The battle for Hong Kong has just begun. It is no longer about extradition. It's not about doll politicians. The Hong Kong protests have entered a new phase.
And pro-democracy protesters are resigning from a challenging, hopeless final stand against President Xi's overwhelming Communist China.
It was doomed to fail from the beginning.
Hong Kong was occupied by Great Britain in 1841 and used as a base for its war against China. It was ceded to the empire in 1842 by a treaty to become a permanent military outpost. Over the next 150 years, it grew into an economic hub – and a colony of Western democracy in the heart of Asia.
But Britain washed the hands of the cultural flashpoint that it created when Hong Kong returned it to China in 1997. A transitional agreement known as "one country, two systems" only served to postpone the inevitable day off.
The island city would preserve many of the democratic freedoms and institutions that are not allowed on the Communist mainland – but only until 2047, when their integration would be completed.
For Hong Kong's youth, that day no longer seems that far away.
What started as a peaceful protest against steps to deport Hong Kong citizens to mainland China for a trial, has now escalated into a clash between liberal democratic and authoritarian Communist values. The extradition law has been repealed. However, the demonstrators remain.
“Reclaim Hong Kong! Revolution of our time! Sang protesters. Pro-democracy politician Raymond Chan summarizes the grim sentiment: "If we lose, it might be the end of Hong Kong as we know it."
“Resist Beijing, free Hong Kong! Now or never! Pray for us! "Tens of thousands of protesters were singing while marching to the US consulate in Hong Kong this weekend.
Three months after the protests started, it is the start of the new school year.
University students and employees strike. Some high school students have worn masks and sang protest songs in solidarity with the protests.
They know it is their future that is at stake.
"I prefer to speak and die rather than remain silent and live," says a banner.
“The entire system in Hong Kong is rotten, from top to bottom. We want to break it off and start over, & protesters call.
What started as a campaign of civil disobedience has evolved into a campaign of disobedience.
Hong Kong activist Kacey Wong told the media: "The law is already being broken, by the police, by the government … That's why you see everyone masking and breaking some laws, but those laws were disrespectful. The people protesting have a very high discipline and idealism of what the law is supposed to be. "
Professor of Chinese Political Economy at Johns Hopkins University Ho-Fung Hung told Bloomberg that extreme protests were the cause of extreme house prices, economic malaise, loss of cultural identity and frustration due to a lack of political voice.
"Participants come from all economic backgrounds," says Hung. “What ties them together is the shared feeling that there is no future for them in Hong Kong. In comparison with their parents, they will lead a lower quality of life. "
But some demonstrators see it in much broader terms.
"It's not just about fighting back against one country, but about the spread of communism and authoritarianism," a demonstrator who was only known as Leung told reporters for the Los Angeles Times. "Today they are Hong Kong and Xinjiang, but where does the next one come?"
In a new speech, President Xi urged his Communist Party to struggle harder & # 39; against challenges to the interests of the party.
The word & # 39; wrestling & # 39; has a special meaning, that is why Mr. Xi used it almost 60 times in his 10-minute lecture. It was one of the favorite buzzwords of founder chairman Mao Zedong.
The now prominent use of "struggle" is seen as a hardening of Mr. Xi's attitude toward Hong Kong.
And the state-controlled media have embraced the message.
Any form of secessionism will be & # 39; crushed & # 39; China daily stated earlier this week. Hong Kong was an integral part of China, and demonstrations in support of democracy were & # 39; proof & # 39; of the interference of & # 39; foreign forces & # 39 ;.
"Stop trying the central government's patience," the newspaper warned. "Hong Kong is an inseparable part of China – and that is the bottom line that no one should challenge, not the demonstrators, not the foreign forces playing their dirty games."
Chinese state media have begun dehumanizing demonstrators and calling them & # 39; less than human & # 39; and & # 39; cockroaches & # 39 ;.
Now the Hong Kong police are recording the song. Officers have been recorded on video and shout "Cockroaches, shut up!" A police agency criticized protesters as "no different than cockroaches".
And the state-controlled media insist, it's not even the fault of the demonstrator.
“The demonstrations in Hong Kong are not about rights or democracy. They are the result of foreign interference. So that the restraint of central government is not perceived as weakness, let it be clear that secessionism will be crushed in any form, " China daily warns.
BECOMED TO FAIL?
Former Vice Chancellor of the University of Hong Kong and historian Wang Gungwu told This week in Asia he had inevitably seen tensions increase in recent decades.
"As far as democracy is concerned, people from Hong Kong have high expectations," Wang says. "The Chinese, of course, don't really want democracy, and that was pretty clear from the start."
And Mr. Xi seems less and less inclined to let Hong Kong remain a democratic exception.
The trading city is no longer what it once was.
The Asian financial crisis of 1997 hit Hong Kong hard, drastically reducing power as an industrial and economic hub. As such, it is no longer so valuable for Beijing's interactions with the world – and it was less motivated to retain its special exception status.
"The benefits have become increasingly smaller, especially when all industries have moved to the mainland," Wang says. “Hong Kong actually has no industry. It is purely a financial center. If a financial center encounters problems such as during the 1997-2000 financial crisis, part of the brilliance has disappeared. "
But Hong Kong is not ready yet, he says.
Just like having a foreign outpost on the doorstep, maintaining a stable trading center in the past was so beneficial, also for the future.
"People from Hong Kong know that the Chinese would have liked to move the financial center to Shanghai, but they couldn't do it," Wang said. “This is the strongest map of Hong Kong – the contribution of its financial services to China.
"Hong Kong must provide the kind of legislation, the kind of protection that gives people confidence in Hong Kong," Wang says. “These are all assets for China. I don't think they are stupid to let go of these resources. "
Jamie Seidel is a freelance writer. Continue the conversation @JamieSeidel
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