a quick take on the latest events in hong kong
Hong Kong has never been a stranger to protests and dissent. In fact, it’s the city’s modern form of politics. Time and time again, Hong Kongers have stressed that this is why they are different from mainland China. Their capitalistic values and western-style freedoms do not exist across the border. However, yesterday - at the start of the Lunar New Year - one of these protests became a riot. This is not a joke, but it all started with fishballs. The authorities were trying to clear away street food vendors, something part of urban development goals for the city. The Guardian has a nice, short post on the significance of fishballs and Hong Kong street food which you can read more about here.
Before I go further, I should say I do not support this protest (or riot), and I’m compelled to say a few things because of what I have been seeing and reading online. There are two points I want to address: the police use of warning shot and the democracy movement of Hong Kong.
On my first point, I want to urge people who keep pointing out the police warning shot as abuse of force and who repeatedly post photos or videos of that one moment to see both sides of the story. There were initially only a few traffic officers - some on the ground and injured - surrounded by hundreds of violent protestors. There were clear and imminent dangers to the officers. Now, the police could have probably deployed their tactical teams earlier, but that’s a different argument.
Yet what is even more troubling is when some people are using this incident to fight for democracy. This is precisely what democracy isn’t about. Throwing bricks at peace officers goes against what a civilised society should be like and only looks desperate. While it would be naive for me to suggest that this event is purely about fishballs, using the incident as propaganda for democracy and the identity of Hong Kong is not advancing the democratic agenda. The riots make the city look weak and without principles.
It is clear that deep divisions run within the people of Hong Kong. That needs to be urgently tackled, but can only be realised when thinking and judgment aren’t clouded by impulse and anger. History shows that fighting for freedoms and rights is never an easy task; it requires patience and fortitude. But history also shows that those who persevere through it all come out strong.