It has been months since the protests on the streets of Hong Kong began over a proposed amendment to a bill that would allow suspects in Chinese territories to be brought to the mainland for trial. That bill has since been shelved, but the youth-led demonstrations are as vigorous and passionate as ever. The clashes show no signs of abating soon.
Every day last week, office workers devoted their lunch hours to joining the rallies. They turned up in their crisp office suits and donned masks as they chanted pro-democracy words. They, like the youth, were undeterred by the menacing look of police officers, who were ready to use tear gas against them.
The protests have certainly gone beyond concerns over the extradition bill. It has extended to demands for democracy and for accountability in the harsh police crackdown on the crowd.
Since June, when the protests began, Hong Kong’s economy and tourism have suffered a dive as investors explore other business destinations and tourists fear for their safety. The security of overseas workers’ jobs in China’s Special Administrative Region has also been threatened; this includes the roughly 230,000 Filipino workers there, even as foreign affairs authorities say there is no need yet for an evacuation.
Despite all these, protesters appear undeterred until they see concrete changes in how the administrative region is being run and how sincere the Chinese government is in hearing their concerns and doing something about these.
The events in Hong Kong promise to be protracted and long-drawn. We can only hope that the demonstrators do not tire of expressing their conviction, that the police stop employing brute force, and that the rest of the world does not develop fatigue in watching what is happening in what was once Asia’s economic and commercial powerhouse.
Such a tense situation may go on for a long and undetermined period of time, but eventually things will come to a head. What is certain is that this will again be a lesson in history, from which future generations will learn how to—or how not to—listen to the people’s real, legitimate and desperate demands.