Hong Kong—Recent protests here for full democracy has aroused contradictory feelings among mainland students in and out of Hong Kong who doubt the essence of the protests and at the same time feel perplexed to choose between the pursuit of democracy and the stability of China.
In the early hours of last Sunday, Occupy Central, a civil disobedience campaign forcing Beijing to allow Hong Kong to nominate candidates for the chief executive’s post in 2017, had officially started after clashes at government headquarters between police and student activists during a student strike launched on last Monday.
Since then, just like many students in Hong Kong, dozens of mainland students have been scattered in Central, Admiralty and Causeway bay, the main spots of the massive democracy protests, yet few participated as protestors.
There are concerns about the possible punishments from the central government, as He Jinghan, a Shenyang student studying Public Policy at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said that mainland students suffer from a “split mind”, “For me, it makes perfect sense that students choose to go strike to make known their position when rational communication fails, but we (mainland students) may be on the blacklist (of the central government) if we are active in the protests”.
However, reasons for many mainland students’ absence of the protests may be beyond the fear of being targeted by the central government.
“I’m impressed that Hong Kong people can really stand up and criticize the government when things go wrong, especially students here,” Tony Cong, coming from Hebei and currently studying International Journalism at Hong Kong Baptist University, said, “But I don’t think they (students) have a mature plan for their next step; only disagreeing with the central government is far from enough”.
Cong’s words echo a contradictory feeling among some mainland students in Hong Kong. Though supporting the idea of pursuing democracy, Guang, a Shandong student studying Electronic and Information Engineering at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, found some students behaved “childishly” in the protests. “Sometimes I think they are not asking for full suffrage but are taking revenge for students died in Tiananmen 1989 (a democracy protest launched by students in 1989),” Guang said, refusing to tell his full name because the issue is sensitive in mainland.
In his two nights in Admiralty, Guang witnessed a student stopped a police car like the tanker man (a young man trying to stop a tank from approaching to Tiananmen in the protest in 1989) and said “if you want to go, run over me”. “It’s just not a rational way to fight for democracy, but an intervention of law enforcement,” Guang said.
The democracy protests in Hong Kong have also been hit news among students in mainland. The Chinese Government’s censorship on the news seems to motivate young people to find out what exactly happened through all the resources they can reach.
Xie, a year 3 undergraduate studying Law at the China University of Political Science, texted to one of his friend studying journalism at the CUHK to ask about the situation in Hong Kong in the early morning the protest broke out, and reminded that friend to “be fully aware of the situation; take the right side and stand firmly on it”, because recently one of his teacher Teng Biao was expelled for participating the democracy protests in Hong Kong.
“I wonder if the police really shot or beat anyone and if the people’s liberation army arrived in the streets,” Xie said on condition of anonymity for fear of being punished in the mainland, “Because the degree of violence is a symbol which may change actions of civil disobedience into a political resistance”.
When speaking of democracy protests and violence, many mainland students will think of the protest in Tiananmen in 1989 when hundreds of students were killed by PLA and the Tiananmen incident has been regarded as the death of idealism of students in mainland by some scholars.
“Students from mainland may have an instinctive resistance to student movements,” Xie said, “I hope they (student protestors) will fail, so they can learn the lesson that democracy is not something can be achieved by rallying and boycotting classes. Democracy pays”.
When some question the method and actual outcome of the democracy protests, Li Zhao, a Beijing student studying European Union at the University of Newcastle, said that he thought the essence of the protest was not about democracy at all, but was actually “separatism” which would disrupt the development of China’s political civilization.
“I think what the pan-democracy camp want is the independence of Hong Kong,” Li said, “As for the students, I think some of them may not accept the phrase “to pursue the independence of Hong Kong”, but they may have a faint desire for independence or at least against whatever policy the Communist Party of China passed”.
Though Li agreed on the idea that people in Hong Kong have a stronger sense of social responsibility, he said, “They are only responsible to Hong Kong society not China’s”.
To some degree, Li is not alone. Tony Cong also wondered if it was British government who made the decision, what would be the response of Hong Kong people. “Maybe, Hong Kong is not targeting at the decision, but at the central government and mainlanders,” Cong said.
On Aug. 31, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, ignoring popular pressure in Hong Kong for “one man, one vote”, passed a resolution saying that no more than three candidates, selected by Beijing’s carefully vetted nominating committee, will be allowed to run for the chief executive’s post in 2017. The following democracy protests escalated and last Sunday the local police used tear gases and pepper spray to the protestors which has led to large press coverage in the global community. The protests are still on in the busy districts of Hong Kong.