Hong Kong and China

Let’s talk politics. It’s time to speak up. Posters for universal suffrage have been plastered over every inch of this city since the spring. Protests have become a bit more visible and local news headlines a bit more sinister. In case you haven’t read the news, China announced last weekend that Hong Kong’s ‘universal suffrage’ that we’ve all been waiting for would consist of allowing everyone to vote on a new chief executive (yay!), but the candidates would be hand-selected by the government in Beijing (boo!).

Injustice, corruption, and totalitarianism do not happen overnight. They happen gradually, creeping up around the edges of democracy, and citizens accept one small blow after another. Then, after an extended amount of time, people look around and realise they don’t recognise the community they are living in. ‘But we used to be so free!’ they might complain.

What is happening in Hong Kong right now is a gradual removal of freedoms. Freedom of the press, freedom to assemble, freedom of speech, these are slowly being chipped away at by the government of China, and because it is happening so slowly, many here underestimate the power China is wielding over Hong Kong.

What is there to do really? When protests got heavy over the summer, over 500 democrats were thrown in jail. Calls for the government in London to at least make a statement due to a sense of obligation have yielded silence on that front. The ‘Occupy Central’ movement threatening to shut down the Central business district is one option, but pro-China groups have already been organising marches on a much larger scale. Hong Kong was supposed to remain autonomous until 2047, but it appears that China is making its move much sooner than anticipated.

I’ve done the whole ‘political instability’ thing in Ecuador. The President there, Rafael Correa, was an egotistical nut job, and I swore I would never live in a place like that again. I just hope that what is happening in Hong Kong doesn’t blow up (at least not while I’m here). Of course the activist in me wants to get involved and is sort of excited by the romance of it all.

A democratic journalist was attacked with a cleaver in February, all hopes of true universal suffrage were dashed last week, and this week a long run economic column written by a known democratic hedge fund manager was pulled from an influential local newspaper. All signs point towards oppression in my mind, but who knows. It hasn't affected day to day life here in Hong Kong (yet), and I hope it stays that way.

If you are interested in the situation at all and would like to read a few articles on it:

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