Hong Kong, the city where I lived for thirteen years growing up, is in turmoil. Students and other protesters have taken to the streets to decry Beijing's decision to allow them only a shadow-version of universal suffrage. Beijing wants to approve candidates for Hong Kong's head honcho, the chief executive, before Hong Kong people get a chance to vote. Hong Kong people aren't happy about that.
This is a good article if you're looking for more information about the dispute:
I love Hong Kong.
Fast forward nearly twenty years. I haven't lived in Hong Kong since I left for college, but I visited my parents and sister there. As a visitor, daily life seemed untouched. It was the same mesmerizing, fast-paced city in which I'd grown up ... with a lot more mainland Chinese people on the streets and in the theme parks. That part didn't bother me too much. I lived in mainland China for eight years of that time, and I actually appreciated being able to use my Mandarin skills on the streets. But I could sense the frustration from Hong Kong people and even understand it. Mainland people flooded Hong Kong, buying up apartments and supplies. Hong Kong people didn't appreciate the rise in this kind of "tourism." They wanted their city back.
And now this. Beijing acts like a controlling grandfather. "What am I doing wrong? I'm giving them universal suffrage, like they want! If I want to screen their candidates first, what's wrong with that? I want someone as chief executive who loves Hong Kong, loves China.... (Because obviously, Hong Kong people can't be trusted to find that kind of person for themselves.)"
In an ideal world, I'd love Beijing to take a step back and leave Hong Kong alone. Hong Kong doesn't need (or apparently want) to be controlled. But of course, China won't leave Hong Kong alone. Capitalism has worked well for Hong Kong, but the city wouldn't be part of China if it had democracy to go with it.
I feel terribly sad for everyone on the streets--the students, the other protesters, even the policemen who are vainly attempting to maintain order. The police and protesters are clashing, not necessarily because they disagree, but because the protesters are out on a mission to disobey, to shut down commerce, to make a point, and that goes against law and order. It's an inevitable run-in. Should police be using tear gas to disperse the crowds? No. But I think we should be thankful at this point the PLA hasn't been called in, and hope China knows better than to repeat a Tiananmen Square-type crack down in Central.
My mom told me yesterday that the protests were spreading to Kowloon Peninsula. I don't know how this can end well. I desperately want peace, but I want democracy for Hong Kong, too. They've tasted what political freedom feels like. Once that happens, going back under a Communist yoke must feel intolerable.