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Time Is Now

Written by: on September 15, 2018

Time is Now. Voices of the Generation

For the Cause

“Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world…would do this, it would change the earth.” ― William Faulkner[1]

For centuries, young people proclaimed the voice of the generation in their stance against political and social injustice and inequality. The echoes of young protesters evidence still resonates in the fabric of nations throughout the world. In the US, through the actions of the youth during the Civil Rights movement (1954-1968), Anti-War in Vietnam Protests (1969) and the most recent March for Our Lives (2018), the nation was changed and continues to evolve. These protests and marches exemplify a generation of young people willing to lay down their fears and address the hard issues affecting them and the generations after them.

Like today, young protestors globally are taken to the streets in their countries to stand up for their future. Young people in countries such as Russia, Europe, China (Beijing/Hong Kong) and more, have found a reason to raise their voices to declare the need for change.

However, history has proven repeatedly that the voices of the youth and the determination of their hearts will bring about change, but not without opposition.

Opposition

In 1989, the news of young protesters/students massacred at a pro-democracy rally in the Tiananmen Square in Beijing shocked the world. The death toll at the time ranged from 500 to 1,000 civilians. In a recent release of declassified papers on the June 4th tragedy recounts from British; stated the magnitude of the devastation and the death toll equaling above the 10,000 range.

When the peaceful demonstration in Beijing ended in a savage tragedy, it forced the people of Hong Kong to confront the problems of who they really were and what would be in store for them.[2]  They watched the television in outrage and agony at what was taking place in Beijing. They were grateful for their British governmental covering.

At the time Hong Kong was still under the contract of the British rule. Therefore, they were protected yet their hearts went to those affected by this tragedy in Beijing. In response, they ran to collection centers to donate blood and withdrew their funds in droves from PRC banks. Though their actions were honorable and appreciated, “none of these actions could help the hapless protesters in Beijing or save the movement from being ground to dust.”[3]

One would think with this type of opposition the fight for democracy would halt in China; that is far from the case especially in Hong Kong.

Fast Forward to Today

Hong Kong, the former British colony of 7 million people, is one of the world’s most important financial hubs. Since the handoff from Britain into the hands of China in 1997, Hong Kong has been governed by a “one country, two system” government framework. Hong Kong kept its freedom of information and movement, an independent judiciary, common law and free press in which it held under the British rule. The government may think this semi-autonomy is sufficient. However, the now well-educated and well-traveled generation of the Hong Kongers desires complete freedom.[4]

In 2013, the youth once again came on the scene to address the political stance of their now governing body and stand for their need for democracy in their country.

In 2014, the group Occupy Central with Love & Peace, led by Hong Kong law professor Benny Tai birthed the Umbrella Revolution (movement). Though sometimes called a revolution, it is a civil disobedience movement to bring change to the political sector of Hong Kong and Beijing.

The name Umbrella Revolution was adapted after thousands of young people met in the financial centers of Hong Kong and Beijing armed with umbrellas and other protected wear to prevent them from injury of pepper spray which are at times released into the crowd to dispatch their sit-ins.

The movement formed to address two issues facing the Hong Kongers today; 1) full democracy and the right to directly elect and nominate their Hong Kong government officials and 2) the resignation of the current chief executive who was indirectly elected by electoral college votes of 689.[5]

Time Is Now

They are no longer waiting for the answer of when will it happen. “Is it going to come tomorrow? Is it going to come next week? In a hundred years? Never? No, the time for justice, the time for freedom, and the time for change is always, is always right now!”[6]

Whether the chant is “No More” in the US or 唔好怯, ng hou hip, or “don’t be timid”[7] in Hong Kong; the youth of this generation like the one who has gone before them, are speaking loudly and their voices will not be silenced. Their shouts of injustice bombard our airways through television, radio and now social media. They will not sit silently as the world determines their future; they are taking their destiny in their hands.

Though there may be a fear of another June 4th reoccurrence, pepper spray, and arrests, the now generation has found a cause worth fighting for, their future.

Just like the youth during the Civil Rights Movement, South Africa’s March against apartheid, and the pro-democracy rally in Beijing, the youth of Hong Kong understand the price of freedom may cost them some liberties, but hopefully, in this time and age, it will not cost their lives.

[1] William Faulkner, “Quotable Quote,” Brainy Quotes, accessed September 11, 2018, https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/31063-never-be-afraid-to-raise-your-voice-for-h.

[2] Steve Yui-Sang Tsang, A Modern History of Hong Kong, History Reference Center (London: I.B. Tauris, 2003), 247-48, http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&scope=site&db=nlebk&an=111469.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Rishi Iyengar, “6 Questions You Might Have About Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution,” Time, October 5, 2014, http://time.com/3471366/hong-kong-umbrella-revolution-occupy-central-democracy-explainer-6-questions/.

[5] Ibid.

[6] “The Great Debaters (2007),” American Rhetoric, accessed September 12, 2018, https://www.americanrhetoric.com/MovieSpeeches/moviespeechthegreatdebaterswileyvsoklahomacitycollege.html.

[7] Lily Kuo, “Https: //qz.com/285990/the-backstory-to-seven-of-the-most-popular-protest-slogans-in-hong-kongs-umbrella-movement/,” Quartz, October 23, 2014, https://qz.com/285990/the-backstory-to-seven-of-the-most-popular-protest-slogans-in-hong-kongs-umbrella-movement/.

About the Author

mm

Shermika Harvey

4 responses to “Time Is Now”

  1. mm Karen Rouggly says:

    Shermika, great post! Thanks so much for your insights. I love that you took the foundations that Tsang set in his book and brought them even further into more modern history. It’s been interesting to learn the history of the Hong Kongers and how they are interacting with both British, American, Japanese, and Chinese culture in so many ways.

    How do you anticipate seeing these cultures converge while we’re in Hong Kong? How do you think what Hong Kongers face today will be demonstrated, even as we consider the modern history Tsang spoke about?

  2. mm Sean Dean says:

    I love your focus on the younger generations’ push for change in all of these places. I’ve often advocated for young people to get involved and they do, but often times it feels like a lack of follow through. For instance, the civil rights acts of the 60s only got us a quarter of the way (or so) toward actual civil rights. I’m not going to lay the blame for the lack of follow through entirely on the shoulders of the young. I think that there are leaders in the generation or two before them that know what they’re doing and how to get things done that could help to follow through. Too often I think those of us that would like to see change are happy to see the young do it simply because it means we don’t have to. Perhaps an ideal way of pursuing change is to allow the young to drive the passion while us older folks seek to help them to fulfill their vision.

  3. Andrea Lathrop says:

    Thank you Shermika! I was wanting to learn more about the Umbrella Movement and the youth of Hong Kong today. I had not heard details of the late release of classified documents on the death toll of Tiananmen Square. Wow.
    I hope we get to hear from some youth in our time in HK. Their voice and perspective matters – thanks for the reminder of how pivotal their role is in their future.

  4. Digby Wilkinson says:

    Hi Shermika. Enjoyed your engagement with the youth response to the future. For me, what stood out as the largest and most important question from your post is our understanding of democracy and how it applies to places like Hong Kong. As young people clamour for democratic elections under the umbrella of a communist state, what are they asking for, rights or democracy? They are not the same. Populism assumes politicians and elites are corrupt, while politicians assume that populism is based on incredible naivety. There’s nothing in history that shows youth movements are any less corrupt than the systems they want to replace. So what would democracy look like in a vassal, or tributary state, like Hong Kong?

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