Last Year Today: A Misguided Hope?

On June 17, 2019–exactly a year ago today, Demosisto Secretary-General and student activist Joshua Wong was released from prison, having served his two month sentence for his role in the 2014 Occupy Central protests. With his release coinciding with the peak of last year’s anti-extradition protests, Wong was quick to condemn Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, calling for her resignation and rejoining the protest movement swiftly.

One year later, Hong Kongers are witnessing Beijing’s grip on the city tighten, the end of ‘one country two systems’ in sight, and Carrie Lam still presiding over the city. Already, the freedoms and liberties that serve to distinguish Hong Kong as a bastion of freedom in an otherwise authoritarian sea are quickly being eroded away.

“Rights and freedoms are not absolute.”

– Carrie Lam

The calculated advance on the city’s freedoms is ubiquitous across all spheres of life in Hong Kong. In the city’s schools, civil groups advocating for a comprehensive overhaul of school curricula to be in line with the ‘educational reform’ and ‘positive energy’ touted by Xi Jinping and the CCP. And now, with schools in session again, children as young as 13 have been seen detained by police.

In the press, the city’s very own public broadcasting service, Radio Television Hong Kong, is being dealt blows–its governance and management formally under scrutiny for the service airing a satirical program found to have “insulted” the Hong Kong Police Force.

The alarms are ringing. They have been for some time now. With the death knell for democracy and liberty in the city sounding, many protesters are left wondering ‘What now?’

For an increasing number, the way out is the only way forward. If two decades of advocacy and reform have garnered little more than conditional suffrage, is there much left to sacrifice before the hope for some semblance of democracy is but a pipe dream?

For those looking back on the polity’s lamentable trajectory over the course of the past year, the external world provides little hope. With traditional CCP opponents largely idle in the face of Beijing’s ambitions, little stands between Xi Jinping’s desires and the city’s unique status.