Hong Kong in Revolt. Au Loong-Yu
Hong Kong in Revolt
Hong Kong in Revolt
The Protest Movement
and the Future of China
First published 2020 by Pluto Press
345 Archway Road, London N6 5AA
Copyright © Au Loong-Yu 2020
The right of Au Loong-Yu to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
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ISBN 978 0 7453 4145 3 Hardback
ISBN 978 0 7453 4146 0 Paperback
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I would like to express my deep gratitude to Rachel Page, who read the whole manuscript and gave valuable advice. I would also like to thank Promise Li, Wong Hon Tung, and ‘C.N.’ for reading part of the manuscript and helping to improve it. Last but not least, I would like to thank the ‘1997 generation’, who had both the sensitivity and the courage to stand up for the Hong Kong people and to claim back what is owed to them.
At the last stage of copy-editing this book, Beijing made another offensive against Hong Kong by tabling a draft bill intended to impose its will on the national security law of Hong Kong. This is no less than a statement pronouncing the death of Hong Kong’s autonomy. This action has raised the already brewing China–US global contest to a new level. Upon advice from the editors, I have added a section on this issue in the final chapter. While I was writing it, a huge protest wave, in solidarity with George Floyd who was killed by the police, was sweeping across the US. The issue is much debated in both Hong Kong and mainland China. With all these new events breaking out one after the other, like it or not, the world will never be the same.
5 June 2020
As I write these lines, the Chinese government in Beijing has launched a new round of offensives against Hong Kong’s autonomy. On 17 April 2020, both Beijing’s Hong Kong Liaison Office and Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO) reinterpreted the Basic Law of Hong Kong and argued that they have the right to exercise supervision over Hong Kong’s affairs, despite Article 22 of the Basic Law, which states the opposite. This is not just a war of words. The Liaison Office said what it did because it had already mounted a forceful attack on Dennis Kwok, the pan-democrat lawmaker, for obstructing the tabling of a bill criminalising disrespect of the Chinese national anthem. Kwok reminded Beijing that it is bound by Article 22. The two offices openly replied, ‘no, we aren’t’. On top of this, the Hong Kong government is widely believed to have acted under instruction from Beijing when it arrested fifteen of the most well-known pan-democrat politicians for ‘illegal assembly’ on 18 April 2020. Although the pan-democrat parties did not lead the 2019 Hong Kong Revolt – no party did – Beijing still considers them to be culprits in light of their sympathy with the protests. In general, these are acts of revenge for this revolt – the biggest ever in Hong Kong. Two million protesters took to the streets, a great political general strike took place, masked protesters repeatedly and intensively fought with the police, and eventually the Hong Kong and Beijing governments were humiliated and forced to withdraw the hated extradition bill (see Chapter 1).
In October 2019, when I first began seriously thinking about how to write this book, the movement had reached a critical juncture as the second and third general strike calls had failed to mobilise workers. Beijing and the Cathay Pacific airline had retaliated against the most militant sector of strikers, the aviation industry workers, by firing dozens of them. At that time, I wrote that it was unlikely that the next strike would be successful and that the movement might enter into decline after a period of stalemate. I did not expect that the failure to achieve another strike would be overcome by the brave young generation, who took on the government with even more intensive street fighting, culminating in the occupation of two major universities in Hong Kong, and followed by heavy clashes between occupiers and the riot police. The youth could not bear the pain of only having yet achieved one of their ‘five demands’, and so they continued to fight. They were eventually defeated. Yet this setback was again overcome by the overwhelming victory of the opposition in the ensuing District Council elections, followed by another million protesters taking to the streets for the New Year’s Day march in 2020. This was the second time that Hong Kongers had successfully defeated Beijing’s attempt to table a bill aimed at destroying their liberties and civil rights, after the 2003 protests that obviated the introduction of the National Security (Legislative Provisions) Bill by Beijing. Hong Kong is no longer just ‘a goose that lays golden eggs’. For the first time its people have made the whole world listen, not as a goose, or what protesters themselves jokingly called gong zyu (‘Hong Kong pigs’, who only focus on making money and have no interest in participating in public affairs), but as millions of living, kicking human beings who aspire to freedom.
The local people called their protest the ‘anti-China extradition bill movement’. Some considered the movement to be practically anti-China, or even anti-Chinese, while others thought that it was just anti-Chinese Communist Party (CCP). But let us not forget that the five demands, which include the demand for universal suffrage, were what unified millions of people in this great revolt. This is not to say that there were no anti-CCP or anti-China elements in the movement. My aim with this book is to reflect as much