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Violence filled the streets of Hong Kong again on Friday as pro-democracy protesters once again clashed with police. More protests have been announced for this weekend.
The latest unrest was a sign that the protests, which have consumed the city for the past three months, are likely to continue, despite the withdrawal of the controversial extradition bill that first sparked the popular uprising. The bill would have sent detainees in Hong Kong to mainland China to face prosecution — a change in the law that activists say undermines Hong Kong’s promised autonomy.
Over the summer, the pro-democracy movement grew well beyond the single issue of the extradition bill. Protesters now say that the “half of an olive branch” from Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive who withdrew the bill on Sept. 4, is not enough. They want the rest of their demands be met as well: Lam’s resignation, an inquiry into police brutality, the release of arrested protesters (and for them not be labeled as “rioters”) and fundamental democratic reforms.
Hong Kongers living in the D.C. region have watched all of these events unfold from afar. We’ll hear from the local community about how they’ve been affected and what they are doing to turn their feelings of helplessness into support for the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.
Produced by Monna Kashfi
- Kaze Wong Ph.D. Candidate, Johns Hopkins University and local organizer of support rallies for the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong
KOJO NNAMDIYou're tuned in to The Kojo Nnamdi Show on WAMU 88.5, welcome. Later in the broadcast a look at sexting laws and the recent Maryland case that's getting a lot of attention. But first, violence filled the streets of Hong Kong again on Friday as pro-democracy protestors clashed with police, and on Sunday tens of thousands of people rallied outside the U.S. Consulate calling for U.S. intervention in a month's long standoff between the citizens of Hong Kong and its government. The unrest first began over a controversial extradition bill that would have sent detainees in Hong Kong to mainland China to face prosecution, a change in the law that activists say undermines Hong Kong's promised autonomy.
KOJO NNAMDIOver the summer the pro-democracy movement grew well beyond the single issue of the extradition bill. Protestors now say that the half of an olive branch from Carrie Lam, Hong Kong's chief executive, who withdrew the bill on September 4 is not enough. They're calling for Lam's resignation, an inquiry into police brutality and the release of arrested protestors and direct elections.
KOJO NNAMDIHong Kongers living in the D.C. region have watched all of these events unfold from afar often feeling helpless, but many still wanting to show support for the protestors. Joining me now in studio is Kaze Wong, graduate student and one of the organizers of the Hong Kong pro-democracy rallies here in the D.C. area. Kaze Wong, thank you for joining us.
KAZE WONGOh, thank you for having me here.
NNAMDIKaze Wong, what has it been like watching the events in Hong Kong unfold from 8,000 miles away all summer long?
WONGIt's quite devastating and it feels powerless. So it's like watching a movie that's going straightly downhill, but you cannot do anything about it. But we know -- I have families and friends living there. So I know they will be affected. And one day if I go back I will also be affected. So this is not something that's totally unrelated to me, but still at this point I cannot help. So it feels bad.
NNAMDIWhat have you heard from your friends and family in Hong Kong? How have their day to day lives been affected by these protests?
WONGMy sister is now a front line first aider and, of course, she is going to help people -- like helping out people who got injured in the protest. And her daily life is now, you know, split in half. Like on the half of the time she needs to go to her like regular job. And half of the time she goes help out there, you know, just giving people first aid in the protest. And I would say most of the people, day to day life is not like seriously affected. But still more or less, you know, if they're participating in the protests the time will be taken away. If they're not, they'll see various things going on in the street.
NNAMDIIf they're participating in the protest will they nevertheless notice a kind of change in what they see about them?
WONGI think it's the fear in people's mind. So I'll give you an example. Today when I came here I took the D.C. Metro and I feel safe. But in Hong Kong now like going through certain stations you need to be aware of like, "Are there police around?" Because the police can just throw tear gas into like the Metro station randomly and that's bad. You know, like having tear gas in an enclosed environment is not a good thing and now people need to be fear of that.
NNAMDIOur guest is Kaza Wong. Kaze Wong is a graduate student and one of the organizers of Hong Kong pro-democracy rallies here in the D.C. area. Well, a few weeks ago you helped organize a rally in Lafayette Square to show support for the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong. Why was it important to you to stage this event?
WONGTo me personally, it gives me -- alleviates my pain, like, you know, watching this and feeling powerless. That's for me personally, but more important to the whole protest is I think it's, you know, showing people around the world is connected to Hong Kong. So this is important to the protest. That's why we held an event.
NNAMDIWhat kind of turn out did you get at the rally and was the crowd all people from Hong Kong?
WONGWe roughly got 300 people. So it was quite some people, and surprisingly it's not like all Hong Kong people only. We got like half half like, you know, foreigners and the rest Hong Kong people. So I think this demonstrates like a nice trait about Hong Kong and, of course, U.S. We are an international city and we're connected to the world in many many ways. And we're not just, you know, random group of, you know, people.
NNAMDIWill there be more rallies or events in the D.C. area to show support for the protestors in Hong Kong?
WONGYes. So on September 28 if I remember the dates correctly, there will be a big rally to support the movement in Hong Kong. But there should be some other activities during the time. So more detail will be posted on the page DC4HK on Facebook.
NNAMDINow that the protestors have gotten one concession from Carrie Lam, the withdrawal of the extradition bill, do you see the demonstrations continuing until all of their demands are met or do you think the government will crack down first?
WONGI think this is slightly misleading, the way the government put it because they didn't actually withdraw the bill already. But they say that they will propose a motion -- move a motion to withdraw the bill. So that's actually -- it's a little bit tricky, but it's not set yet. And many people in Hong Kong think they should have done it like three months ago and there won't be such large scale protests in the last three months and nobody needs to get hurt. But now it's too late too little, you know, so people get hurt during the time and what about the justice for them? They need to answer for what they have done in the past three months not just what they have proposed half a year ago.
NNAMDIWell, there also as I said earlier demanding the resignation of chief executive Carrie Lam and calling for more elections. Do you think she'll resign?
WONGIt's very very unpredictable, but I would say that like her resignation means nothing to us anymore, if the system, if the government -- the way that the government operates does not change no matter, who you put on top. It's just a figure head. It doesn't matter. So that's why we are demanding a universal suffrage for -- as a demand of the protestor.
NNAMDIDo you anticipate at any point a government crackdown harsher than we've already seen on the protestors?
WONGI won't be surprised to be honest, because like one month ago, two months ago if you ask me, do you think police will get worse? I think, not that quickly, but they have shown, you know, they're willing to, you know, just oppress a protestor in whatever way they can think of. So like the trend seems going worse now. So I won't be surprised.
NNAMDIYou are here on a student visa and you eventually have to return home to Hong Kong. Are you at all concerned about any negative consequences as a result of your activism over here the past few months?
WONGYeah, I'm concerned like for myself and also my family. My family may face some pressure, like, your son is doing all this in the U.S., like he's one of them, you know, or for me, you know, like it's just -- I think if this continued to be what it is now it's just a matter of time that I got prosecuted. And if I go back to Hong Kong, it's really, you know -- I just need to wait long enough and they will put me in jail. After the jail or the possible, you know, more active activists. So there are consequences.
NNAMDIOur guest is Kaze Wong. Kaze Wong is a graduate student and one of the organizers of the Hong Kong pro-democracy rallies here in the Washington area. We're taking your calls at 800-433-8850. You can send us a tweet @kojoshow or email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Have you found ways to show support for the pro-democracy protests from afar? Do you think the unrest has been bad for Hong Kong? Give us a call 800-433-8850. Why was it still worth it to you to speak up and show your support for the protests despite knowing it may have some repercussions for you personally in the future?
WONGI can only speak for myself, but I think many people and many protestors in Hong Kong think the same way that I do. So it's really just love to Hong Kong, and like we're protesting not for our personal interest, you know. Personally this will get me into trouble. This earns me nothing, like very very immediately. But this is for the generation to come. This is for the people that still need to grow up, you know, live their lives in Hong Kong later on. I mean, I'm glad that I can come to U.S. and study here. But not everyone can get out of Hong Kong if Hong Kong situation gets worse. So it's really -- I identified myself with the city and I think I will put Hong Kong future over me. Recently we see a picture saying that "I may lose my future, but Hong Kong must not." It's on Reddit. So that's basically how I feel.
NNAMDIHere is Yun Sun in Bethesda, Maryland. Yun Sun, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
YUN SUNHi. Here's what I see from friends and family living in Hong Kong and what their input, and also yesterday I scrolled through Twitter. There's a New York Times journalist. They're probably not published, but it's just on twitter, their feed, one of them is actually a video showing the people in black suits, mask and they're breaking every single glass they could see. And they're breaking -- kicking machine. They're just creating chaos, hitting the residents in Hong Kong, older people, a station manager, and another video is this guy throwing water.
NNAMDIAnd who is your understanding is doing that?
SUNI don't know. Riots. I think it's riots. To me it's disturbing public lives, and it's just very interrupting. And there's another video and showing New York Times journalist interviewing some young people. And they're -- they didn't say this was a democracy -- a movement for democracy. They said this was fun. This was like virtual reality.
NNAMDIAllow me to have Kaze Wong respond.
WONGI won't despite that there are violent scenes going on from both sides, like protestor, yes, like they are breaking something and the violence is increasing on both sides, but like why do we have to do all these. It's not like -- of course, we know there must be something wrong going on. But the cause behind this -- like we protest again, just stay home. It's a hot summer there. If you've ever been to Hong Kong, it's humid. It's intolerable. We can just stay home, hang out with friends. Like why would we want to keep protesting for so long?
WONGAnd now we need to -- and I want to say that, you know, we're not like breaking in random cars. Like we are like mostly I would say, you know, we are targeting the government and government related properties. So we are not like, you know, find a random store just break their glass and take their property. This is not the truth.
NNAMDIAnd you're not attacking private citizens?
WONGWe're not attacking private citizens. And like the police -- I want to emphasize that, you know, yes. Protestor may have used some violence, but the degree of violence the police has used on protestors is way beyond the scale. As I said like earlier in the show, they put tear gas in an enclosed environment such as Metro station. That's a pure crime to me and those crimes will not be answered as I can see now. So I agree that, you know, there is violence from protestors. I'm not, you know, saying that's not true, but I want to encourage people to think about cause. Why do we have to do this?
NNAMDIAnd I'm afraid that's all the time we have. Kaze Wong is a graduate student, one of the organizers of Hong Kong pro-democracy rallies here in the Washington area. Thank you so much for joining us.
WONGThank you for having me.
NNAMDIWe're going to take a short break. When we come back a look at sexting laws and a recent Maryland case that's getting a lot of attention. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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