despite their poignant pleas (and once peaceful protests), are relentless in their retribution of those that have their reservations. Case in point: the July 1st demonstrations echo so many moments of the 2014 Umbrella Movement, which showed the true colours of the government as well as many of my former friends turned activists. When I declined to wear a ribbon in support of the movement – for as much as I disagreed with China’s interventionist agenda, I had just as many doubts towards the problematic occupation of vital business districts, that would incite fury and hatred towards the protestors – I received such grossly sour looks of condemnation. The ostracisation that ensued towards those like myself revived in me a suddenly vivid sense of déjà vu. Weren’t my classmates’ abject rejection towards self-questioning a shadow of China’s asphyxiation of those who speak out?

Which recalls the reason for my anonymity. In this aggressive state of nature everyone is to blame for refusing to pull their punches. When tear gas was first used by the police in 2014, that was when the war between the people and their government began, and when the liability that is the police rose to consciousness. The police are tasked to enforce the law – even if they were in support of the movement, they were called to the job and asked to defend government premises and watch quietly behind bars their comrades who were trying to break in. They’re doing their job, yes, and part of that includes following orders. But would the government really order (some of) them to verbally abuse protestors? Had the government the audacity to send agents provocateurs to induce rioting?

Hong Kong has been westernised and democratised to such an irremediable extent, just as how far the British has abandoned – or more fittingly, ceded – Hong Kong to the likes of China

And has there really been millions of people protesting in the streets? How can you even count? Hong Kong, Chinese and international media all harvest different figures, which only serves to reflect their respective reliability. Can you even trust the media in Hong Kong when many of the publications are being usurped by China? Furthermore, international channels take their information from whatever’s local, or whatever the main agenda seems to be. So how can you take any stance in this collateral mess without questioning the stance you’ve taken, and what led you to it?

Because the root of the problem is what transpired so many years ago, when the British colonised Hong Kong, and it is a problem that so far no one is capable of solving. Hong Kong has been westernised and democratised to such an irremediable extent, just as how far the British has abandoned – or more fittingly, ceded – Hong Kong to the likes of China. “One country, two systems” was the political loophole created out of colonial longing that gave way to this byzantine pandemonium, and the foreign ministries that are speaking out are in doing so complicating the matter, as well as giving China the opportunity of condemnation, of drawing parallels to colonialism, and to the white man’s burden.

In this savage redefinition of “autonomy” and opprobrium of all the parties involved, as well as of the freedom of speech, perhaps most worrying is the silhouette the protests have taken of the tragic Tiananmen Square Incident of 1989. Martyrdom is a disguise well-worn and hard to convince; it is only a matter of time before we see the facade(s) breached.

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