By Teele Rebane
Anna is a 15-year-old who usually discovered herself on the frontlines of the 2019 pro-democracy protests and unrest. Peter Tsang Yu-hung, now a 70-year-old retiree, was arrested for unlawful meeting in 1967 when he was 16 and sentenced to a 12 months behind bars.
Over the previous half-century Hong Kong has gone from being a British colony to a Chinese language Particular Administrative Area that many worry is destined to change into simply one other mainland metropolis.
The youthful era has change into more and more outspoken towards Beijing. A survey by the College of Hong Kong in 2016 discovered that these aged 18-39 are likely to vote for pro-democracy events, while older teams usually tend to assist the pro-Beijing aspect.
Anna – full identify withheld – crosses her arms in an try and cowl a short lived “STANDWITHHK” tattoo on her forearm. Earlier than the protests broke out she was an everyday teenager who spent most of her time hanging out with mates – she shyly admits that she misses these instances. “I actually want that would occur, however it’s not doable proper now. I don’t actually care about that anymore. I’m extra involved about the way forward for Hong Kong.”
She says the speedy purpose of the protests was for the federal government to contemplate the 5 calls for of the protesters, together with the withdrawal of the extradition invoice and an inquiry into police violence. The final word purpose, in response to her, was independence – albeit far on the horizon. Peter shakes his head violently: “Beijing won’t ever hand over Hong Kong, that is particular. There is no such thing as a bargaining.”
Anna stays unfazed and hopeful. She believes that, when youthful generations develop up and exchange these presently in authorities, Hong Kong might be reformed. “We will change Hong Kong at some point; it’s simply not now.”
In Could 1967, protests broke out at a synthetic flower manufacturing facility in San Po Kong the place 325 labourers had been fired. The subsequent day, when sacked employees returned to the manufacturing facility to barter compensation with the administration, the police confirmed up. A personal labour dispute escalated into city-wide strikes and protests, culminating in bomb assaults and several other murders.
“They tried to point out their loyalty to Beijing, to do some revolutionary patriotic factor in Hong Kong,” says Gary Cheung, the writer of Hong Kong’s Watershed: The 1967 Riots. He believes the explanations for the protests had been extra political than financial. It was a spillover of the Cultural Revolution from mainland China, which was enduring political turmoil below Mao Zedong. “Beijing was pleased to see some anti-British protests, however I don’t suppose Beijing management actually severely thought of to take again Hong Kong at the moment,” he provides.
The riots lasted for 5 months, throughout which at the very least 51 folks died. The ultimate straw got here when two younger siblings had been killed by a avenue bomb wrapped like a gift close to their dwelling in North Level in August 1967. At present, the violent episode isn’t talked about as a part of Hong Kong historical past. The riots successfully ruined the popularity of leftists in Hong Kong. “They’re resented by mainstream society,” Cheung says.
Nevertheless, plenty of those that took half in 1967 nonetheless consider that what they did was appropriate, even patriotic. “That’s why they nonetheless have bitterness,” Cheung mentioned. The leftists consider they obtained unfair remedy and their actions had been misunderstood by the general public.
Alternatively, the 2019 protests had been supported by 59 per cent of Hongkongers, in response to a survey by the Hong Kong Public Opinion Analysis Institute (PORI) in December 2019.
“My father cherished China very a lot certainly, nonetheless he suggested me to remain calm,” Peter says, recalling the occasions of 1967. “However a boy of 16, …when the dispute began, we put away our books.”
Peter and his mates organised rallies within the schoolyard at which they waved Chinese language flags and denounced the British authorities. On December 3, 1967, he was sentenced to a 12 months in jail for unlawful meeting. “My father was very offended, my mom was very unhappy. I used to be the one son and I destroyed my life.”
Peter pulls out photographs from the day he was launched from jail. His faculty threw him a welcome again occasion. He poses for a gaggle photograph with 20 or so classmates, who had additionally been arrested.
He seems to be solemnly severe, tall for a 17-year-old.
What he couldn’t have imagined again then was that some 50 years later, Hong Kong would bear one other large social motion. This time round, a few of these concerned within the occasions of 1967 not agree with the act of protest. Some 91 per cent of these aged 14- 29 opposed the controversial extradition invoice that sparked the months-long protests in 2019. Amongst these aged 65 or older, solely 47 per cent opposed the invoice, in response to research performed by PORI and the Challenge Citizen Basis in 2019.
Peter says, that again within the day, they protested as a result of they cherished their nation and wished the international authorities gone; now the younger protest as a result of they hate their nation. He raises his fingers in despair, his eyes puzzled and anxious. “You like your mom, you like your father, you like your nation. There’s a motive for each love and each hate. What’s the motive for this hate?”
“They’re attempting to drive us to alter ourselves,” Anna responds, “It’s not about proper or incorrect; it’s about having the precise to decide on your individual ideas.”
The primary protest Anna attended was on June 12, 2019, the day of the second studying of the invoice which might have allowed extradition to mainland China. A citywide strike had been referred to as and folks gathered in Tamar Park for “picnics” – a euphemism for civic gatherings. Anna attended just because she felt she needed to. Clashes quickly broke out between protesters and police and 150 rounds of tear gasoline had been fired.
Peter shakes his head in disappointment: “You might be breaking your mother and father’ hearts.”
Anna says she doesn’t agree with the usage of violence by protesters however believes there’s no different method to make the federal government reply to their calls for. She brings up the 1967 riots, when violent demonstrations finally compelled the federal government to hurry up the reform of labour legal guidelines.
“However proper now in 2019 and 2020 nothing modified,” Anna says. “I imply, all the pieces modified! It received worse!”
On June 30, 2020, China imposed on Hong Kong a nationwide safety regulation meant to curb any challenges to the authority of the central authorities in Beijing. The brand new safety invoice successfully put paid to any resumption of the road protests because it outlaws requires independence or any acts deemed as subversive or separatist.
The grim prospects don’t deter Anna from eager to be a journalist when she leaves faculty. Or perhaps a politician – she isn’t positive but. Her greatest concern proper now’s the way forward for free speech in Hong Kong. The current sequence of occasions has frightened her, as has the doable censorship of knowledge.
Peter says he’s not frightened as he believes finally that the reality can’t be hidden. “Media is essential, however info are info. Even should you unfold pretend information, unfold lies, the info will come out.”
Anna disagrees. She is aware of that misinformation spreads like wildfire. Her personal father is an avid supporter of the Chinese language Communist Occasion (CCP) and sometimes shares info disseminated by the occasion with the household. In reality, he informed her that the 1967 riots by no means occurred. This disagreement is a continuing supply of battle between the 2, which frequently results in fights within the family that final for weeks. “Chilly Conflict” intervals, as Anna calls them.
One such episode has simply ended. Anna confronted her father to ask why he chooses to assist the CCP regardless of the 2019 protests and the Covid-19 pandemic first detected in China. He stays robust in his stance, citing China’s speedy development over the previous few many years. He feels mainland China has surpassed Hong Kong on the curve of improvement.
Peter nods eagerly in assist. “You say China this, China that. How come China these days has change into so robust?” he asks with a smile.
Anna shrugs it off. She doesn’t suppose China’s nationwide improvement is matched by the development within the every day lifetime of its folks. “You possibly can’t simply say that China is dangerous. It’s not,” she says, clarifying that she dislikes the Chinese language Communist Occasion however has nothing towards the nation or its folks.
The one factor the pair do agree on is Hong Kong chief Carrie Lam, whom they each dislike with a ardour. Lam is town’s most hated chief govt. Hitting traditionally low approval ratings week by week, she has failed to seek out stable assist from both aspect of the political spectrum. Peter declares that if he had been Lam’s husband, he would by no means have let her change into Chief Government.
As they joke about Lam, Anna concedes that Peter and he or she really need related issues for Hong Kong however hope to realize them in several methods. “He actually loves his nation, I actually love my metropolis,” she says.
“After all my pricey!” Peter responds. “I can see the way forward for Hong Kong once I take a look at her.”
Teele Rebane is a contract journalist and remaining 12 months scholar on the College of Hong Kong, majoring in journalism and gender research. Initially from Estonia, she has spent the previous three years dwelling in and protecting Hong Kong. Discover her on Twitter.