As for casualties, latest reports estimate that at least 200-300 people were injured, at least 700 people, including one OFW, were arrested, and five suicides were documented in connection with the protests. Some of the more notable recent casualties include a protester allegedly blinded by a rubber bullet round fired by police during a mobilization on Aug. 12, and the person being arrested in this video.
Who are the key players (and figures of note)?
The protests are primarily being contested between two sides: a series of loosely affiliated, largely “leaderless” pro-democracy and anti-extradition bill public interest groups and professional unions, and the China-backed Hong Kong government led by Chief Executive Carrie Lam, the Hong Kong police force, and a smaller if still sizeable number of pro-Beijing and pro-police Hong Kong residents.
What are protesters demanding for, more specifically?
Protesters have five main demands, namely: the complete withdrawal of the proposed extradition bill, that the government withdraw the use of the word “riot” in describing the protests, the unconditional release of arrested protesters and that the charges against them are dropped, an independent inquiry into police behavior during the protests, and the implementation of genuine universal suffrage. A sizable number of Hong Kong protesters have also added Chief Executive Lam’s resignation to this list of demands.
Have protesters gotten any major concessions?
As of this article’s writing, both the Chinese government and the Hong Kong government are refusing to give in to any of the protesters’ demands. Chief Executive Lam and her administration has additionally come under fire for unilaterally condemning the protest actions, and defending a number of controversial police actions against protesters.
However, she has gone on the record to say that the extradition bill was “dead” and suspended indefinitely at the legislative council level (think: mix between our Senate and House of Representatives). Protesters have continued to criticize her statements on the matter, given that neither she nor her government has taken official steps to permanently remove the bill from the government’s legislative agenda.
So what should we be looking out for, as Filipinos and members of the international community?
Simply put: how China responds. The Chinese government has been largely hands-off during the duration of the protests (though it has strongly condemned protesters), but has increasingly hinted at its willingness to explore military interventions to suppress the conflict. Multiple news outlets have in fact tracked down a sizeable number of Chinese military tanks and troops gathering at the Hong Kong-Shenzhen border. Monitor those developments closely.
From a Philippine point of view, however, it’s admittedly a bit of a non-starter from a national security perspective, if only because of the localized nature of the conflict, and the geographic distance between us and Hong Kong.
That having been said, it is still good for us to take note and offer support for the protesters, if not empathy for their cause and their plight. What makes the Hong Kong protests so striking is that there are many parallels between their current struggles and the ones we currently face back home.
[READ: What’s in store for young people in the next three years of the Duterte admin?]
Be it the youthful make-up of protesters, the gradual rollback of many civic rights we take for granted, the increasing influence of authoritarian governments and regimes, or even unchecked vigilante violence, such concerns are not foreign to us though the contexts may be a bit different. The primary difference between their protests and ours (besides their more ingenious deployment of laser pointers, Lennon Walls, and traffic cones) are that their days of reckoning are now, whereas perhaps our most harrowing days of struggle are still to come.
Google also hit by Chinese disinformation campaigns
One of the heads of Google’s cybersecurity platform just disclosed a few hours ago that Youtube has disabled 210 channels demonstrating similar behaviors to the accounts suspended by Twitter and Facebook for their associations to a mainland China-linked disinformation campaign in Hong Kong. Accounts were traced and documented to have used virtual private networks to have bypassed Chinese government censorship protocols. Google has not however, confirmed whether or not the Chinese government was directly involved in the creation and management of these Youtube channels.