- Thousands have gathered in Hong Kong’s streets for 10 weeks of protests, causing an airport shutdown and market volatility.
- Protesters initially gathered against the proposed extradition bill of Hong Kong residents to mainland China. Though the government has now indefinitely suspended the bill, protesters are calling for an official withdrawal of the bill and investigations into the police’s use of force.
- Business Insider Today followed a protester into an illegal rally to see how Hong Kong residents are fighting for democracy.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Following is a transcript of the video.
Narrator: These protesters are using eye drops to ease the pain of tear gas.
Police say they have fired over 1,800 canisters since June.
And people like this 21-year-old Hong Kong student have spent their summer dodging chemical and rubber bullets.
V: It sounds like the police just fired [rubber bullets]. They’re pushing forward.
Narrator: We followed “V,” who didn’t want to give her real name, because she is taking part in an illegal rally.
Hong Kong officials have warned that the persistent protests could bring down the economy.
They have even escalated to the point that they paralysed the city’s airport for several days.
But V says economic worries are not going to stop protesters.
V: When the economy does well, we don’t benefit from it anyway. So why should be scared of an economic downturn? If the society becomes worse off, we’ll just become worse off as well. We don’t really have a future anyway.
Narrator: The movement began with protests against a bill that allowed extradition of people from Hong Kong to mainland China.
Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, took to the streets.
But since then, it has turned into a bigger fight – a fight for democracy and against police violence.
V: I’ve been attacked by tear gas three or four times. The first time we escaped from the tear gas because we were not geared up, so our skin and eye is, like, burning. But after that we’re geared up with a helmet and glasses, and so we know how to extinguish the tear gas, like by water, or anything that we can get. It still scares me for a while, but we know how to handle it, so it’s fine.
Narrator: There are no protest leaders. V and the others discuss what to do next in Telegram chat groups and online forums.
Participants use masks, glasses, and goggles as protection – still, V’s boyfriend’s eyes were red from the chemicals.
Demonstrators also improvised, like turning a swimming board into a shield.
Y: It’s better than not having one. This could absorb some impact, so at least I’d still be able to walk.
Other Protester: There are dogs (police) there. Go!
Narrator: Many of these young protesters, including V, were born after 1997, the year when Britain handed control of Hong Kong back to China.
Today, although Hong Kong is a part of China, the semi-autonomous city is ruled under a “one country, two systems” principle.
This means it enjoys liberties that are not available in the mainland, like freedom of speech, religion, and peaceful public assembly.
But in recent years, many Hong Kongers say Beijing is encroaching upon the city’s freedom and autonomy.
The extradition bill was a stark example because it triggered fears that locals could be tried in courts in mainland China.
The government has now indefinitely suspended the bill.
But that wasn’t enough for protesters, who want it officially withdrawn.
And, after months of increasingly violent clashes, they now also calling for an investigation into the police’s use of force.
For example, in late July, suspected Triad gangsters attacked protesters in a subway station.
The police showed up 40 minutes later, sparking suspicions that they had colluded with the gang.
Since then, shops have started shutting down ahead of the protests, which have spread across more than a dozen districts in Hong Kong.
Meanwhile, Beijing has escalated its response against demonstrators.
Yang Guang, spokesman for China’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office: They have already constituted of seriously violent crimes and have begun to show signs of terrorism.
Narrator: Many observers warn that this kind of rhetoric means the government is preparing to crack down even more forcefully.
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