“Leung Chun-ying, step down! Oppose NPC’s shutting the gate,” is what legions of Hong Kong protesters chant as they fight for the full democracy they truly deserve.
On August 31, the National People’s Congress, the national legislature of the People’s Republic of China, decided to undercut their promise to Hong Kong citizens of universal suffrage in their elections in announcing that citizens may choose its chief executive, the head of Hong Kong’s government, but only from a pool of candidates approved by the NPC. This decision has incited protest among thousands of citizens.
Before we dive into details of the protests, let us evaluate how this affects Keppel. Why should you care? First and foremost, many of the students here are from, have family from, and or citizens of Hong Kong. The families of those students are affected in many ways. The riot police have been violent in their attempts to stop the protests, bombarding crowds with pepper spray and tear gas. They should be aware of what is possibly happening to family back home. As for all Keppel students, the situation teaches us to not take our governmental situation for granted. A dual citizen of the United States and Hong Kong, senior Sharon Lam says, “[Keppel students] should be grateful for having a democratic type of government with more freedom than those of other countries.” The citizens of Hong Kong have to protest for democracy while we are simply handed the democratic rights imbedded in our Constitution.
While the protests may be new to some, many of Keppel’s students have been following the proceedings of Hong Kong very closely. A dual citizen of both the US and Hong Kong, senior Annabelle Lau says, “I know that China’s government is strict, so the chance of universal suffrage isn’t high.” However, Lau believes the protests are “worth it” because as a dual citizen, US democracy has “shown me what real democracy is and how, as a student, I should learn more about my government to fully know what’s going [in the US government].”
MKHS teachers have also been reading about the protests in Hong Kong. When asked for her take on the protests, World History teacher Ms. Castro says, “For any government, protests are healthy. Governments need to hear the grievances of the people.” The activists have and plant to continue to voice their grievances peacefully; however, with citizens sleeping in and blocking off many of the main streets in Hong Kong, there have been complaints of the disruptions of everyday business in the region, causing people to leave the protests. In regards to those giving up, Ms. Castro says, “Although difficult, these protesters must take the well-being of the government and its people into consideration over their individual needs. ”
With both the Chinese government and the protesters deliberating their next moves, the final outcome of the event is uncertain. Although the Chinese government has made it clear that it does not want to concede to protests, a meeting to pave way for talks between government officials and protesters took place on Sunday, October 6. Considering China’s traditionally strict form of government, it is unlikely there will be dramatic changes. However, if if they continue the protest, this will mark gradual changes toward democratization. For many relatives of students here at Keppel, this could be the beginning of a new political system in the People’s Republic of China. We can only hope for the best.