The bill has been suspended , but over a period of just a few months the movement has developed into something bigger — and darker. The Umbrella Movement in 2014 galvanized Hong Kong’s youth and was mainly student-led. But lately there have been lawyers, business people and middle-aged people protesting for the first time. Hundreds of businesses, parents and teachers called for a boycott of work and school to show their opposition to the extradition bill.
It was a continuation of protests that started the day before. «Hong Kong, never give up!» some chanted. Hide Caption 51 of 51 Read More Protesters have talked of sacrifice, hopelessness, and a loss of trust in their leaders. The four who died have become fixtures in protest art and been treated by some demonstrators as heroes of the cause.
Mourners in Hong Kong place flowers and offer prayers on June 16, 2019, at the site where a protester died. In the mass outpouring of grief, some protesters pointed the finger at the government. For a time, a blood-red placard became ubiquitous. «This is related to the political system of Hong Kong — it’s life-threatening and it’s fateful.» In places around the city, demonstrators held memorials for the dead.
They piled flowers on footpaths that formed little mountains of white and plastic, and left notes to the dead that they would never read. «Dear Hero, we will fight for you,» read one on a piece of white paper decorated with a heart. «He was dragged down by the regime,» read another. Protesters hold placards during a demonstration against the now-suspended extradition bill on June 16, 2019 in Hong Kong.
Those lost to suicide became fixtures in protest art, too. « Hong Kong people, don’t give up.» Even messages that didn’t depict the protesters took on a darker tone. A manifesto shared on Telegram — an encrypted app used widely during the protests — thanked «heroes who pay their blood and their lives.» Protest posters depict a 35-year-old suicide victim in Admiralty, Hong Kong, on July 1, 2019. « Time is always on the side of the young,» she said.
Why things turned dark Hong Kong is a city familiar with protests. But the protests haven’t always been like this movement. In 2014, pro-democracy protesters occupied Hong Kong’s inner city streets for 79 days . Hong Kong has never had complete democracy.
When the former British colony was handed over to China in 1997 , Beijing promised to maintain Hong Kong’s freedoms for the next 50 years. Many see Hong Kong as having less than 30 years left until it becomes another mainland Chinese city, without the right to things like freedom of assembly and free speech that they’ve enjoyed in the past. Students do their homework at a study area occupied as part of the Umbrella Movement on October 10, 2014, in Hong Kong. Despite the optimism of the 2014 movement, when it ended, none of its aims had been achieved.
So when protesters took to the streets earlier this year, they released years of suppressed anger and distrust of the government, according to Samson Yuen, a political scientist at Hong Kong’s Lingnan University. That anger was soon exacerbated. Although Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam suspended the bill, she has repeatedly refused to withdraw it or respond to other demands, such as an independent inquiry into police actions. The four suspected suicides added another emotional element — especially because many saw the deaths as the fault of the government, said Yuen.
«The protest is about the life and death of Hong Kong,» he said. «The protests are about continuing the wishes of those who ‘gave their lives. ‘ »It’s about how people trust the system, how people can still have confidence about the future of Hong Kong. « At a press conference earlier this month, Hong Kong’s leader Lam said she was saddened by the protesters who had hurt themselves as a result of the bill.
« Police fire tear gas at protesters outside the Legislative Council Complex in the early hours of July 2, 2019 in Hong Kong, China. »The death of forced people to acknowledge our city’s government has changed,« he said. » We chose to ignore it for years that our city is slowly changing. » The bleak language — and spate of deaths — has lawmakers and mental health experts worried.
These people … are the victims of a mentally stressed environment,« he said. Some local media outlets have simplified the reasons behind suicide and referenced suicide methods — both things that are discouraged by the World Health Organization ‘s suicide reporting guidelines , as they could trigger suicidal ideation in vulnerable readers. In 2017 — the latest year for which there is data — Hong Kong’s estimated age-standardized suicide rate was 9.5 out of every 100,000, compared with 10.5 globally. Recent Hong Kong University Faculty of Medicine research found there was a 9.1% increase in the prevalence of probable depression among participants surveyed between June 22 and July 7 compared with the baseline in 2011 to 2014.
In the face of all the negativity, some people in Hong Kong have rallied around each other. Candice Powell, a clinical psychologist, has set up a hotline for journalists who have been traumatized by the violence they have seen. Lawmaker Roy Kwong — a former social worker — has emerged as a volunteer, on-call support person to protesters. In so-called Lennon Walls around the city, protesters have written notes on Post-its, spurring each other on.
»Dear Hong Kong, everything will be alright,« read one. Yong Pui-tung, the 28-year-old best friend of Mak, said others should talk more and not to feel alone. »I’m really afraid there will be more and more, and I don’t want to see that kind of thing happen again,« she said. » «I think people need to keep a normal, calm attitude,» he said.
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