One country, Two Different Sides: Hong Kong And China

On Sunday, chaos broke during an unauthorized march on the shopping district of Hong Kong where police fired dye blue water from canons and tear gas to thousands of protesters, as they threw petrol bombs and bricks at the police. Several people were injured at the demonstration, 100 people were arrested and during a live-stream for her publication, an Indonesian journalist was hit in the eye by a projectile, according to Washington Post. 

What started with an activist movement trying to avoid the passing of the Extradition Bill, imposed by the Chinese government, has now grown into a 17 consecutive week of protests and the demand for a democratic government that is being manipulated by China. Multiple protests have led to clashes between the anti-government movements and the police, especially when protesters started gathering during August at the Hong Kong International Airport.

Protesters thought of the airport as a safe place to protest, away from the police on the streets, and since it is one of the busiest airports in Asia; they were able to spread their message to the international community. However, demonstrations did not last too long, and the authorities issued an order to prohibit protests at the airport. More than 1,000 flights were canceled, and economists predict the demand for flights through Hong Kong could have a decline on-demand, because of the fear of travellers to be in the middle of violent clash while travelling, according to CNN News.

Hong Kong is an administrative territory of China, which behaves as an independent country. For 150 years, Hong Kong was a colony of the United Kingdom after a war in 1842. Then China was granted on lease the territory to Britain for 99 years, and in the 1980s as the deadline approached, both Britain and China reached a deal, where Hong Kong would be part of China starting 1997. However, in the Basic Law agreed, both countries agreed under the principle of “one country, two systems”. Therefore, Hong Kong is part of China but, has its legal system and borders, and freedom of speech and currency. The deal stated Hong Kong would enjoy “a high degree of autonomy, except in foreign and defence affairs,” for 50 years, according to BBC News.

Besides being so close, Hong Kong´s dynamics, culture, and history are completely different from China; which is the reason for the many clashes between the two countries. China, the bigger territory, works on changing the entire administrative region.

Since Hong Kong has an independent legal system from mainland China, which comes to an end in 2047, it has been a common point for immigration from people escaping poverty and persecution of the Chinese government. The Extradition Bill, imposed by the Chinese has a goal, is to prevent Hong Kong from being a haven for criminals. However, for the thousands of protesters that have been gathering since June, this law serves as a free pass for the Chinese government to impose their flawed justice system and to take away Hong Kong´s autonomy.

China is internationally known as a rising economic power, but also as a nation with not only Internet censorship but also no freedom of speech. Most of the information that Chinese people receive is controlled by the Communist Party. As stated by the New York Times, any activist comments or any critics to the government are instantly censored, and most Western media and social media sites, such as Google, Youtube and Twitter are banned from China: referred to as the “Great Firewall of China”. 

With the ongoing protests in Hong Kong, the content that people in mainland consume has been entirely censored. The Chinese government shows its citizens what they decide should be seen. Censors have been in charge of deleting any type of content about the Hong Kong protests, therefore, there is a lot of misinformation in China of what the motives and causes for the protests. The only media presented, portrays the mass demonstrations as violent, only providing images and videos of protesters throwing bricks or destroying common areas. 

The spread of misinformation by the government is not only in China. The Chinese government have taken action on platforms such as Google and Twitter with multiple accounts, altering the reality of the events for people in Hong Kong and the international community. According to Vox, this is a threat to the right of freedom of speech and protest stated in the law “one country, two systems”.

Several activists in Hong Kong are scared of being extradited for their opposition to the communist government, where they could be taken to face a trial in China. It is a common fear among renamed anti-government movements, but so far people arrested in Hong Kong have not being extradited. As ABC News explained, multiple artists and even an Interpol chief have disappeared over the years after being associated with opposition groups. Michael Carter, a China researcher and author of “The People´s Republic of the Disappeared”, said that they forcibly vanish and sometimes are found later on in jail. Being found innocent in China is uncommon. In 2014, The Washington Post reported that of 1.2 million people convicted of crimes, only 1,039 people or 0.08% were found innocent. Many people in Hong Kong fear that if the autonomy region´s democracy continues to fade, anyone that talks against the government could be considered a criminal.

Besides loads of coverage rallies in Hong Kong have received, many people in China are in opposition to these demonstrations. Not only people that consume news censored by the communist government but also people that shares both sides of the story, share the opinion that these protests are useless. The New York Times showed on some interviews how the common feeling among Chinese citizens is that these protests will not get anywhere and will not help people in Hong Kong. As a consequence, it will continue to damage this region´s economy, based on the belief in Chinese culture, that economic growth is more important than individual rights. Many Chinese citizens interviewed for The New York Times article, stated that even though Hong Kong has a strong economy, it is not as big and prosperous as China. They added, that since the mainland is the primary provider of food and other necessities, they agreed that Hong Kong would not be able to endure alone.

Hong Kongers stay firm to their opposition to Chinese impositions and as stated in a New York Times article by Deputy of the Treasury Security in Hong Kong, Lawrence H. Summers, “The free flow of information, the ability of people to remain free, to enter into transactions, to speak out: These are all the essential elements of free markets and a strong financial system.”

China has benefited greatly from Hong Kong´s unique position. It is China´s main bridge to the international community, and it is involved in the global economy as an independent territory, but that works under the eye of the Communist Party in China.

Both sides do not seem to be willing to give up anytime soon, and with the upcoming celebration on October 1, the 70th Anniversary of the founding of the People´s Republic of China, many in China, Hong Kong, and the international community expect the reaction of the protestors. 

If China stops interfering with Hong Kong´s legal system, specifically freedom of speech, both China and the administrative region would benefit economically from each other and will continúe to grow economically.