I closed out my first Tung’s Take entry with an ominous forecast for the “Umbrella Movement,” the name that has been given to the Hong Kong democracy protests. Which makes it that much harder to say the following: The Umbrella Movement is dead, and Hong Kong is not far behind it.
As someone who identifies as an American Hong Konger, this is a sad realization.
The hundreds of thousands that hit the streets for the last three weeks have rallied the world, but C.Y. Leung, chief executive of Hong Kong, and Beijing have failed to heed their calls.
The protesters sang “Can You Hear the People Sing?” a tune from Les Miserables. Apparently Leung and Beijing are deaf.
Hong Kong is not a natural place of protest. The natives are busy, materialistic and prestige-obsessed consumers. It’s a place where you’re far more likely to see people in a ruckus over next season’s Burberry trenchcoats than their democratic ideals.
That’s what made the past three weeks so remarkable.
But Hong Kongers are also pragmatic bottom-liners. They bolt at the first sign of trouble.
For three weeks the people rallied, finding community against government oppression. But as exhaustion and shrinking budgets set in, the people splintered. Taxi drivers and delivery boys joined hired mob members and police in scaring off demonstrators and destroying their settlements.
Hundreds of thousands shrunk to a battle-hardened few. Students went back to school and employees back to work, and the zeal was sapped from the movement.
It was everything the Communist Party back in China wanted and knew would happen.
Now with the passing of the Occupy Central movement, the clampdown on Hong Kong will commence. The greatest weapon the pro-democracy camp had was Occupy Central. They have nothing now.
Already police are pepper-spraying the last vestiges of the protests and committing acts of brutality without fear of retribution. A video posted by TVB (a local television broadcaster) showed six police officers accosting a protester, who was already handcuffed, in a back alleyway.
TVB quickly yanked down the video, likely at the behest of Beijing. But not before it went viral on Facebook.
While Hong Kong people suffer, Britain and the U.S. will remain silent, afraid of angering Chinese President Xi Jinping.
And with Western silence, the countdown to accelerated Hong Kong and Mainland China integration will begin.
In the past 16 years the Mainland began dismantling Hong Kong culture, language and customs.
Just yesterday came news that the People’s Liberation Army is in the final stages of building a marina right in Central, a glaringly close reminder that Big Brother is never far away any more.
Let this be a warning to Taiwan. Never make a deal with the Communist Party of China, because they won’t stick to it. Former Chinese President Deng Xiaoping promised British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher 50 years of one country, two systems. It lasted barely 16 years.
For my Hong Kong Summerbridge students, that wasn’t just a political mantra. It was a deal that meant they would see their way of life continued.
That’s why they hit the streets. That’s why they sent me messages asking for my support. That’s why they showed me pictures from their camps on Queensway Road.
A different student sent me a electronic mock tombstone yesterday bearing these words:
“Hong Kong. Definition: Formerly Asia’s World City, home to many multinational companies, a police force without a conscience and many disenfranchised locals. 1842-2014. RIP Hong Kong.”