2019 has been a landmark year for protests around the world, and much of the focus has been on Hong Kong, where the United States shown support for the demonstrations and voiced criticism of China’s response. But what is the state of the movement going into 2020, and will the demonstrations continue?
We have seen more than six months of protests in Hong Kong and all signs point to even more in 2020, with several demonstrations scheduled for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
Hundreds of thousands of residents took to the streets this year in protest of an extradition bill that would allow criminal suspects to be tried in Mainland China. When they succeeded with striking down the bill, the protests continued with a series of demands that included the direct election of leaders and an investigation into police conduct.
The mass protests have resulted in heavy clashes between protesters and police. While police used tear gas and fired rubber bullets, peaceful protests have also turned into violent riots where participants were seen throwing Molotov cocktails at police, vandalizing stores and destroying property. Although there have only been two deaths recorded in connection with the protests, thousands have been arrested and thousands more have been injured by the violence.
Many have blamed Hong Kong’s leaders for the ongoing unrest, calling for the resignation of Chief Executive Carrie Lam. This year, Lam has attempted to balance the happiness of both the Hong Kong people and the government in Mainland China. In her New Year’s address, she said she would listen humbly to find a way out of the current problems, and that she plans to continue her support for Hong Kong’s special status under the principle of “one country, two systems” with China, while safeguarding the rule of law.
In response to the demonstrations, China has blamed “external forces,” accusing countries such as the US and the UK of fueling the ongoing protests. Chinese President Xi Jinping also issued a strong warning to anyone who attempts to separate Hong Kong from China.
While the demonstrations have been branded as “pro-democracy” by protesters and western media, even conservative think tanks like the CATO Institute have listed Hong Kong among the top three freest places in the world—while the US ranks 15th.
But just as many protesters have been seen waving American flags and calling for US intervention, Washington has continued to support the demonstrations, and lawmakers are moving forward with legislation that would condemn anything they deem as a humans rights abuse in Hong Kong.
he current tensions are raising questions about whether the US and China will be able to come together to sign phase one of a deal that could mark the beginning of the end in the ongoing trade war between the world’s two largest economies. President Trump is now saying the date to sign is January 15, with plans for more talks in Beijing in the coming months.
But with more protests planned in Hong Kong, many US lawmakers ready to intervene, and China’s strict warnings in place, it remains to be seen how the climate in Hong Kong will play a role in global relations going into 2020.