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.
AUGUST 20 2019
The protests continue, and have become one of the main news stories of the times. In other words, the world is watching, is interested, and cares. The protesters recently occupied Hong Kong airport, disrupting a lot of air traffic. Videos have been posted of big military trucks with cages on them moving into Hong Kong in convoy, being parked in a big sports stadium.
A parallel story is "the voice of Mainland Chinese" who want to be heard. They are portrayed as strongly against the Hong Kongers, and the reports cite fairly strong and offensive language used to describe the Hong Kongers and their actions.
Another story is that Chinese state news (ie all Chinese news, since they own the news companies and control and censor what they publish, which is news to some people I guess) has been "caught" publishing things purposefully against the Hong Kong protesters and paying for advertisements to this purpose on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Also, "uncovered" are large groups of social media (mostly Twitter, I think) accounts used to try to manipulate public opinion on the stories shared on the subject. (in case you're reading this in the future and wondering if this is really "news," its not in terms of "a new development," but its being reported as as if it were real news because I suppose it is news to a lot of people and people right now care about the story.
AT THE SAME TIME, China is facing difficult developments as the US is continuing its "trade war" against China and specifically Huawei, which the US is calling a "national security threat." ALSO, China's claims and building projects in the South China Sea (for which its territorial claims are groundless in terms of historical evidence) are being challenged, by military displays by the US, (I think) Australia, Phillipines, and Japan. Japan, which hasn't been allowed to have a real army since World War II as part of its surrender contract, is now going to be able to have one and use it "to help allies who are in trouble." Japan has been participating in wars though, just not in a full capacity. Japanese were featured highly in the conquests of ISIS when their nationals were beheaded along with American nationals. I don't remember where they've been active at the moment, though, actually. Since China first announced they were claiming those islands and waters in the South China Sea (I think in 2013 or 2014), the US and others have been running military missions and flights through there just as they always have, despite China's warnings not to invade "their territory." Also, I think I read that their economy is facing a landmark downturn for the first time in a couple decades or something.
It's October now. The protests have continued. I haven't really been watching at all, but occasionally I see something on CNN as I flip past it. There are major, huge public gatherings and demonstrations all the time. This week, the state (Chinese government) closed down public transport in Hong Kong for like a day, but restored it. Also, they passed a law/ban on masks in public places. Some commenters said that this might show that the state is going to give the police more powers to quell the demonstrators. It sounds like news reporters think police might be kind of afraid to do anything against the citizens.
This protest has been going on for like half a year I guess now. China obviously does not know quite what to do about it. I didn't think Hong Kongers would be so into it, to continue to spend so much energy for half a year. Although it might not seem like "spending energy" there, as there haven't been many negative consequences, and it's probably a very nice, social, fun feeling to go out and see and meet thousands of others all the time, and feel like you're doing something positive, and standing up against a foreign oppressor for your own rights.
The mayor's concession is still the same, that she's withdrawn the bill. However, the people want more than this. They have 5 outlined demands: Killing that bill; universal suffrage; investigation into police brutality; (I forget the other two).
It has been 20 years since Britain gave this colony "back to" China. There have been some protests, notably the impressive and surprising Umbrella Revolution in 2014, but I might have guessed that this spirit (for human rights, self-governance through democracy, standing up against oppression) might have almost died out, and that Hong Kong would just become part of China.
Even in China, although we don't hear about it much (perhaps because the state completely controls the news, social media, and can disappear people and executes many times as many people per year as the rest of the world combined, and because they monitor their citizens heavily, and also have implemented now the social credit system). But from the instances that do come to light here and there, Chinese people don't lack bravery at all when it comes to doing something or standing up for something. They've also rebelled and fought in their past. They seem quite well-behaved most of the time, though (I don't mean public manners; everyone knows mainlanders don't have manners, and painfully prove that any time they travel or immigrate).
This event though, whether it succeeds in obtaining its demands or is quelled, possibly through violence, possibly through just waiting it out, possibly through arbitration or manipulation), you might expect will provide a sort of renewal of this movement. While we might have expected the possibility of a human rights movement in Hong Kong to die out soon, having lived under Chinese rule and being taken over in many positions of authority and in the composition of the population by mainlanders. But now even 20 years later people will remember this movement and have all its ideas, its successes, it's feeling, in their minds. Many people will have formed couples, friends, colleagues, started new jobs at companies, had babies, in this 6 months. In 20 years their children will know that their parents met during this event. Babies will hear stories how they were born while their parents were going out on the street to meet the entire city and protest and demonstrate for their rights, against an abusive totalitarian state and a sort of takeover of their land. 20 years from now, the bosses of these companies will have got their jobs while discussing with the guys who hired them the abuses of China and their hate for abuse and how they must struggle and sacrifice for rights.
In this, we can see that if the people will it, and actually act on it, in a form that takes some energy but not too much, they can't lose, really, unless they're actually physically destroyed by their enemy.
Another thing we might discuss is that all of the countries that received English (or Northern European) culture, which includes individualism and democracy have rebelled and had revolts of this sort to achieve popular rights, or have just been given them. The English Revolution, The US Revolution, etc. (I don't know very well. Not my area of history. Maybe someone can fill that in.)
It's possible that we could find that America benefited in the decades after her wars because her citizens had a memory of everything that they saw, felt, and thought during those years, everything they entered into which would have carried on for decades. Also the hippy era of demonstrations, love and ideas. Running into someone who had been through that period would be different from running across someone who'd never had to think about those ideas. I myself have met people who were part of or peripheral to the hippies of a few spots and I can say this is true.
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?