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The beginning of a big but not declared war

Why are protests against the new bill not stopping in Hong Kong?

In Hong Kong, protests against the bill to extradite suspects in mainland China do not stop. On the eve of the Taiwanese administration said it was ready to assist Hong Kong residents who want to leave the region. At the same time, Taiwan does not plan to intervene in the protests, but is ready to come to the rescue of the residents if the force is used, which will lead to a new level of violence.

The beginning of a big but not declared war

Hong Kong residents take to the streets protesting the bill to extradite suspected criminals to mainland China in June this year. Supporters of the bill say that about one guy from Hong Kong who went to rest on a neighboring island, killed his girlfriend there and returned home to the area with special administrative status. They cannot extradite him to China, since there is no law on extradition between Hong Kong and mainland China.

This is all true, but this does not mean at all that there is complete anarchy and freemen for any criminals on the island. From 1842 to 1997, Hong Kong was a British colony, the same laws worked and continue to work there as in any other country - they punished criminal acts just like everywhere else. In the 1997 year, China annexed Hong Kong under the slogan "One country two systems", which for ordinary Hong Kongers remained an empty phrase. Hong Kong lost the right to declare war and conduct an independent foreign policy, but all domestic laws remained the same and are still punished for crime, the police work like everywhere else, so that person was probably punished according to local laws.

At the same time, one must understand that in mainland China, any dissatisfaction with political power is considered a crime, you can not criticize power not only in the media, but in private conversations. You can’t even think not only about active resistance to power, but also about sympathy or solidarity with protesters or dissatisfied with the authorities.

“I worked for a finance company in northern China. I wanted Hong Kong to be open to the Chinese, so that they could look at what democracy really is. I downloaded some photos of the protesters on the phone and shared them with friends on the social network. My superiors found out about this. I'm in trouble. My boss wanted me to sign an apology letter, but I refused, so he fired me and told everyone that I was against the state. The next day, the local police came to me, they took fingerprints and blood samples from me, accused of "improper behavior" this crime, which does not require serious evidence. Anyone can be blamed for this. I was forced to sign a letter that I would no longer be in trouble, otherwise the next time it would be more than just the local police, ”said the person who wished to remain anonymous.

In China, even punished for thought crimes. Hong Kong people are well aware of this. Moreover, local citizens understand very well that this bill is not just an initiative to close loopholes in the law. This is China's next step towards depriving Hong Kong of its autonomy and some independence. Immediately after the return of Hong Kong, the Chinese authorities began to squeeze or put pressure on politicians inside Hong Kong who opposed China and at the same time lobby for interests and promote politicians loyal to their regime. As a result, in February 2019 a notorious bill appeared, and in the summer of Hong Kong broke out. Millions of ordinary people took to the streets. Police used batons, rubber bullets, and tear gas against protesters. The protesting students were supported by the President of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Rocky Tuan, who published a letter in their support. Prior to that, he held an open meeting during which students talked about cases of police violence.

During the English protectorate, its own special culture was formed that is different from the Chinese, several generations of people who do not feel like Chinese have grown up. Young people speak English and Chinese, they are used to using the Internet without restrictions, and European-American values ​​are closer to Eastern ones. As a result of this, according to Sinologist Alexei Maslov, a “psychological break” arises - Hong Kong people consider themselves freer than the Chinese. Moreover, there are many universities in Hong Kong, and all higher education institutions work according to the British system of higher education, while in China higher education works according to its own laws. For example, some universities teach Marxism-Leninism. Hong Kong youth somehow do not really want to learn the basics of Marxism-Leninism.

If the law on the extradition of suspects is adopted, then it will be necessary to extradite anyone whom the Chinese authorities point out, including opposition members, objectionable journalists, and anyone who is objectionable to the regime. And there are many of them - Tibetans, national minorities who were unlucky to live on the site of the planned grandiose construction and many others.

The Chinese media portray demonstrators as vandals, destroying the city so that they are treated with concern or generally prefer to hush up what is happening. In the Russian media, traditionally in any protests, if this is not a protest within America itself against domestic politics, they are used to seeing the influence of the US State Department. There is an explanation for this. The protesters are denied independence in making decisions, on the one hand, in order to arouse not a sense of solidarity, but sympathy for them, as for small, unreasonable children who are used for their purposes by cunning Americans. On the other hand, people are accustomed to the idea that any protester is always in collusion with someone. This is necessary so that in the event of which it would be possible to punish not one but several at once, especially since a crime committed in conspiracy is considered more serious.

During the Great Terror in the Soviet Union, they always asked who else was spying in favor of all states at once. Since then, it is not customary to talk about self-organization and independence. It should be noted that in 2014, there were already massive protests in Hong Kong - the "Umbrella Revolution". Demonstrations of many thousands lasted nearly three months from September to December. The protesters demanded the resignation of the head of government and an end to the PRC's interference in local elections. Then it all ended with the arrest of the leaders of the movement - Joshua Wong, Nathan Lowe and Alex Chow and others. 

There are no specific protest leaders in Hong Kong this year, so authorities cannot exert pressure through one or more people. Although, of course, there are those who are ready and take responsibility for some work - to notify everyone through social networks, to purchase respiratory masks, and so on. But as Alexei Maslov explains, modern protests have a “swarm character” by analogy with a swarm of bees. The protest really has no leader or leaders. It is both bad and good at the same time. On the one hand, even if the alleged protest leaders are arrested, this will not affect the protests themselves and will not stop them, but on the other hand, when there are no leaders, there’s no one to agree on requirements or further actions with. For example, one of the protesters ’demands“ Hong Kong is not China, ”strictly speaking, is not a requirement, but a declaration of a common mindset for Hong Kongers. This “requirement” is very difficult to satisfy. Apparently, protesters in Hong Kong are studying the experience of resistance to power that, for example, the Black Panthers had in America - it was a popular African American rights movement in the middle of the 20 century.

In Russia, such work is presented as clearly planned and well-organized actions by the West. It is clear that in any case, America will somehow react to the situation in the region, but, most likely, it will not reach the deployment of troops and open confrontation with China. Probably, the Americans can adopt the local “Magnitsky law” if the Chinese are able to suppress the protests in one way or another. It could be a law against Chinese software development and citizen tracking technology - a face recognition system that has been successfully operating in China and Russia. What do the protesters say?

“My parents are afraid that they will arrest me. I am their daughter, they love me and do not want something to happen to me. But we are students and it is we who will inherit this place in the future. Yes, I’m only a teenager so far, I’m only growing up and studying, but I can talk while I look at what is happening. I distinguish between good and evil. Freedom is becoming less, and I do not want to live where I can not express my opinion freely. It is very important to hear everyone. When you look at something in only one plane, everything may seem good, but if you look at it from a different angle, the result may be different. Everyone should have the opportunity to share their point of view, otherwise everything will be worse. Some people think it is pointless to protest. Yes, China is omnipotent, but we will succeed, because we are fighting for good. Truth will always triumph, even if it happens in a hundred years. I’m too young to fight in the front ranks, but one day I’ll get up and tell the whole world that Hong Kong is not afraid, we don’t want to hide or run and will fight for our freedom to the end. ”

Among other things, it is also necessary to take into account the economic factor. After the legal accession to China, the economic role of Hong Kong fell somewhat, because before that all trade between China and the West went through Hong Kong, which explains the so-called Hong Kong economic miracle. After an explanation, the situation has changed for the worse for the island. In addition, as noted by Alexei Maslov, in Hong Kong one of the main types of business is real estate. All real estate is controlled by local oligarchs, who are completely unhappy with Chinese intervention. Large and medium-sized businessmen fear that the Hong Kong economy will melt into the economy of mainland China. On the other hand, the same businessmen express dissatisfaction with the protests, because they negatively affect the vision of the business. Large investors are in no hurry to invest in the island's economy and are waiting for further developments.

Today, the protests are almost over, the island’s authorities recalled the odious bill. Did the confrontation between the island and the metropolis end there? I think no. Who won this fight? So far no one has won. China will not give up claims to unconditional power over the island and people. The very fact of the existence of dissenters and citizens who are ready to fight for their freedom is dangerous for China, where there have been no anti-government protests since the 1989 of the year and where the authorities quite successfully crush any will to resist.

Russia imitates China in many ways in the field of domestic politics by restricting freedom of speech, isolating the Internet and much more. Therefore, the attitude in Russia to the protests in Hong Kong largely depends on the attitude to China, its policy and attitude to protests against the government in general. Various factors from the weather to the index of business activity on Asian exchanges will influence the further development of events in the region.

What developments can be expected? It is not very clear yet, but according to Aleksey Maslov, China’s tough forceful intervention in Hong Kong’s internal affairs is unlikely - the Tiananmen horrors will most likely not recur. China does not want to look like an aggressor on the world stage, although on the other hand, when China was worried about the opinions of other countries?

At the same time, within the leadership of China itself, questions may arise about whether the Xi Jinping regime is able to control the situation. So while China will not send troops, but it certainly will not abandon attempts to influence “soft power”, it will probably come to an agreement with local large property owners and community leaders, of which there are an incredible amount in Hong Kong and they will be able to somehow influence the mood of young people.

How it will end, no one knows for sure yet, and it is not known how events will develop further, one can only speculate, but now we can say with confidence only one thing - these events are only the beginning of a large, but not declared war between a powerful, authoritarian state and a small island , between total control and the desire for freedom.

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