By Matthew Shanbom, Managing Editor
The protests in Hong Kong over the summer have had a dramatic social impact on the Chinese government. The protesters were originally denouncing an extradition bill which would allow for the transfer of fugitives from Hong Kong back to mainland China. Protesters were concerned their promised autonomy was being infringed upon by the Chinese government.
The history of Hong Kong’s British influence stretches back to the First Opium War where, after the Qing’s defeat, the British and other European powers were given a lease on territories, including Hong Kong, to govern. In 1997, Great Britain, a democratic country, was coming up on the end of its lease and decided to give Hong Kong back to China, a communist country.
To protect the thriving economy and culture of Hong Kong, the two countries agreed that Hong Kong would have its own political and economic systems for 50 years after the transfer. Now only after only 22 years later, the extradition bill would cause Hong Kong to lose some of its autonomy.
Once the protests started, the focus shifted from the extradition bill to the general projection of power from China into Hong Kong. Police brutality, including the use of tear gas, was commonly reported including several injuries that led to hospitalization. Many others who were not injured were arrested. The Hong Kong Free Press reported that as of Sept. 2, 1,117 people had been arrested in relation to the protests. One large topic that arose during the protests was identification of who to arrest. Many experts and protesters have come to the consensus that the Chinese government is using surveillance to identify protesters and keep a record of their actions.
This use of surveillance is part of China’s social credit system, which would track the actions and travel of its citizens. The most prominent alleged use of this system is in the Xinjiang province of China, where there is a large amount of Uyghurs, a Muslim group. Many claim that the Chinese government is tracking their movements and storing data from security cameras to use for facial recognition software. This invasion of privacy is unethical and involves a government working against its own people.
China claims that this system of surveillance is only for counter-terrorism measures but the general consensus is that this is far from the truth. While these measures could stop terrorists, regular citizens are being treated as enemies and guilty until proven innocent. This blatant racism against Uyghurs should not be tolerated and the international community should try to put pressure on China to stop the overreach of its power.
In Hong Kong, the protests have had some impact. On Sept. 4, the chief executive of Hong Kong, Carrie Lam, withdrew the extradition bill that started these protests. The lasting impact of these protests will continue to be seen for many years. The people in Hong Kong will keep fighting to maintain autonomy from China, and many around the world need to continue putting pressure on China to prevent an overuse of power.