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Sophia Dawal

1st Year - Marketing

THE BATTLE FOR FREEDOM:


A COMMENTARY ON 2019 HONG KONG PROTESTS

Masked protesters, blocked rails and roads,​ ​and tear gas emissions​—there seems to be no end in
sight for all these repercussions brought about by one single draft law that would turn the lives of
everyone in Hong Kong around. Over one proposed bill, youngsters and their elders, even, have
declared war against the nation’s higher-ups who would attempt to deprive them of liberty. The
government's move lit the fuse for fear over the impending doom awaiting the Hongkongers in
2047, when Hong Kong will eventually be under mainland China’s full control.

Not long after the extradition bill was proposed in April 2019, the people began to mobilise. The
proposal, for Hongkongers, is a wake-up call, instead of an all-clear. Surprisingly, many of these
protesters are high-schoolers, and one of them is Vincent. Vincent grew up in mainland China
and moved with his family to Hong Kong when he’s a teenager. According to the teen, living in
this country is like “a prison within a prison,” as the state tightly surveils its people. For Vincent,
the fight for Hong Kong is a matter of “death or freedom.”

A more specific reason for all the tumult and strife is that, as believed by the opponents, had the
bill been passed, China would’ve had the authority to subject Hongkongers to unfair trials and
inhumane treatment. The other argument is that the law would allow the Chinese government,
led by Xi Jinping, to have Hong Kong people, especially activists and journalists, trapped by its
noose. What’s more terrorizing is the Xi Jinping Administration has historically been accused of
resorting to extreme measures solely for the purpose of silencing its opponents.

According to the World Report 2019 of Human Rights Watch, Chinese authorities have
increasingly established mass surveillance systems to rigidify their control over society. The
government is also openly expressing its hostility towards human rights defenders and activists,
having conducted a national crackdown on lawyers and advocates in 2015. One of the victims
that year is ​Wang Quanzhang, who was, having been charged “state subversion,” tortured with
electric shocks and urged by force to take medications. Other activists have been facing long
detentions without trials, and Chinese opponents abroad are being silenced by the government by
harassing and jailing their families in China.

As these forms of harassment by the Xi Jinping Administration continue to worsen, affecting


people in Hong Kong and mainland China, time is running out for these Hongkongers, who,
persistently, have been waging a war and fighting harder than ever for democracy. For them,
there’s nothing more dreadful than being dominated by China completely and mercilessly.
Sophia Dawal
1st Year - Marketing

Because of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, a treaty signed between China and Britain in 1984,
Hong Kong still gets to run its own economy, police force, and justice system, under the
principle “one country, two systems.” However, that agreement is almost halfway to its death.
By 2047, Hong Kong will lose its autonomy as it is going to be handed over to China. The
people of Hong Kong are afraid they won’t be able to vote and to go to Facebook or Instagram,
like in mainland China nowadays. As time draws them near to the possible end of their
independence, they believe that the freedom they have now will become nothing 27 years later.

It was in September 2019 when the bill was finally withdrawn, but the protesters still felt
displeased. For them, the withdrawal of the extradition bill was “too late,” and it’s just one less
from their list of five demands. Besides the abolition of the proposed law, Hongkongers demand:
(1) that the protests not be labeled as “riots;” (2) amnesty for arrested protesters; (3) independent
investigation into alleged police violence; and, (4) complete universal suffrage. Interestingly,
others are even calling for something more radical—full independence from China, but, of
course, Xi Jinping wouldn’t let that happen. Any attempt to divide China will result in “bodies
and bones being smashed into powder.”

Violence and chaos persist, and neither of the both sides is backing down. If the Chinese
Communist Party aims to divide and destroy its opponents, then the protesters will even more
unite and resist. With bravery and conviction, they go out to the streets and tell their primary
enemy, the government, about what they truly want. These dissidents won’t back down until the
higher-ups are shaken. Hongkongers will continue to exhaust their enemy up until they get what
has been promised to them. Concession will only embolden the oppressors, so, even without
knowing which side will come out victorious, the weak must stand unified and fight on.

The world can learn so much from these fearless advocates in Hong Kong. My country,
Philippines, is facing a problem that is not so distinct from the situation of the Hongkongers. The
government itself is also a threat to our freedom, when, in fact, it should be the one upon which
the people rely for help. Another antagonist that poses danger to our liberty is, unsurprisingly,
the Chinese government, again.

Hong Kong is technically under China, yet Hongkongers can boldly contend with their rulers'
authoritarian regime. The Philippines is a separate state that has its own autonomy, but a
question still lingers on the minds of its people. Why can't its governing officials stand firm
against China's claim on the islands that should only be for Filipinos?

Activism is not new in the Philippines, but, nowadays, it is rarely encouraged by most. For that
reason, Filipinos must, once again, be reminded that the one of the legacies of student activism is
Sophia Dawal
1st Year - Marketing
that it took us to the road of independence back in 1898, where Philippines finally became a
nation. Thus, once the government, the leaders of society, stops speaking for its own people,
resistance becomes necessary.

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