It's nice to follow one story of current history. In 2014 I followed the civil war in South Sudan starting on December 15, 2013 when it first broke out. Since the start, both sides blamed the other and told their own accounts of events.
South Sudan was at the time "the world's youngest nation," a nation created by the U.S. when it helped split the south of the former country of Sudan into its own state, and for a couple of years South Sudan was considered to be a nice American triumph. The country called (just) Sudan now is the northern part, Muslim. The southern part, South Sudan, is Christian (and anamist). South Sudan had two large ethnicities, the Dinka (presisdent Kiir) and the Nuer (vice president Machar). People in the West will have a hard time understanding why tribal lines are so important in other countries, but a shorthand answer is that the tribes, besides having limitless historical grievances against each other (actions often taking the form of cattle and child raids - hard for Westerners to understand but cattle are the main/sole non-human unit in the economy) and natural racism, compete for control of limited resources in their region. Democracy (South Sudan is a democracy) in these places isn't a vote based on policy, but a vote to decide which group will have power to control those resources and make decisions over both groups.
A scuffle erupted in the government building of the capital, and immediately the country split in civil war along the lines of Dinka versus Nuer. Fighting took place throughout the country: the government and its army versus the army of the rebel tribe. The whole country was ravaged and everyplace was the scene of ongoing murder, rape, and other aggression, besides the army skirmishes.
No place was safe. The UN moved in to set up fenced camps to protect people. They asked for money and resources to take care of these people, but the resources they got were often stolen, damaged, or ill-used. There was no safe transport means in the country, so resources could not be distributed to other regions, even if once they got there they would be properly meted out. No one could grow crops and other work was also disrupted, so food became extremely scarce and people died of starvation.
Since weeks after the outbreak, every once in a while there is a planned meeting to discuss terms for peace, or a proposed peace deal. These always fall through for one reason or another, often with the rebel leader citing security concerns. The deals are brokered by the main country of the region, Ethiopia and its capital in Addis Ababa, where the rebel leader often seeks refuge. Ethiopia is the head of the trading block of East Africa, EAC.
This year is 2019. The story I think might be the best is Hong Kong. Citizens in Hong Kong are still very active against the legal authoritarian oppressions their new (since 1997) Chinese rulers are implementing in the former British colony. Remember the Umbrella Revolution from 2014?
In April, the Chinese government tried to pass a bill through the head of Hong Kong. The bill would allow extradition of "criminals" in Hong Kong to "mainland China" (the rest of China not including Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan. Yes, Hong Kong and Macau are physically part of the mainland. They sit near each other on the Pacific Coast). In Hong Kong, the courts are staffed by Hong Kongers, who may have respect for law and order stemming from their colonial history, as all Hong Kongers are considered to have a more "Western" concept of human and civil rights. In mainland China, however, courts are controlled by the government directly, like all things, including the press. It is common for "criminals" in China to be executed or disappeared, or sentenced to lengthy jail terms, for crimes such as speaking against the government, associating with people who speak against the government, etc.)
Hong Kongers realizing that this bill would allow citizens who opposed the government to be processed not through the more fair courts of Hong Kong, but sent to the mainland to be processed as China would prefer, were alarmed.
There was already heightened emotion three people had recently killed themselves leaving behind messages protesting the extradition law.
April 28, public protests began with a march including tens of thousands of people. It was one of the biggest public demonstrations since the Umbrella Movement in 2014.
June 9, over a million people were in the streets (possibly the biggest in Hong Kong history). Many symbolically wore black and carried white flowers of mourning for those who died. The mass of people halted traffic outside the government headquarters.
Many protesters cited hopelessness and desperation as motives. One young man said, "Everything that has happened is the result of the government ignoring us. They asked for it." Another: "If we don't come out, Hong Kong will collapse."
Among the ongoing demands of the protesters: withdrawal of the bill, free activists already arrested after previous demonstrations, investigate and hold police accountable for use of violence against crowds. Some also demanded the resignation of the Hong Kong leader.
Police made 19 arrests following the June 9 protest, and estimated the turnout at 240,000.
June 12 huge crowds rallied and blocked major roads and attempted to storm parliament, and the second reading of the extradition bill was delayed.
During the June 12 protest, police used teargas, rubber bullets and truncheons against largely peaceful crowds, injuring almost 80 people, which use was to become a serious grievance cited by protesters later.
June 15, after a week of protests and worldwide media coverage, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam announced the bill would be suspended (put on hold) and apologized for the crisis. It was considered to be perhaps the most serious instance of the Hong Kong government backing down since 2003 when it dropped a security law in the face of public opposition.
Starting at noon Sunday, June 16, a large protest began that involved and mingled all types of people, from veteran protesters to the city's youth who never knew colonial Hong Kong. They sang protest songs and chanted in a public movement that lasted for hours, remaining peaceful throughout. Police estimated 340,000, while organizers said 2 million.
"Before this week I had never been on a protest," said one 28-year-old, "but I am a teacher, and I realized that if I didn't come I wouldn't be able to face my students. This is their future."
Older protesters said that although they feared Hong Kong faced the most serious crisis of their lifetime, they found hope in the number of young protesters.
"I'm very encouraged by the younger people. If it was just us [older people] the city would be finished," said a 75-year-old. "I was a refugee. I escaped China when there was a famine, and I saw people being shot there. The Communist party isn't to be trusted."
Older Hong Kongers, though, are generally thought to be more in favor of Beijing (the Chinese government) than the youth, and are thought to see protests more in terms of "disruptions."
"Suspending the law but not cancelling it is like holding a knife to someone's head and saying, 'I'm not going to kill you now,' but you could do it any time. We're fighting for our freedom," said an 18-year-old protester.
One protester died while trying to hang up a banner on a building in the town centre, and was later described at least by some as the movement's "first martyr."
Monday, July 1 (the day of the anniversary of the return of Hong Kong to Chinese possession), amid a protest of thousands of people, four protesters barged into the the legislative council (LegCo), and occupied it and vandalized it. They insisted on waiting to be arrested by police. These four were later termed "the death fighters."
According to one of them, a young father, "Our action might not be useful but it is symbolic. We know we might get eight or 10 years for doing this, but i grew up here, I love the freedoms and the dignified life and I don't want to lose them."
Hundreds of other protesters, barged in in the evening, too, and vandalized it. Some were concerned about the four inside, and shouted, "Let's leave together!" They grabbed the four and frogmarched them out of the building.
Some protesters graffitied the walls of the legislative building with political slogans and spraypainted over the faces of the LegCo presidents photos. One said, "People will rise up when the authorities push them to the brink." A British colonial-era flag was put up, as was a banner that read, "There are no rioters, only violent regimes." One young man explained that the spraypainting was meant as an insult to the government and the legislative system.
One young woman stated, "If they don't go, we don't go. We're all afraid, but we are more afraid that we won't see those four again."
Later in the evening, police fired tear gas in and baton-charged the protesters and retook control of the building.
After the protest, police immediately began to collect evidence against protesters. There were many vehicles stopped to check passengers identities.
Protesters, however, continue the demand that the government fully withdraw the bill, not just suspend it. They also want the government to release all those arrested in previous protests.
In response to the incident in the legislative building, pro-Beijing (pro-"China") spokespeople criticized the use of vandalism on the part of protesters: "What we saw last night was shocking violence, unprecedented violence and damage to the Legislative Council. No slogan, no demand can justify such violence," said one chair of the pro-Beijing New People's Party. "Totally unacceptable for a civilized society like Hong Kong."
One activist responded by saying, "The protesters who broke into the Legislative Council complex were not rioters. They were not violent. They wanted to make the regime hear Hong Kongers' voice, and they had no other option.
"Perhaps all of you will not agree with every single action they took yesterday. But what are a few pieces of glass worth in comparison to the deaths of three young men and women? What are a few portraits worth in comparison to the very survival of Hong Kong as a place?"
After months of protests following the extradition bill, some have said there is a wave of "rebellion" in the air as people who have seen the success and popularity of the million-plus protest and tons of other protests are becoming more vocal about a range of grievances. Lots of protests for various causes are being published as lists on social media. Not so much on Facebook, though, unlike the Facebook-based Umbrella Revolution in 2014. In 2019, they are using Snapchat and Instagram. Also Telegram, the most common messaging app, which is known to be encrypted.
"Facebook is not a useful tool for the movement except for those celebrities and parties, on which they make announcements and deliver statements," said a former general secretary of the Hong Kong student federation.
The LIHKG forum has also replaced the HKGolden one used in 2014, which was criticized after the site managers were forced to hand over the IP address of a 23-year-old to the authorities.
In the streets while protesting, Apple Airdrop is popular for sending digital pamphlets which can be shared even when offline. This and similar apps are being used because they don't allow authorities to curtail access.
"I think it is very important people can be anonymous on LIHKG and can really say what they really think, don't care about rivalries and leave the judgment to other people," said the former HK student federation general secretary.
One difference between these platforms and Facebook is that Facebook's algorhythm favors posts that have a lot of debate, which may not help when people want to share posts about planning and taking action. Some think Facebook's algo amplifies disagreement.
“The anti-extradition protests have heightened our awareness over community issues. Instead of waiting for the government to do something, we may as well take it into our own hands,” said a 20-year-old man.
One issue is "reclamation." In the past two decades, local Hong Konger-owned shops have become very few, while Chinese shops have become very common. Hong Kongers see this as an erosion of Hong Kong's way of life caused by mainland Chinese. Hong Kongers are also focused on a border-town called Sheung Shui which they say has become full of garbage and shops selling to Chinese tourists as well as "parallel-traders," people who buy Hong Kong goods and resell them in China.
Another issue is full suffrage. Hong Kong's government is half picked by Beijing. People feel the Chinese government can thereby do whatever it wants.
Christian groups are playing a big role in the protests. Part of this is they are advocating peace. Another is that some fear a crackdown on religion by China.
People are already talking about how the eventual success or failure of the popular movement in quashing the extradition bill and other demands will depend on whether the momentum will keep going among the population.
Why Hong Kong protesters protest, as opposed to other nations that are not motivated to protest, such as our own? Is it the level of offence by the Communist rule? Some source of will within their conception of their lives, place, or society? Are they less comfortable/lazy/unmotivated than we are?
What causes the Hong Kong leader to submit?
What is the levee point where sufficient action (and type of action) has taken place and the government will now yield?
What will China's response be? and what tactics will it decide on to crush Hong Kong?