Jim Ji & Theo Balabin / Edge columnists
The Hong Kong protest has brought the world unsettle for six months, but after deep investigation, the violence and destruction appears to be absurd and unnecessary.
Although the government repealed the bill on October 23, it was the starting point of the protest. Even this starting point was misunderstood by some protestors. In the New York Times, a quote from Jackey Wang, a twenty-five-year-old protestor, falls into this category: “If the bill passes, we could not able to say what we want to say. We would be like meat on a chopping board, at the mercy of the government.”
The quote implies that the bill will allow the murder of free speech.
However, if we look at the restriction of the bill, it clearly states that a person could only be surrendered for crime punishable in Hong Kong by more than three years imprisonment. This important piece of information which seldom appears in news media refutes most discontentment, because it simply says that a person would be extradited only if he or she violated the law in mainland China and also repeated the same crime in Hong Kong and got imprisoned. Freedom of speech is secured by the law in Hong Kong; therefore, the extradition law wouldn’t apply to them.
Another wind which kept the fire burning is the notion that the Hong Kong police are brutal. Before returning to China, Hong Kong was a colony under Britain for about a hundred and fifty years. In 1967, similar protest against Britain’s rule happened in Hong Kong. According to Hong Kong’s Watershed: The 1967 Riots, with a total of 50,000 protestors, 51 were killed and 1000 were injured, resulting in a death rate of 0.021% and injured rate of 0.068%.
However, until November 27, with 2,000,000 protestors against the bill, no one was killed by police and about 2100 people injured, resulting in an injured rate of 0.00105%. Despite having been firebombed and attacked several times with weapons, police in Hong Kong have not killed anyone.
Brought by the anger, universal suffrage is one of the strongest demands for protestor. From protestors’ point of view, the Chinese government is undermining the possibility universal suffrage. However, for a total of 156 years’ colonization of Hong Kong, Britain did not plan to apply universal suffrage either until 1992, five years before returning to China, and even that didn’t realize before the handover to China. Britan’s decision to stand aside for more than a hundred years and attempt to implement universal suffrage right before handing HongKong back to China aren’t out of good faith. Therefore, blaming China for disrespecting democracy is a misunderstanding of history.
If the seemingly endless conflict starts unreasonably and is kept going by an invalid notion, why are we still advocating for it?