Hong Kong Protests: Civil Liberties Abroad

Airports blocked, fire on the streets, tear gas, and police brutality–this isn’t a 20th century war zone, but rather, a series of mass demonstrations that began in June to protest against the recent Hong Kong extradition bill. This bill would allow Hong Kong citizens to be extradited to mainland China for judicial hearings, despite Hong Kong and mainland China operating on a “One Country, Two Systems” principle that allows Hong Kong to retain autonomy in the legal and judicial spheres. These protests have ignited into chaos on both sides. However, despite China’s claims that the police are the victims, the broader implication of these protests highlight the flaws in mainland Chinese politics.

As a disclaimer, the following opinion is definitely biased and may be controversial. On one hand, my mother is practically a Chinese nationalist who loves Xi Jinping and I’ve had some negative interactions with Hong Kongers and their superiority complexes. On the other hand, I’m an advocate for civil liberties and I do not tolerate police brutality.

This event is not an one-off example of China’s problem with civil liberties. A plethora examples–Uyghur detention camps, surveillance of citizens, internet control, and propaganda–all prove that China has a severe problem with civil rights and liberties that many Chinese citizens are indifferent about.

This event also reflects the historical tensions in the region regarding Western influence and Chinese culture. There’s a reason why mainlanders who go to Hong Kong are often viewed as lowly and ill-mannered, and why my parents don’t blink an eye at the fact that Xi Jinping’s term limits were removed. As an Asian-American, I somewhat understand both sides. It is as though my own conflict with my clashing identities is manifesting in a real-world event–freedom vs. responsibility, individuality vs. cultural ties, etc.

Now, don’t get me wrong. My own East-West dichotomy could never compare to the material violence happening in Hong Kong. It’s entirely understandable as to why Hong Kong citizens are protesting against the extradition bill, the police brutality, and suppression of democracy.

Yet, I do have a qualm.

Recently, Chinese celebrities like Liu Yifei have been under fire for posting support for the Hong Kong police on social media: “I support the Hong Kong Police. You can beat me up now. What a shame for Hong Kong.” This has led to the #BoycottMulan campaign, in which people want to boycott the new Disney movie in opposition to Liu Yifei’s support for Hong Kong police.

While of course Chinese celebrities expressing support for the police is not something we should be embracing, it is important to understand the circumstances of the situation. Again: Chinese civil liberties suck. Many Chinese celebrities are representatives for different Chinese governmental/national organizations, or are expected to express nationalist sentiments as an exemplary citizens. Most likely, if Chinese celebrities don’t post their support for the Chinese government and Hong Kong police, they would face backlash from the Chinese public, and risk losing their careers. Remember, Fan Bingbing had to disappear out of public eye for 295 days because of her tax evasion scandal that some believe had ulterior connections to Chinese government officials. Chinese celebrities don’t have the same freedom of speech to bash their government like in the United States. Thus, I don’t think boycotting Mulan is a logical solution. Yes, police brutality is horrible no matter the situation. But, given the political situation in China, I don’t think we should be blaming Liu Yifei or any big-name celebrity because they probably lack a choice on whether they want to post their support for Hong Kong police or not.

image from: (MEGA / Newscom)

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