Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • [gun firing]

  • [woman screaming]

  • - [Woman] Go, go, go, go, go, go!

  • - Part of the surreal nature of these protests is that

  • yes, you're hearing guns go off

  • and you're seeing tear gas

  • and there are stampedes coming.

  • [crowds chanting]

  • But you also look up and there's Louis Vuitton

  • and Victoria's Secret and huge ads

  • and you think, I mean, am I in a war zone?

  • Or am I in a shopping mall?

  • And sometimes, it's both.

  • The Hong Kong protests have gone on for five months now

  • and as I spent weeks there

  • talking to various members of the population,

  • not just the protestors,

  • I realized that this story is about

  • Hong Kong's reckoning with its own identity

  • and its relationship to the outside world,

  • meaning China and the West.

  • [tense music]

  • The protests began with an extradition bill in early June.

  • The extradition bill would allow suspected criminals

  • to be extradited to mainland China.

  • It invited a lot of anger and suspicion

  • because if people in Hong Kong

  • can be taken across the border and tried in

  • mainland China's very questionable,

  • opaque, dubious court system,

  • then what else will the party do next?

  • The Hong Kong people feel like

  • mainland China is encroaching upon the freedoms of this city

  • that was guaranteed autonomy

  • and mainland government was really reneging on its promise.

  • - [Newsreader] There was a symbolic lowering

  • of the Hong Kong and British flags.

  • - Hong Kong was a British colony for over 100 years.

  • In 1997, it was finally given back to mainland China.

  • The one country, two system policy stipulates that

  • for 50 years after the handover,

  • Hong Kong would still continue to enjoy

  • a great degree of autonomy.

  • There was genuine belief that in about 50 years,

  • China, having reached economic stability and prosperity,

  • would grow toward a Western liberal democracy.

  • In the 20-odd years that we have left,

  • it is exceedingly unlikely.

  • If anything, it will be even more authoritarian regime.

  • Beijing's need to fully possess Hong Kong

  • has to do with two things.

  • China's global image,

  • and it's about its ability

  • to hold on to the rest of its territory.

  • Tibet and Xinjiang, regions that might be

  • emboldened to break away,

  • and Taiwan, which China still thinks of as a rogue state.

  • In Hong Kong, this very cosmopolitan city,

  • they rear children who grow up speaking three languages,

  • English, Mandarin, Cantonese,

  • who are exposed to people from every nation

  • who come to do business.

  • They have a great social welfare system,

  • state of the art hospital facilities

  • and most importantly, an education system

  • that still allows them to question the world they live in,

  • much more so than in China.

  • - This is not only a city movement,

  • this is a movement for every citizen

  • that lives in Hong Kong.

  • - So, Hong Kong identity, for many,

  • is this immense sense of pride in their cosmopolitanism,

  • [crowd chants]

  • their capaciousness of identity,

  • in a sense that they can contain

  • both being culturally Chinese person

  • and a person who holds many liberal Western values.

  • The land of the free

  • In the 60s, 70s and 80s,

  • many economic refugees from coastal villages in China

  • who are fleeing from the political chaos

  • and the dire poverty,

  • they termed Hong Kong the city of light

  • because they could see the glittering skyscrapers.

  • Their one goal is survival

  • and the ability to find a job,

  • and you have their children, these young protestors

  • asking their parents,

  • you swam here, you fought for a better place to live

  • and you fought for an opportunity

  • to make life better for yourself.

  • That's what we're doing.

  • This young man, in his mid-20s,

  • he gave his name to me as No Name

  • and he talked a lot about his relationship with his father.

  • His father has a tendency to be quite violent,

  • so No Name grew up being beaten by an authoritarian figure

  • that is not so different, in his mind,

  • from what the Communist Party is like now.

  • He said, "When I was nine or 10,

  • "it wasn't that I didn't want to fight against my father,

  • "I couldn't, I was too physically small and weak."

  • So, he feels this moral obligation to support the protest

  • and, if need be, die for it.

  • The protest has become one about police brutality

  • and universal suffrage,

  • and for the current Chief Executive,

  • the very unpopular Carrie Lam, to step down.

  • The violence is certainly escalating

  • but what's so difficult about these protests is that

  • it acquires a momentum of its own.

  • It's almost like an organism

  • over which you've lost control.

  • I found myself questioning what was really going on.

  • I tried to make sense of the meaning of identity

  • in today's world,

  • this growth of nationalism within the city.

  • Hong Kong is not, at this point, a nation

  • but because it feels so imperiled,

  • so besieged by these outside forces,

  • it wants to hold onto its sense of native Hong Kong identity

  • closer than ever.

  • Because Mandarin is the particular dialect that

  • Beijing has tried very hard to popularize across China,

  • it's perceived as a way in which

  • Beijing is trying to erase local culture.

  • As a reporter, I was wearing my green neon reporter vest

  • and I was accompanied by a retired school teacher

  • and we were speaking in a mishmash of Mandarin and English.

  • Upon overhearing the Mandarin I was speaking,

  • I was stopped and I was asked

  • if I was indeed a journalist from the West,

  • then why did I speak Mandarin,

  • why did I look the way that I did?

  • And that was, I think that was unsettling for me

  • because, in the U.S., I'm so used to everyone

  • accepting a bifurcated identity of being Chinese-American

  • and to really be the object of suspicion

  • was alarming for me.

  • I'm proud to be both Chinese and American

  • but what exactly does that mean?

  • And who am I swearing my loyalty to when I say that?

  • Or is there any kind of loyalty?

  • We feel the need to perform our identities,

  • both in the context of a protest on the streets,

  • but also with the advent of social media,

  • we need to broadcast to the world

  • where we stand politically and socially.

  • And our identity, through performance,

  • is something that we constantly have to affirm and confirm.

  • I think that's a break from the previous generation.

  • Hong Kong makes me think about protests

  • raging in other places in the world right now,

  • in Chile, Beirut,

  • and how they're all about mostly young people

  • who feel the need to actively perform the way they feel.

  • - Voice for freedom!

  • - The sense that if they feel themselves to be something,

  • it needs to be expressed on an open stage.

  • [calm music]

[gun firing]

Subtitles and keywords

B1 INT US hong kong hong kong china mandarin identity

Why Hong Kong Protests Exploded

  • 17 0
    John Yu   posted on 2020/08/31
Keywords

Go back to previous version