On July the 1st, hundreds of young people occupied for hours the Legislative Council (parliament) of Hong Kong, while thousands surrounded the building. After hours they were removed by the police, amidst harsh repression in the streets.
By Alejandro Iturbe
This new expression of the democratic struggle fought by the people of Hong Kong against local authorities and the Chinese Beijing regime arose from a call by various youth and student organizations, which had the goal of stopping the official celebration of the 22th anniversary of the territory’s reincorporation by China.
The violent police repression in the streets impeded this goal. Thus a sector decided to occupy the Legislative Council and was followed by thousands of people who surrounded the building . As we already said, the occupation lasted hours until the police violently emptied the building.
In a recent article, we analysed the special character of Hong King inside China (it was a British colony/enclave between 1842 and 1997), some elements of its social and economic development, the regional institutional-political system, the factors which led to this struggle which began in 2015 with the Umbrella Revolution, and the crisis it brought to the Chinese regime .
The fighting youth advances in its conscience
The obvious centre of this process is the youth (between 15 and less than 30 years), especially students. The most evident boosting factor was the realization the Chinese regime would not keep its promise of allowing the direct election of the head of government, which was marked for 2017. On the contrary, the regime wants to remove more and more democratic liberties, like the “Law of Extradition” recently proposed by the local Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, which detonated the demonstrations on the present year.
As part of a process that, with highs and lows, calls back to 2014, this youth begins to take conclusions from their struggle and experience. One of them is they fight not only the Chief Executive (and the police as a repressive instrument), but also the antidemocratic Legislative Council. Meaning, the local political regime as a whole, as established by the Basic Law of 1997.
The 2014 struggle “did not achieve the democratic reforms it wanted. But it happened with the bones of its main leaders in prison. The young politicians that arose from it saw their electoral bids vetoed, or, after being elected, the authorities cancelled their parliamentarian registers one after the other with various arguments, while Parliament kept on being dominated by pro-Beijing lawmakers”. The conclusion of this struggle was expressed in social media by the young writer Dung Kai-cheung: “The assault on Parliament is an expression of anger against an impotent government, some corrupt parties and representatives of a caste, and a non-democratic government’” .
Another experience is with the insurmountable limits of “peaceful resistance” as a method. “You taught us that peaceful demonstrations are useless”, said a graffiti on the walls of the Legislative Council. One of the young women who has in the occupation told the press: “We have been demonstrating for a month. The first protest had one million people and a week after we had two million. And even then the government ignored us. If two million people take to the streets and nothing happens, if we try by all was we could think and nothing happens, what choice do we have?” . An online poll by the Hong Kong Economic Times with more than 344000 people has shown that 83% are “in agreement with this form of expression” (11% were against and 6% had no opinion) .
The bottom line of this democratic struggle is much deeper: even in the “rich” Hong Kong, young people realize they have no future. “Hong Kong is one of the most expensive cities in the world according to research made by the Economist Intelligence Unit, and it is also extremely unequal. The 10 richest people own as much as the remaining 7 million put together […] only 11% of the populations owns a house. Half of the available housing is offered at the cost of 2270 Euros (125% of the average salary). For young people, the situation is particularly hard: in a hard search for employment, half of them earn less that the average salary”.. The Youth Policy Advocates association concludes that “they feel like they have no future in Hong Kong.”
Carrie Lam’s answers
Faced with this wave of struggle that began past month, Chief Executive Carrie Lam answered with a repression similar to what her predecessor used in 2014. When she realized she could not stop the protests, she back-pedalled on the Extradition Law and tried a manoeuvre: calling on the student organizations for an “open dialogue”. But this invitation was rejected. The Student Union of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), for example, said the Chief Executive wanted a “closed-door meeting”, which was “unacceptable” .
Now, faced with the occupation of the Legislative Council and the radicalization of the movement, she made the repression harsher. Aside from the twenty arrested, the police turned the Parliament building in a “crime scene” while looking for fingerprints and traces of DNA or the occupiers, which it called “dangerous criminals” . “These first arrests, according to the South China Morning Post, are a prelude for the next wave of arrests against ‘dozens’ of already identified demonstrators that took part on the assault on Parliament” .
However, this increasing hardening of repression does not seem enough, for now, to stop the movement. On Friday (5/7), thousands of demonstrators joined a rally summoned by the Mothers of the Umbrella Movement” in support of the youth and demanding the release of the imprisoned. Other demonstrations with the same purpose are already being prepared .
The activists themselves are trying to continue the struggle: “Whatever happens, we will not lose heart. Resistance is not a matter of a day, it is long-term.” said Jason Chan, a 22-year old accountant .
The debate inside the “democratic movement”
At the same time, this hardening of the methods of struggle has created a rift inside of what we can call the “democratic movement”: the sectors more closely linked to the Hong Kong bourgeoisie are against this radicalization. In one of the reports inside the very local of the Hong Kong Legislative Council (broadcasted by the already mentioned Western news networks), a councillor of the Democratic Party said he supported the demands of he youth and repudiated the repression, but that he disagrees with methods that lead to violent conflict . This party, intimately connected parties of imperialist countries, wants the direct election of the Chief Executive, but within the range of the negotiations to keep the Basic Law of 1997.
This is a position that is shared by sectors of the rank-and-file: “When I heard there fights outside (the Parliament building) I really became worried […]I hope these youngsters are rational”, told AFP the 37-year old accountant Amy Siu, that was part of the demonstration before the occupation .
On the other hand, the mask of the so-called support of imperialist governments to this democrat struggle begins to fall (and their actual support the regime and Beijing appears). “The British Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Jeremy Hunt (who seeks to become the next prime minister), said no Friday, 5th, that he did not support the protests in Hong Kong and that he is against all violence” . Similarly, the European Union (EU), through a statement of Federica Mogherini, its High Representative for Foreign Affairs, called for “avoiding the escalation” and “dialogue”. The statement adds: “The actions of the part of a small group of people do not represent most of the demonstrators, who are peaceful” .
On the previously mention article, the Barcelona newspaper La Vanguardia points out that The assault on Parliament can create a ‘before and after’ in the evolution of an until recently peaceful movement”. We agree with this. It should be added that, as we already said, this turning point opened an important debate about the movement (and the possibility of a split) among the large youth mass vanguard that is already radicalised and the sector that wants to step back to peaceful resistance and negotiation, paths that have already shown themselves to be useless..
Other than its size (let us not forget the hundreds of thousands that supported “this form of expression” according to the Hong Kong Economic Times), this vanguard is getting stronger and stronger inside the movement. “They did what they thought they needed to do for the good of Hong Kong. We must not judge if they were right or wrong. We must remain by their side”, said Dorothy Ho, speech-person for the Mothers of the Umbrella Movement .
On our part, we give all our support to the democratic struggle of the youth of Hong Kong and consider these advances in their demands and methods very positive.
As part of this support, we’d like to reaffirm two points we made in our previous article. The first: “it is essential that the working class joins in with its strength, its organization and its methods (something that is already beginning to happen), so that it becomes the protagonist in the struggle”. The second is that this struggle is not only against the local authorities of Hong Kong, but, essentially, against the dictatorial regime of Beijing, its true pillar. Under these conditions, “this democratic struggle needs to find solidarity and spread to continental China. Whatever alternative is desired (autonomy or independence), it can only be achieved if, along with continental China’s workers and masses, they advance towards toppling the Chinese regime”.
 See article “To be young in the most expensive city in the world”, in the link to El País.
Translated by Miki Sayoko