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Against the Odds: Five years since the anti-extradition protests

This blog is authored by Boris Kwok, Member of HongKongers In Leeds.

It has been five years since the anti-extradition protests began. Yet, without proper closure to the sacrifices I have witnessed, I have grown cautious towards anything that seems too ceremonial. A sense of ritual does not feel right when Hong Kong becomes more unrecognisable every day.

This has, however, never stopped me from being sentimental. Exactly five years ago, the Hong Kong Government, led by Carrie Lam, decided to ignore public opinion and proceeded with the second reading of the extradition bill. On the same day, the Hong Kong Police Force turned against civilians and fired tear gas into the CITIC Tower, trapping protesters who were trying to leave the scene. Five years ago, Hong Kongers were betrayed. Protesters with good intentions to fight against injustice and express their love for Hong Kong were smeared by the government. Some even paid the ultimate price.

The Hong Kong democracy movement started long before five years ago. However, it was in June 2019 when everything was put against Hong Kongers. Whether it was the horrifying scene of police brutality or the rapid deterioration of society, everything we fought for was challenged. Since the establishment of the National Security Law, all meaningful criticisms of the government have been silenced, with our representatives in the Legislative Council jailed for exercising their political rights. Political suppression from the CCP continues overseas through Article 23 and surveillance of the Hong Kong diaspora, with bounties placed on the heads of activists and their friends and families facing repercussions under the new law. It has never been this difficult for Hong Kongers to exercise their rights.

However, there are glimmers of hope. On the 31st of May, 2024, a group of Hong Kongers hiked the Lion Rock on a cold night and held signs with “Glory HK” and numbers that are too sensitive for the Hong Kong Government: 4/6, 9/6, 12/6, 16/6, 1/7, 21/7, 31/10, etc. The photos fired the first shots of a busy June, and it is encouraging to see this act coming from one of the most unlikely places, where everything began.

And the fact is, upon reflection, in different forms and sizes, we are seeing an ever-vibrant Hong Kong diaspora in places like the UK, Canada, and the United States. Civic groups that have been established are holding larger events and starting to be acknowledged by the wider public and the political elites. Numerous NGOs have been projecting voices of Hong Kongers deeper into the society of the US and UK. It would be over-optimistic to claim any milestones of the efforts of civic groups, activists, and NGOs; however, it is safe to say that the vibrant ecosystems created by these actors are core for the Hong Kong diaspora and Hong Kongers back home to find their voices. From being betrayed to resilience, we are searching for Hong Kong values in the face of tyranny and on grounds of sacrifices made by many.

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