At the end of September 2014, a large group of students began a peaceful protest against the Hong Kong government. Their mission? Universal suffrage.
Tens of thousands crowded the streets in several important locations in protest, including the Central district, the Causeway Bay, Mong Kok, and Canton Road. Though passionate and angry, things started out well for these protesters. They demonstrated their desires through speeches. Through song, dance, and art. They demonstrated civility and dignity in their approach.
However, the police response was brutal. The police used pepper spray, tear gas, beatings, and other violent means to try to control the protesters. The public outcry was so great that the police havenít used violent means since. It seems that the response from the police has only served to make the protesters even more resolute in their cause.
One of the demands of the Occupy Central movement was that Chief Executive C.Y. Leung resign. Protesters highly disapprove of the way he has handled the entire situation. Unfortunately, he has the full support of the Chinese government on his side, and Leung has flatly refused to resign.
While Leung was unwilling to resign, he was willing to hold limited talks (at an unspecified date) with protesters in regards to their concerns. Student activists accepted his offer, though itís difficult to say whether these talks will be effective or not. In order for universal suffrage to be achieved by 2017, the Hong Kong government would have to present a political reform plan to the Legislative Council (Hong Kongís law-making body) for a vote. If the proposal is voted down, then Hong Kong will go with its original plan of a committee of 1,200 mainly pro-Beijing members electing a leader.
Meanwhile, tensions continued to rise and violence broke out between the protesters and pro-Beijing groups and locals whose lives had been disrupted by the protests. As these anti-protesters fought and tore down tents and barricades, the police stood by without interfering. Amnesty International condemned the police for their inaction, saying that they failed to protect protesters in the attacks. Because of the fights that broke out, student protest leaders decided to postpone talks with Leung and the government. They felt betrayed by him, like he was somehow involved in the attacks.
Itís difficult to know how much of an affect these protesters will have on the government. On one hand, their message was heard loud and clear by the whole world. On the other, the government is a powerful force to be reckoned with, and it has the power to sweep the whole messy affair under the rug. I hope that the government will listen to these brave protesters and give their message a chance.